“Money lets me show up.”

Question time:

Once you’ve “made it” with your finances, how do you treat yourself? How do you use your money to improve your life even more?

That’s a question my old friend Romeo posed after some fun back and forth on Twitter on what our “dream home” would look like (his would include an indoor basketball court, mine would be a personal skate park attached to a pool (with water) I could fly into!) but it quickly got real fast when a mutual friend, Kate, stepped in.

Romeo and I were of course just thinking about ourselves and enjoying our spoils we’ve worked so hard for (and nothing wrong with that! “If you can’t buy a toy or two,” he chimed in with, “what’s the point of saving?”), but Kate’s gut response hit me where it counts:

money lets me show up

“Money lets me show up” – BAM.

Five simple words that encompass the true beauty of financial freedom. The ability to stop what you’re doing and help others right on the spot without having to worry about your job or money holding you back. True freedom at its best, harnessing the power of your *time* over the power of your money!

These words hit me hard, and after I got over myself for feeling bad for also not thinking of the greater good first!, haha, I realized I’m actually not doing too bad in that department either… In fact, my generosity has increased approx. 37x compared to the Old J$ who was once as stingy as he was good looking, if you can believe that ;)

A great example of this is what went down last week when I ran into a skater friend at the coffee shop who was looking particularly low…

He explained that he had just put brand new wheels on his skateboard after scrounging for the money, and then a mere 24 hours later it was stolen from him after stashing it at the skate park.

Now just the fact he had to hide it there added to my hypothesis that he may be homeless or transitory or something as I’ve also seen him brush his teeth at the coffee shop before as well as make some makeshift soup with his cup, but regardless it’s a blow to your wallet and mood either way.

And it broke me.

Losing a board sucks on its own, but to lose something that gives you such a great mental and physical outlet too for someone who needs it the most? Which also probably doubles as your transportation at times? Damn.

I immediately started racking my brain on how I could help, and at first thought maybe I could just leave some money at the local skate shop or something so that whenever he’s there next he’ll be alerted someone comped it for him, but when and how long that would take was anyone’s guess (probably too long since he doesn’t have money to spend, so why would he even step foot in it?) so I scrapped that idea and kept thinking…

Then it dawned on me – I have a board in the back of my trunk! Which I always keep for emergencies! Lol… And if this doesn’t constitute an emergency, what does? :) So without thinking a second more I slipped out of the coffee shop, scooped it from the back of my trunk, and then skated back as I recorded a final “goodbye” ride with her before we departed 😆

The look on his face when I handed it to him was all I needed to see.

He refused it a couple of times – only re-enforcing the fact that he deserved it! – and then finally accepted it graciously and promised me he’d “ride the $hit out of it” which was exactly what I wanted to hear.

What a feeling!

Now I’ll admit a few minutes later I did have pangs of regret as it was actually one of my favorite boards and cost me $200, haha, but just the fact that I had multiple boards was exactly why I needed to step up and help. Because *I could*. And because a 3rd board to someone is nothing compared to NO board, particularly if you don’t even have a home or place to store it in (!)

Anyways, long story I probably could have made shorter, but another example of how having your money straight can help you “show up” for others just like Kate and her presence. And another reminder that opportunities are all around us too if we keep our eyes open enough to see them! Something I’ve personally been working hard to improve on in my own life, as again, past J$ was way too into himself and his money to have even noticed, sigh…

So thanks for the reminders Kate! And looking forward to playing some one-on-one at your new court some day, Romeo ;)

How do you guys use money to improve your own lives or those around you? Are you more generous with your time or your money?

Share in the comments below and keep these good vibes going!! We can all give back whether we’ve “made it” it or not!


j. money signature

PS: Here are some of my “giving rules” I’ve implemented over the years to help me become much better with this stuff because I’m naturally not. Maybe they’ll help you too?

