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10 Things Most People Won't Do That Make All the Difference

Hello and welcome to today's episode! I am coming to you from a newly lit office at 6 p.m. I've been waiting for the last couple of hours for our electricity to come back on which is one of the unexpected, strangely, perks of living in El Salvador. Sometimes the electricity goes off which at first, I was kind of like this really sucks, but honestly, I really enjoy it because it forces me to pause and to reflect and just to slow down. I spent a couple of hours, just reading a novel, and before that, I had felt really just frazzled and kind of lost. So anyway, it's one of the unexpected benefits of living here and I don't know if y'all can hear it but there are roosters sounding off even though it's 6 p.m.

But anyway with all that said I was thinking today about a quote that you've probably heard. I've definitely heard it a few times in my life, and it goes like this... It says if you want something different, you have to do something different. If you want something different you have to do something different. And I think that this is true in different areas of life, but when it comes to your personal finance, this is golden.

There are many people who think that they can just keep doing the same thing and eventually things will work out. I saw a statistic where a lot of people think they're going to win the lottery. I know that those dreams are important to some, but if you are in a place where you can practically make changes in your life to actually move toward your financial goals, that's really where you want to be, right?

So the point is that if you want something different - if you're at a place with your finances where you want something different - you have to do something different. So today, I want to talk about 10 steps that most people will not take that actually make all the difference. Let's jump in.


Number one, pick your single source of truth. What does that mean? It means picking one and only one place where you are going to keep all of your financial information. The idea here is to get organized. One of the things that makes a huge, huge, huge difference when you're trying to hit your financial goals is honestly just starting with organization. And in order to do that, you need to pick one place, where you're going to keep all your information.

And I'm not talking about passwords - not stuff like that - that's not safe. Don't put all your passwords all in one place. I'm talking about just a list of all your stuff, like your expenses, your income, all of your bank accounts, etc. As we get older, we all have more and more bank accounts, more and more credit card accounts. Different loans. Whether you've got Student Loans, mortgage, credit card loans, etc. - you need one place where you're going to keep all this information so you can just get organized.

I like to say it's the place where you write your financial story - one place. I personally like a spreadsheet. I know that freaks some people out so it doesn't have to be a spreadsheet. Maybe it's a Word document or a PowerPoint or even a journal if you really have to do it that way, but I do recommend doing it on the computer because if you ever need to search for something, you can use the search functionality, ctrl-f, to find stuff within your single source of truth. So if you're looking for stuff, it tends to be easier.

And I really recommend using a spreadsheet if you can or if you're not afraid of them because with the spreadsheet functionality, a lot of the math can be done for you and you can automate a lot of stuff. But the point is, if you know you don't like spreadsheets, don't use a spreadsheet, use a word doc, or a PowerPoint, or even a journal, just keep all of your financial information - a list of your accounts, your expenses, your income, etc. - you got to pick one place. One place, one single source of truth and commit to that one place because if you say this week, I'm going to keep it in my journal and next week, you're like, actually I want to put it on the computer; I'm going to try a Word document. Or I actually think I can do this spreadsheet. Then you got stuff all over the place again. You've got to pick one place. Pick one place and stick to it.


I touched on this but just so we're very clear - step number 2 is o write down every single financial account you can think of. So this means bank accounts, credit card accounts, loans. If you're investing, this means your different brokerage accounts. This means your retirement accounts - if you have a 401k or an IRA in the US or, if you're outside the US and you have some other kind of account, write it down here. If you have Health Savings Account (HSA), write it down here.

Whether or not you know your logins, or the balance, or whatever - first things first, just write down your accounts. Say, OK, I've got a bank account at Wells Fargo, I've got another one at Chase, I've got another one at this Credit Union... write those down. Do you have a credit card with Capital One or maybe with Chase or Wells Fargo? Write them all down. You've got to get them all in one place, just write them down so you don't forget about them, OK? Write down every single account that you can think of, literally every single one.


Step number three... is to pull your credit report. I hesitated because this is another one of those things that freaks people out. I don't know why. It can be scary the first time and, before we go into that, let me just explain if you're not familiar with a credit report.

