386: How to Earn More, Spend Less, and Build Wealth with Mindy Jensen

By January 7, 2019Podcasts

 

 

Podcaster and real estate investor Mindy Jensen shares strategies for building wealth.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The number one tip for earning more at your job
  2. The power of tracking your spending
  3. Tips for optimizing big expenses

About Mindy

Mindy Jensen is the Community Manager for BiggerPockets.com, and the co-host of BiggerPockets Money, a podcast for anyone who has money or wants to have more.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Mindy Jensen Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Mindy, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Mindy Jensen
Pete, thank you for asking me to be on How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast. I’m super excited.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, well me too. It was so fun to meet you at Podcast Movement. I’ve been a Bigger Pockets fan for a while. It was a bit of a celebrity sighting, like, “ooh!”

Mindy Jensen
Well, I am glad we could get together.

Pete Mockaitis
Me too, me too. I have huge thanks and appreciation for what you’ve done in my world of accumulating money and wealth in terms of did my first house hack, is a term I learned from you guys, which refers to buying a multi-unit property and renting out some units and living in one of them. It’s awesome to have tenants pay your mortgage for you. It’s a treat.

Mindy Jensen
You know what, who wants to pay their own mortgage when somebody else can pay it for you? If anybody wants to pay my mortgage, feel free.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s an open invitation. Well, I want to go back into time a little bit and hear a fun story about you took a distance bike ride from Seattle to DC. What’s the story here?

Mindy Jensen
I used to work at a gym and I was flipping through some magazine and on the back cover was this advertisement that had a picture of the United States and it had a drawing from Seattle to DC. It said some people would do this on an airplane. Then I started reading and I’m like, “Well, yeah, how else would you get from Seattle to DC?” I’m looking and I’m like “This is a bike ride? That sounds awesome.”

I did a little more research. It was a fundraiser for the American Lung Association. And I just thought, “I’m young, I’m not married, I don’t have any kids. This would be a super fun thing for me to do.” I called them up and they said, “Oh, that ride started yesterday, but we have another one next year.” I’m like, “Okay, good because I’m not in any sort of shape to actually be doing a cross country bike ride.”

I mean I didn’t spend a lot of time getting in shape before the next year. I just hopped on my bike and did it. Not the recommended route. But it was an amazing experience to be – I didn’t really have anything to do all day long except get to the next camp. I met a ton of really great people. I raised a lot of money for the American Lung Association. It was a really great experience. I’m super glad I did it.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. That’s great. Was there a big old group of you all? How many were making the trek?

Mindy Jensen
I think there were 140 of us that year.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s awesome. So there was like support vans and camping and that?

Mindy Jensen
Yes. There were support vans. There was breakfast provided and dinner provided. Then everything else was – like, souvenirs and drinks and everything else was on your own.

Pete Mockaitis
Very cool, very cool. Well, kudos for that achievement and discipline and advance planning and some of those topics and themes come up on Bigger Pockets. Could you orient listeners who are not familiar with Bigger Pockets? What’s it all about?

Mindy Jensen
Bigger Pockets is a website where basically you can learn how to invest in real estate. There’s a right way and there’s a thousand wrong ways to do it. If you do it the right way, you can most likely make money, definitely not break any laws.

You really don’t know what you don’t know. Something might sound really easy and then you start diving into it, you’re like, “Oh, I didn’t think of that. I didn’t think of that.” Our site exists to help you think of that and think of that. We have a blog and a forum and now two podcasts, the real estate investing podcast and the money podcast because not everybody is in a financial position to just start investing right away.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s true. When you say financial position, I’m reminded—my wife and I, we watched all the videos on buying your first property. I believe it was Scott Trench was the man on camera. He kept saying strong financial position with hand gestures. My wife and I, we kept alluding to that. “Do we have a strong financial position?” It’s wise advice as opposed to no money down stuff, which can up your level of risk.

Mindy Jensen
It can. Although, we do have a book called How to Invest with Low and No Money Down. No money down means none of your own money down, not no money down. Nobody’s going to give you a house without anything in it, except – actually there’s two.

If you can qualify for a USDA loan, which is more for a rural area or a VA loan if you are a veteran. Those are the only two loan programs that I know of that come with 0% down. But for the most part, you should have money to put into the property or at least have a cushion in case something goes wrong.