  • I have to say “yes” anytime someone asks me for money, no matter what! (Automatically makes me Do Good, and one less decision I have to make!)
  • When I give, I always have to give more than I instinctively want to in order to challenge myself (ie. instead of my usual $1.00 that first comes to mind, I have to give a $5 or $10 or *gasp* $20 if I have one in my wallet!)
  • And then lastly, I continue to do monthly donations of $20/mo to all my favorite – mostly local – organizations and friends’ causes… I’m up to about 13 or 14 places now which adds up over time, but since they go out in smaller amounts each month I barely notice them. Very similar to recurring investments or savings! Set it up once, and then never have to remember or lift a finger again! It’s beautiful!
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  1. Teresa July 4, 2022 at 7:03 AM

    Will you start displaying your monthly wealth totals again? I absolutely loved that. It inspired me to start tracking mine a few years ago.

    1. J. Money July 4, 2022 at 9:43 AM

      I’m afraid not this time around :( I’m still tracking it all of course (year #15 in a row now I think?!) but sadly family members are no longer comfortable with it so there won’t be any more super detailed posts about it… I’m still allowed to say I’m a “millionaire” though so at least there’s that? ;)

      (for anyone new to the site – you can see all 11+ years worth of my net worth reports here, culminating in finally crossing the $1 MM mark: https://budgetsaresexy.com/net-worth/ )

  2. Dave @ Accidental FIRE July 4, 2022 at 7:58 AM

    Awesome story J and very generous! I did something similar a few years back when on a run I saw a kid using an old deflated soccer ball as a basketball on a public court near a low-income housing section near me. He was shooting free throws and doing layups but with this pathetic old soccer ball. I ran home and got an old basketball that I barely use anymore, pumped it up, and took it out to him. Mine was a Spalding official NBA version, a real nice ball. The look on his face was priceless and I’m sure he’s still using that ball today.

    1. J. Money July 4, 2022 at 9:44 AM

      Ahhhh that is great!!! And something that will probably stick with him forever and hopefully show him how kind the world can be :) So good.

  3. The former Ms. Liz July 4, 2022 at 9:29 AM

    I LOVE your story and Dave’s too. Not as gratifying but Yesterday I read about a local woman who was hit by a drugged driver in a horrific accident. She remains in a coma and her young son has brain trauma. Within 3 minutes, I was on their go fund me page with my credit card out.

    I can help because I didn’t spend my money on stupid $hit.

    1. J. Money July 5, 2022 at 6:55 AM

      YESS!!! Good job!!!! So scary how fast your life can change too like that, ugh :(

  4. Jenn July 4, 2022 at 9:33 AM

    Currently not giving. My goal is to get back to crafting things to give. I used to make little kids “swag” bags of toys, coloring stuff, craft stuff to give out when my kids were little. When they got older we would paint rocks and leave them around town. I’m thinking about giving my favorite wreath to my ex SIL when she moves into her first home since she loves it so much. (1st time home buyer)

    Kids are teens now so I’ve been thinking now that they both work and school right around the corner I’ll have each of us go buy some of the cooler backpacks and put some goodies in them and donate them to one of their old schools they love so much.

    I recently unpacked a box of yarn and will be crocheting baby hats for NICU babies for Xmas. I also found a round knitting loom on the side of the road not long ago. Cleaned up nicely and will be teaching myself how to use it.

    Crafting is my stress outlet and my kids are my blessing and saving grace. I try to keep my crafting stuff to things I know others can use and donate it to keep my home from looking like the crazy cat lady’s! There are so many less fortunate (I used to be one too) that just need something to give them their light back.

    1. J. Money July 5, 2022 at 7:01 AM

      That is so beautiful, Jenn – love the idea of crafting for others :) And giving people stuff they love from your house too, like that wreath!

      I remember once telling my brother how much I loved his hat when we were out one night, and then he literally took it off his head and said “here, take it!” So nice!!! And has stuck with me all these years too, even though it was just like a $15 hat :)

      Hope you get that loom working!