First of all, it's free, so don't worry about that. Second of all, if you live in the US there are 3 different credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Again, these are credit bureaus - that's what they're called - and they are organizations that list every single credit card account, bank account, loan, you name it - every account the government has on file for you. This is where you see that.

In Step 2, you're writing down every single account that you can remember. And in Step 3, you're going to pull your credit report to see what the government has on file for you so that you can capture any of the accounts that you missed. So all you're going to do is pick one - Let's say you pick Experian - you'll go to and it's very simple. On the home page, you're going to see 'make an account' or 'login'. Once you get logged in, click and get your free credit report. Just follow the steps. It's going to ask you for some personal information, fill it out, pull your credit report and when you get the report it will also give you your credit score.

That's a good thing to know. In your single source of truth, write down your score, put the date on it, and set a reminder to you want to check this a few times a year. You can see if your credit score goes up, but what you're really seeking for the sake of today's conversation is all of the accounts and the loans that are on file for you. Now, depending on your financial journey, your report can be a page, two pages or it might be eight pages, whatever it is, just pull that credit report. You can do it with any one of the bureaus. I think they all give you a free report per year.


Step #4, like I said, as you go through your credit report, what you are looking for is any accounts that you missed capturing in Step #2, when you were writing down all the accounts, your bank accounts, your credit card accounts, your loans, all that stuff. When you're going through your credit report, you want to look for anything that you missed.

These are things that you forgot about. I mean we all have different accounts that we've opened that we forgot about that maybe you owe money on, or maybe you don't. But it could be hurting your credit. Whatever it is you at least need to know about it, right?

That's the point of pulling the credit report, so go ahead and write down anything that you missed that you now see on your credit report. Go ahead and write that down in your single source of truth.


Step #5, you want to document your regular monthly bills. The goal here, like I said, is we're trying to get organized. You want to get all of your accounts in one place. You want to get all your loans in one place. That's why we pull the credit report, but what is arguably even more important is understanding what it's costing you to live every month.

So the first part of that is to document your regular monthly bills. And here's what I mean by that. So regular monthly bills are things that are coming due every single month. They're usually the same price every month and they usually happen at the same time every month. So think about your rent or your mortgage, maybe a car payment, maybe your internet, maybe your phone bill's the same every month - whatever those are. Regular expenses and I'm talking about everything, OK?

You already listed all your accounts so you know where your accounts are so you can dig through these things and you can see what's reoccurring. A lot of different portals like credit cards and bank accounts now have a filter for things like recurring payments or subscriptions, you can click on those, and you can see what you've got. And I'm talking about Netflix, Spotify, Apple TV - all of them, let's write them down. The regular monthly bills that are happening every single month and are usually the same amount each time, usually pulled the same day every month - get all those written down in your single source of truth.


Number six, you want to capture all of your current savings, as well. We're trying to get your full financial picture here. This is to get organized, figure out what you're spending, what you're saving, and what you're making because, ultimately, what's really the goal is to get your emergency fund figured out, and then start investing as much as you can into as many things as possible.

But in order to even get to that point, you've got to take these 10 steps and a lot of people won't do it. That's why a lot of people aren't saving. A lot of people aren't investing. Because, yes, it's kind of a pain to do all this honestly, but those who will do it rise to the top and they are successful at their finances.

So, part of that is Step #6: capture all your savings. One of the big goals in personal finance is to have an emergency fund saved up, so we want to know how much you currently have in your savings. And again, if you've got a bunch of different accounts, maybe you have a bunch of different savings accounts - whatever it looks like for you, you need to get all of that written into your single source of truth. Go through, see what your current savings are, and write that down.


Step #7 is going to take a bit of time. In this step, you're going to track your variable monthly spending. Here's what I mean by that: you've already written down your regular monthly expenses. Again, those are the things that you can count on every month, they're going to hit. They're the same price usually hitting the same day. Your variable spending is different. That is, say, when you go out to eat at bars and restaurants, or when you go shopping, or maybe you're getting your nails done or hair or traveling -whatever that is, you need to be tracking it.