Pete Mockaitis
That is good. We ended up going with a Freddie Mac Home Possible program in a neighborhood that I guess they thought they wanted to encourage people to invest and move into from the last census track, but I’m sure when they update the census track it will probably no longer qualify. It was good timing.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah, that’s really good timing. They do lag – the government is the government. It is a huge slow-moving beast, so a lot of times what they think is rural, is no longer rural. I have a friend who got a USDA loan in one of the hottest areas in Northern Colorado, which is still considered technically rural, but they’ve got subdivision after subdivision popping up all over the place.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s good. Well, we’re starting to get into the tactical and that’s fine because I wanted to hear just one to orient folks. I think one cool, innovative thing that you do, which I had never even heard of is you purchase a home, you live in it for a while, while you’re renovating and then you resell it. What’s the story? How does it work?

Mindy Jensen
This is called a live in flip. I have done this eight times. I buy a house that is cosmetically ugly, but structurally sound so that I’m not moving into something that’s going to crumble around me. You’re not looking at something like a meth house or something with mold or something with significant issues.

I buy it. I move into it. It is my primary residence, so I get a lower mortgage rate because owner occupants have the lowest mortgage rates – owner occupants with the best credit have the lowest mortgage rates.

I fix it up for two years. Two is the magic number because if I sell it after two years, I pay no capital gains taxes on the increase – the difference in the value between what I bought it at and what I sold it for minus repairs. I pay no capital gains up to $500,000 because I’m married and up to $250,000 if I were single.

The house that I’m in now, I bought it for $176,000. I put roughly $100,000 into it. Currently I could put it on the market and sell it in a hot second for $500 or $525. There’s a significant amount of capital gains that I have realized in this home and I will pay no taxes on it when I sell it.

Pete Mockaitis
That is brilliant. That’s the kind of stuff that you pick up over at Bigger Pockets. I think that’s so cool. I just wanted to get that out there, so we can learn a little bit about you and sort of how you do your thing. But maybe let’s kind of get a broader perspective in terms of when we talk about financial freedom, how do you think about that and define it and what does that mean in real lived terms?

Mindy Jensen
I consider myself financially free, which to me means I don’t need to work in order to pay my bills, in order to feed my children, in order to put food on the table and have a roof over my head. I have enough money that I have saved up and invested so that I would never have to work again. That means that I can choose to work in a passion project, in a thing that doesn’t make me much money because the money is now out of the equation and now I can just do what I love.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. What are you doing then?

Mindy Jensen
Well, I work at Bigger Pockets. I talk about real estate all day long. You alluded earlier, we’re kind of getting into the weeds, please reign me in because I can literally talk about this all day. And I do, that’s my job. I really love doing that. While I am well compensated, I could work there for free, just don’t tell my boss.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s really cool. You hear that sort of enthusiasm for real estate on the podcast in terms of folks that they just eat, sleep, breathe and live it and love it.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah. I think that real estate is a really great investment. There’s a quote – I can’t remember who said it, “Buy land, they’re not making any more of it.” Real estate is – it’s not a totally finite amount or what am I trying to say here? Real estate isn’t a finite – there isn’t a finite amount of real estate in the world, but it’s still almost always rising in price.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s right and we have population growing. That’s another reason I’m a fan of farmland as investments go because we continue to eat year after year and there are more people doing it.

Mindy Jensen
That is absolutely true. Farmland is not something I really know all that much about.

Pete Mockaitis
Anyway, so we talked about the two-year strategy, the house hacking. I’d love to get your take both on the earning more and the saving more sides of things. You’ve learned a ton from your work and your research and your enthusiasm and reading and talking to people. What have you discovered to be some of the most effective approaches, we’ll start with earning more, that you think would be applicable for professionals working in a job right now?

Mindy Jensen
You want to make yourself invaluable. You want to be the go-to person for fill in the blank. Whatever it is, you want your boss to think, “Oh, I’ve got a project. I’m going to give it to Pete because I know Pete’s going to do it. He’s not going to give me excuses. He’s not going to be late.”

There’s kind of a shortage of people who do a good job. There’s a lot of people who do an average job, who do a mediocre job. There’s no shortage of people who do a bad job. But the people who are really, really awesome at their jobs, that’s not all that common. If you can stand out, you can be so much more valuable.