  5. Romeo July 4, 2022 at 9:36 AM

    I think an overlooked but necessary plan is a de-accumulation plan. We get so good at saving that we forget we eventually have to spend it (or risk letting a beneficiary spend it). I mean, I get it, it’s hard when you don’t know for sure when you’re going to pass away, but at a minimum everyone should have an idea of how much they need to “show up” annually for the next 25-40 years. If you have more more than that, it’s probably excessive and it’s now time to start factoring in more giving, more spending, more whatever. Since I don’t see me getting the indoor basketball court anytime soon though (along with my outdoor screen-in pool in the backyard), I’m content being able to share my existing wealth with others, including an older parent and the random $20 tips at grocery stores or the Waffle House. The fancy house is when I reach super rich status, which I may never do because what’s the point of being financially free just to grind so you can become financially “freeer” only to end up with a bigger house. Lol

    1. J. Money July 5, 2022 at 7:10 AM

      HAH! You got that right…

      But I still think you need to find a way to get that bball court going ;)

  6. Sunny July 4, 2022 at 12:57 PM

    I think you are brilliant with money, but fix that headline. Let’s = let us. You want lets.

    1. J. Money July 5, 2022 at 7:17 AM

      Ugh, thx…

      Can’t even blame it on Kate as I copied her line wrong! Lol..

  7. Katie @SolopreneurCafe July 4, 2022 at 2:09 PM

    I’m not really into monthly subscription giving. I know it works well for charities, but not for me. When I’m having a really good run of income, the wallet opens up – usually for kids and animals…and this year, it’s been mostly about Ukraine. I also want to put my money where my mouth is since Roe v Wade has been overturned, but haven’t decided where best to put it. Most likely Planned Parenthood because they do a helluva lot for women’s health. I also send random stuff off teachers’ DonorsChoose lists directly to them – things that they’ll always need more of. Like when Amazon had Ticonderoga pencils at $3.90 for 96, I sent about 20 boxes to assorted classrooms around the country.

    My mom, on the other hand, reads the local paper and whenever there’s a local tragedy with a GoFundMe, she sends $50. She also has a recently retired work friend who doesn’t really make ends meet, so we send stuff to her with my assorted rewards – like giant packs of Charmin, Dawn, Tide, etc from Office Depot. This gives them more freedom of choice for buying things where buying exactly what they want/need makes a bigger difference for them, like food and shoes. I’ve been doing stuff like this for 14 years, so I’ve put a lot of thought into it.

    1. J. Money July 5, 2022 at 7:12 AM

      Love that, Katie :) 14 years is a lot of giving back!! And in your own way too, I think that’s the secret sauce of it all…

  8. Impersonal Finances July 4, 2022 at 2:30 PM

    Awesome story. Giving is funny in that it does sting to get rid of something you value (particularly money for a personal finance nerd like myself) but it simultaneously is the best feeling in the world. Kudos to you. I love your always say YES rule.

    1. J. Money July 5, 2022 at 7:16 AM

      Thanks! It was one of the first rules I enacted and really helped me set up a good foundation for it all :) The other rules just help me compound it!

  9. Paul July 5, 2022 at 8:37 AM

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think its an important to self reflect, at least for me its something I constantly struggle with. I would love to be more generous, it’s just hard when you are still walking a tight line between comfort and what I perceive to be ruin. I do very well, but never have extra. So I constant feel like I’m stuck in that mode of…. (using an airline analogy) “secure your mask before assisting others”? When do you stop feeling that way? Anyway, as a family our needs are met, but we also live at a much lower standard than most of our peers. I know there are many factors that could help with this but all they do is seemingly enhance anxiety. I reverse budget because tracking at a granular level is mentally exhausting. Also, there is a fine line between frugality and living a normal human life… It always seems like every penny we make, even when we have windfall get immediately consumed by a non elective need. Especially now, with inflation eating everyone’s lunch…

    1. J. Money July 6, 2022 at 9:58 AM

      That’s a sucky feeling to have :(

      I know for me “enough” started sinking in when our net worth crossed around $400k, but why that is i have no idea as it certainly *isn’t* enough – at least to survive on its own lol… So it’s definitely one of those mental things, at least for me. I know people that are content with $1,000 in their bank, and others that are always worried or wanting more at $1,000,000 so it seems everyone’s so different….