I really like for people to track for at least two months, or three months is better. The idea here is that you want to see what's normal for you. So maybe this month, you're taking a trip - usually, for people that's not a "normal" activity, usually that's like a "once in a while" type thing so you wouldn't want to just track for one month and be like "oh, well I spent $1500 on my variable expenses, $700 of which was a plane ticket." You're not going to say that's normal for you because that was like a special treat. You want to track your variable expenses for 3 months and kind of see what's actually normal for you in terms of your variable spending - or your "fun money".

That's what I like to call variable spending, my fun money. Because this is everything outside of all of those regular expenses that you go and you play with and you have fun with. And I will also say this, this does include things that aren't quite as fun, so like your variable bills as well. So think about things that change depending on your usage: electric, water, for some of us this is our phone bill, definitely gas for your car. You need to track that and the grocery store, too. Those are all sort of what I would call regular expenses, but they are variable. It depends on how much you're using per month.

So that plus all your fun stuff, you need to track that for about 3 months. Create a line item in your single source of truth - a line for groceries, a line for gas, a line for electricity, a line for water - and track each one for ~3 months to see what you're spending, and take the average. So to take the average you'll add up the three expenditures across the different three months and you'll divide it by 3 and you'll use that as an average for what your variable expenses are.

So you got your regular monthly bills - those don't change so you don't have to track those. You need to get the averages for those variable monthly bills. So that way you can add your regular bills to your variable bills - your regular monthly fixed expenses and your variable monthly spending - so you can really get a feel for what your total spending is each month. Truly, the longer you track, the better.

So if you're really into tracking and it's going well for you, keep tracking every month and keep updating the average; that's what I do. I mean, I'm updating my single source of truth very, very regularly -- honestly, an easier way to think of this as your budget. I'm in my budget spreadsheet all the time and every time we get a bill, if it's variable, I'll calculate the new average. And I will continue to keep the average of all of our variable bills. The longer you track, the better because it just makes you even more present in your spending and it gives you better averages and information to work with overall.

If you track and organize your money, it becomes something you can really use to build your savings out, build out those investments, and honestly, just create a life of more freedom, which is what we're all kind of working for, right? So Step #7 - that's a big one: track your variable monthly spending.


Step #8? Write them down. So that's a whole separate part, right? Tracking is one thing, but you've got to document it. You've got to go back to your single source of truth and document it. And while we're still on the subject of variable spending, there are different ways you can track.

I'm old school. I like to keep receipts and I have a basket on my desk where, literally every day when I come home, I just throw all my receipts in the basket and, once a week, I'll go through and I'll add all of my expenses into my single source of truth: my budget spreadsheet. That's how I do it.

But there are other ways to do it. There's a method where you just use one card. So like I said, you've already gone through all of your accounts, you know the debit cards you have, you know the credit cards you have. If you're going to be in this period of tracking your spending, just pick one card and put all of your variables spending on that card. That way, when you sit down at the end of the month to look at what you've been spending to update your averages, you only have to log into one place. The idea here is to just have one place where you can look to track that variable spending, which makes it easier for you and makes it more likely for you to stick with it.

The third technique for variable spending tracking is sort of like a digital form of the receipt basket. What that would look like is when you're out in your life, spending your "fun money", you just take a photo of your receipt and I like to favorite the photo. If you're not familiar with that, it's the little star at the top of your photo and, that way, it automatically puts your receipt photos into a folder. So at the end of the week or at the end of the month, whenever you're sitting down to add these into your single source of truth to update your averages, all you have to do is go into your favorites photo folder on your phone and it has all of your receipts there for you ready to be added into your single source of truth.

So those are 3 ways you can do it. But again, Step #7: track it. Make sure you're tracking it. Keeping track of it however you choose: the receipt basket, using one card, or taking photos and favoriting them. Whatever method you choose, just make sure you're tracking and, Step #8, you're writing them down.

I like to tell people when you're tracking, it's really best to write all your spending down once a week because it's less overwhelming that way. But some people can sit down once a month and go through the whole month, that's just less common. Look, you know yourself best, whatever you are going to do, just be honest with yourself whatever will work best for you. You pick at the end of the week, if that's more feasible for you, do it that way, or at the end of the month, if that's better, do it that way. Whatever works for you, you just got to be honest with yourself.