Then when you are invaluable to your boss, you go in and you ask for a raise. This is something that so many people struggle with. They don’t want to ask for a raise. What’s the worst that can happen? Is your boss going to fire you because you asked for a raise? He’s not the right person to work – he or she – sorry, I don’t want to be sexist – isn’t the right person to work for anyway.

If you go in and you have solid data to back up why you deserve this raise and what you’ve done in the past year, in the past six months, how your job has changed or whatever, the worst that can happen is they say no or they no not right now. If they say not right now, ask them when. But I think so many people leave so much money on the table simply because they don’t ask for a raise.

Pete Mockaitis
I like a lot of what you’re saying here and to dig into some more. But that point about it’s kind of rare that people are awesome at their jobs, I second that. In doing the research for, “Hm, would anyone listen to this podcast?” I collected three different survey tools, which is pretty cool, and I got a sense that between 4 and 18% of people in the US were highly interested in listening to a podcast that would help them be awesome at their jobs.

It’s funny because sometimes I have guests who say, “Who wouldn’t want to be awesome at their jobs?” It’s like, well, it’s kind of the majority. We are a minority, so thank you listeners. It’s great to have you and be in a cool kids club.

And I was chatting with my buddy, Carl. Carl, he was working for actually it was a mortgage company. Carl was getting promoted quickly. I was like, “Carl, what’s your trick. What are you doing?” He just said, “I’m doing my job. I’m supposed to follow up on these leads so that’s sort of what I do all day. Then other people they do that for maybe half of the day.”

The other half they’re kind of – well they’re sort of chilling out in whatever way with chitchatting with people or Facebook or their phones or sort of whatever distractions enter their world. Yeah, awesomeness is rare and valuable and can get you paid.

I want to hear a little bit about the data point. What are some of your favorite resources or kind of pieces of information and numbers you would point to when you’re armed to have that ‘please give me a raise’ conversation well?

Mindy Jensen
This isn’t a conversation you can plan for in five minutes. If you are going to ask for a raise, you need to plan that out because you want to start keeping track of what you’re doing every day. I’ve got a couple stories. I don’t want to get too far into the weeds.

But I had a friend whose boss came up to her one day and said, “I don’t think you’re doing what you say you’re doing.” She went home that day and called me up and she got all mad. She’s like, “I can’t believe she would ask me this.” A couple of month later she got fired because her boss kind of gave her a head up, “Look, I think you’re not doing what you say you’re doing,” and she never proved her boss wrong.

At almost the exact same time, my husband’s boss said the same thing to him, but my husband’s boss said this because my husband was working – living in Colorado, the boss was in Chicago. He was working from home. My husband started keeping track of absolutely everything he did every single day. He turned it in every week to his boss. His boss didn’t ask him to do this. He just did this on his own.

After 18 months – he worked for the government, so it’s kind of a long, drawn out process – but after 18 months, the boss came to him and he said, “You don’t need to send me these anymore. I totally believe you’re doing what you say you’re doing.”

Your boss gives you money in exchange for the job. You should be keeping track daily or weekly what you’re doing. Your boss doesn’t want to see a list of 365 days’ worth of stuff you did, but you can kind of keep track every day. “Oh, today I did this. Today I did that. I worked on this project,” so when it comes time to ask your boss for a raise, you can show them your log.

They’re not going to read it. They’re just going to like, “Holy cow, I can’t believe you did this.” Then show them some bullet points. “I got that big contract that you were looking for,” “I increased my sales by this,” “I did that,” or whatever it is. Having proof that you did it goes a long way to getting the raise.

Your boss is going to see how dedicated you are to the job just by showing him all the things that you have – all the things you’ve been doing. Another place to start looking is Glassdoor. It’s a good place to get a comparison of what people in your area are making for doing the same job that you do.

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Mindy Jensen
If you’re making $50,000 and everybody else in your area is making 55, you can ask for 60. I would always overshoot. Ask for 60 and say, “Look, everybody is making this, but here’s all the things that I’ve been doing and here’s why I deserve it.” Just going in and asking for a raise is not necessarily going to get you anything.