      I also know for me that it started feeling better when I began crafting my *lifestyle* more so than my income. I.e. trying to live a better happier life *daily* so the cumulative effect got bigger and full of joy regardless of the money (for example, whether it doubled or tripled or went down to $0 – there is no stopping me from going to the coffee shop every morning or taking walks or going to the pool in the middle of the day!). And thus since i’m happier more consistently I worry less about things like money or anything $hitty out there. Which isn’t to say i have off days or all my problems are trivial (I felt like death the first part of the year!) but just that focusing on the ideal lifestyle improved my overall mood and mind. For what that’s worth anyways… Maybe for you an extra $1,000/mo would solve all your worries so you can focus your energy on trying to pull that off ;) And if you stash it in a *separate* place it won’t be sucked into the vortex of expenses like your other “extra” money!

  10. Elizabeth July 5, 2022 at 5:50 PM

    Such a great story! I was teary-eyed at the end and you didn’t need to shorten the post. I appreciated the thought process that went into it. In my mind these are what money blogs are made of – real life stories.

    My husband was a big skateboarder during his teenage years. Even recently, his photos were used by a company and paid him with a cool skateboard as compensation. They liked the 80s vibe of the photos and his skills were ahead of his time.

    1. J. Money July 6, 2022 at 9:38 AM


  11. FI for the People July 6, 2022 at 10:41 AM

    Love this story. I have a hardwired scarcity mentality. My wife and in-laws don’t. And what I’ve learned from them is that if you’re genuinely generous, you often not only get repaid, you get repaid (sometimes in dollars,
    sometimes in goods or services, and, often best of all, sometimes in good feelings) in an amount exceeding what you gave. Sounds like that’s what may have happened to you here already. Or maybe you’ll get even greater “repayment” at some totally unexpected time down the road. Good on you.

    1. J. Money July 7, 2022 at 4:10 PM

      Well every time I think of this or my old board I do get a big ol smile on my face so I guess the “repayments” are coming in the form of that :) Plus honestly I’m just really proud of myself for not only thinking so fast on the spot, but then TAKING ACTION as I tend to overthink and psych myself out of things so I’m glad I just went with my heart with this one and pulled the trigger… Gotta work on doing more of that as time goes on!

  12. Mike Roberts July 7, 2022 at 10:55 AM

    Great story! If it doesn’t hurt to give it, then it probably wasn’t something of value to begin with. The best giving is sacrificial to some extent, but the personal blessing you gain is well worth it. :)

  13. Corwin @ Engineering Your FI July 15, 2022 at 5:15 PM

    Hi J!

    Great story, and I really appreciate the fact that you acknowledged having momentary pangs of regret after giving up the board. Most people tell stories of giving with no regrets at all, so I really appreciate your honesty.

    A few examples of how my wife and “show up” now that we’re FI:

    * My son is home for the summer after his first year in school, and he really didn’t want to do any summer camps. So rather than being forced to ship him off to a daycare or camp he doesn’t want every day because I have to work, I can spend most of the day doing fun stuff around the city with him. And yes, I have pangs as well, about the projects I’m not getting done, but I try to remind myself that in 10 years he’ll probably want nothing to do with me ;-)

    * My wife’s Mom has been struggling with health issues this year, and needed to move houses. Because we’re FI my wife has been able to spend a tremendous amount of time helping her Mom with those things.

    * We have now signed up for a program called GreenChoice with our electric utility – every kWh we consume they purchase from wind farms in west Texas, so effectively all our energy is renewable! We’ve wanted to do that for a long time, but held off to get to FI ASAP. In retrospect, it’s really not that much either, just $0.0075/kWh.

    1. J. Money July 18, 2022 at 9:57 AM

      So powerful being FI!!!

      And better for the pangs of “regret” being stuff that’s less than important than the top things :) ie human vs skateboard, and son vs work project.

      Money doesn’t solve everything but it sure can help us improve in many other aspects.

      Thx for stopping by!


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