Step #9 is to document your monthly income. Everything we've been doing up to this point has been writing down accounts, your savings, and then your expenses (that's the big one, right?). But we also need to know how much you are bringing in: your monthly income.

If you work for a single employer this will be a little bit easier than if you have multiple sources of income, but either way, it's doable (and necessary) to write this down. If you work for an employer, go ahead and log into your bank account where you get paid and find how much is deposited into your bank account per month from your employer - and write that down.

And then if you have other streams of income, whatever that is, maybe you have an Airbnb or an Etsy store, or a side hustle or you babysit on the side, or pet sit - whatever that is, try to get an average of those other income sources and add that into your monthly income line item. Again, try to capture everything.

If you're one of those people who has a lot of sources of income it can get complicated and, trust me, I get that. Just try to get as accurate of a picture as you possibly can. That's the goal in Step #9 - document your monthly income - what you're taking home after taxes. What is ACTUALLY deposited into your account? That's what we're looking for here.


Step #10, is to calculate your cash flow or, in other words, we want to figure out how much money you have left over at the end of each month. And truthfully, Step #10 is what we've been trying to get to all along... the true goal of all 10 of these steps is to understand your cash flow.

That's your goal in getting organized. It's your goal in building a single source of truth (or, a budget) - you want to know how much money you have left over at the end of each month. You want to take how much you are making and subtract from that how much you're spending... that is your cash flow. That is how much you have left over at the end of each month.

And here's why this is important. The reason this is so important is that knowing how much you have left over at the end of each month dictates your next step. This is literally like a treasure map that reveals the next clue for building lasting wealth.

When it comes to cash flow there are three different scenarios:

  • You can have a negative cash flow

  • You can have a zero cash flow, which is rare, but it can happen

  • You can have a positive cash flow

And once you know what your cash flow is, you will know what steps to take next. So let's walk through these.


Let's say you bring home $3,000/month. And let's say after you go through the 10 steps, we just talked about you realize that you are spending $4,000/month. That means you have a negative cash flow ($3000 - $4000... that's a negative number, you have a -$1000 cash flow). So that right there tells you what your next step is: your next step would be to decrease your expenses or increase your income so that your cash flow becomes positive.

The entire point of this whole thing is to make sure that your cash flow is positive. So if you have a negative cash flow, you want to decrease your expenses and or increase your income, and the good news is you now have a list of every single one of your expenses, you can go through that list and you can say, "I don't really need Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Disney +, and more... maybe I can just have Netflix" and you can delete these subscriptions.

Or maybe it's, " I don't need Stitch Fix and Rent the Runway and all these other clothing services... Maybe I can just have one or maybe I don't even need those at all."

You now have a full list of everything you're spending money on. So if you realize that you have a negative cash flow, it's going to be really easy for you to go through your list of expenses and get rid of the stuff that you really don't want or that you're not using, or that's no longer serving you.


If you have a zero-dollar cash flow, again like I said it's rare, but let's talk through this. Say you're making $3000/month. Say after you go through these 10 steps you realize that you spend $3000/month. That means your cash flow is 0 ($3000-$3000 = $0). You're honestly in a better place than you would be if you had a negative cash flow because in that scenario you're overspending. In this scenario, you're just spending exactly as much as you're making, but still, your goal is to have a positive cash flow so that you can really grow in your financial journey.

So again, if you have a zero-dollar cash flow again, your next step is going to be to decrease those expenses or increase your income, so that your cash flow becomes positive. And like we just talked about you now, have your list of expenses, so cutting expenses is a lot easier than taking on another job. I highly recommend that people work on first decreasing their expenses before they put time and energy into increasing their income. So go through expenses, see what you can cut if you have a zero-dollar cash flow. It's pretty easy to get it to be positive because you can just cut some of those expenses.


Now for the scenario you really want to be in (which those 10 steps that we talked about can tell you) is if you have a positive cash flow. So that would mean you're making $3,000/month and, say, after you go through those 10 steps you realize you're spending $2,500/month. That means you are spending less than you are making. That means your cash flow is positive ($3000-$2500 = $500). So what you would do here? This is what you want because you will use your leftover money to make more money. When you have a positive cash flow, you are ready to start building lasting wealth.

I love this so much and I will dive deeper into this in my free wealth-building workshop in different areas. But the high level of this is: you're going to use your extra cash flow to, first and foremost, save yourself an emergency fund. All that means is 3-6 months' worth of your living expenses, which you now know because you've gone through the 10 steps; now you know how much it costs you to live for a month of your life.

So in this example, your monthly expenses are $2,500 so you'd multiply that by 3-6 depending on what your preference is... let's just say it's 3. That means your emergency fund goal would be $7,500. So you're going to put that extra money (the positive cash flow) that you have leftover, which here is $500/month, into savings until you have $7,500 saved. Then you have your emergency fund built. Put that somewhere safe - a savings account, or better yet a High Yield Savings Account (HYSA).

And from there, you've already built in this habit of saving $500/month, so essentially you just reroute that savings from your emergency fund to put it into investments. So now you've built a process (bonus if you automate the whole thing). You have a positive cash flow, you've built your emergency fund, and you've built a habit of saving money every single month. And now, you've rerouted your $500/month from savings into your investments, whether that's the stock market or real estate or crypto or your own business - whatever that looks like for you. There are so many different things you can invest in.

The point is: you know your numbers, you know your cash flow is positive, you built your emergency fund and you're now investing.


That was a lot of information, really, really fast, but please hear me: These 10 steps that we talked about are the most critical piece of all of this. It is literally like I said, it is your treasure map to building lasting wealth. You've got to pick your single source of truth. You've got to write down all of your expenses, all of your different accounts, you've got to write down your savings. You've got to calculate your income. And, ultimately, the goal of the ten steps is to figure out your cash flow so you can figure out what you have to do to make sure that it's positive, save your emergency fund, and start investing.

That was essentially a crash course in how to build lasting wealth.

Of course, every situation is different. If you have debt, we should talk about that. If you have credit card debt, that's different than student loan debt, etc. And if you have specific goals (ex: you want to buy a house) - there are all these other pieces to it, as well. But, no matter what, it all starts with those 10 steps. Every single thing that you want to accomplish when it comes to personal finance? It all starts with these 10 steps.


If this is something that was interesting to you, I would love it if you used my budget template (it's free) as your single source of truth. Like I said, I used the phrase single source of truth because the most important thing is that you keep this information in one place, but I have a specific budget template that I have personally been using for 10 years (I have two versions of it, too, so if a pdf version is more your style, I have that, or if you are okay with spreadsheets like I generally recommend because it's automated and it'll do the calculations for you - I also have that). You can get my free template at

I would love it if you used my budget template; I swear by it. It has served me so well for years and years and years. It's the first bookmark on my bookmarks bar. Every time I log into my drive it's the most accessed document. I use it almost daily. Definitely once a month when Cory and I have our monthly planning conversations using this budget spreadsheet. It's a godsend, it's totally free and I hope it helps you out. So #1, grab that for sure.

And #2, if you are interested in deep diving into building wealth and looking more into these steps and really digging into what it takes to go through all of this and to get the cash flow positive and to save and to build the investments, all that stuff, I am currently running a brand new free wealth-building workshop and I have some more sessions coming up; I'd love to see you in one of them. You can learn more at

If you join you'll get a review of these 10 steps but, beyond that, you'll get 3 Secrets to Easily Building Lasting Wealth plus the single most important step to cracking the financial code. It's new, it's free, and so far the feedback has been excellent.

Whatever next step you choose, I encourage you to pick one spot, get all your information listed there, calculate your cash flow, and figure out how to get it to be positive so you can save and invest. If you want my free budget template I promise you, it's very helpful.

I hope to see you grabbing my budget template and, beyond that, I hope to see you joining my free workshop. And however, you go about this, I hope this information was helpful. I really, really think that everyone is capable of mastering their money and building a life worth living and a life they deserve that's full of freedom, happiness, and choice.




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