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. That practice associated with keeping track of what you’re doing I think would be so helpful on numerous dimensions. So many guests have said sort of their top habit for being awesome at their job is just having a simple list of okay, these are the one, two, three, limited number of things I’m going to do today, so they have that focus before emails or distractions sort of suck them into other agendas.

That practice one, gets you focused day by day and two, let’s you capture those bullets of achievement, whether that goes into a resume when it’s time to update it or for the annual review. You just have that ready to go and repurpose any which way to serve your needs.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah. I have one more quote that I’m going to butcher. It’s from George Carlin. Obviously he’s a comedian. He says, “Think of how stupid the average person is and realize that half of them are stupider than that.” Take out stupid and replace it with lazy. Think of how lazy the average worker is and realize that half of them are lazier than that. A very small amount of work will yield so many results just because you’re so much better than your peers.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, nice perspectives on the earning side. Any other favorite approaches you’d like to mention?

Mindy Jensen
No. There’s side hustles. If there’s no way to make more money at your current job, a side hustle is a great way to bring in extra income without committing to a totally second job. There’s – that, the sky’s the limit. What are your passions? What are you excited about? What do you want to do? Some side hustles pay more than others. Some are not so exciting. It depends.

I really think that at your main job, you’re most likely leaving a lot of money on the table simply by not asking for a raise, a specific dollar amount. “I’m making 50. I want to make 60, so I’m going to ask for 65. They win by giving me 61 and then I win because I only wanted 60,” or however that works.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh perfect. Let’s talk about the savings side of the equation. What are some of your favorite approaches there?

Mindy Jensen
My absolute favorite approach to saving money is to know where your money is going. You can’t know where to cut back, if you don’t know where it’s going right now. I used to say that your step number one is to check your spending, but really your number one step to having money should be to write down what your life goals are. What are your goals with money? What do you want to do with what you have?

After you’ve written that out, thought about what you really, really want, then start tracking your spending. You will be probably surprised at how you’re spending that you haven’t been tracking doesn’t really align with your goals. It might a little bit, but there’s always room for improvement.

One of the easiest ways to track spending is my friends over at WafflesOnWednesdays.com wrote up this amazing article. It is called How to Make Your Own Mobile Expense Tracking App in 30 Minutes. It’s free. They give you step-by-step instructions on basically how to take a Google form and create it to – customize it to your spending needs and put it on your phone. Every time you spend a dime, you track it in the spender – in the tracking app.

And what you will discover is “I do this too many times a month. I want to cut that back,” or “Wow, I didn’t know that about my spending. I’m glad I had this look at what’s going on.”

The first time I tracked my spending, I discovered that I went to the grocery store literally every single day. I was just picking up one thing. I was just picking up one other thing. When you go to the grocery store, you don’t just buy one thing. You buy one thing plus two others. But if you do that every day, that adds up to so much money spent. I was just going in, “Oh, I could use this or I could use that.”

It was between my house and the gym. I would go to the gym every morning, so I would just stop by on the way home. Once I started tracking my spending, I realized that’s not really what I want to be doing is throwing all of my money at the grocery store. I cut that back and my spending was cut – I’m not sure exactly how much I cut out of my spending, but it was significant and it was noticeable the next month.

Pete Mockaitis
I’d also love to get your take – so that mobile tracking app, that’s very clever. I’ve made something like that once to track my energy levels to sort of see, “Hm, are there some patterns associated with when I should do creative work versus focused detailed work.” That’s been very helpful. And so zippy, just push a button on the phone and boom, there’s a Google form and five seconds later you’ve got the data collected.

But for the lazy listener, who will say, “Mindy, can’t I just see what I’ve got on Mint.com. Won’t that sort of transaction log be sufficient for me when I use my credit cards?”

Mindy Jensen
You can if you like. When we first started tracking our spending, we had a spiral notebook with a pen and it was right by the door as I walked in, so I would see it and remember to mark down my spending. Whatever you can do to track your spending, whatever tactic works for you is the best option.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. We mentioned Mint.com. What about, any other sort of software or solutions that are helpful for folks. We’ve got the Google form approach on your phone, we’ve got the notebook, we’ve got Mint.com. I’ve heard of YNAB, You Need a Budget. Do you know people who love that? Are there any other solutions you’d point to?

Mindy Jensen
I know people who love YNAB. I believe it has a bit of a learning curve, but I know they’ve got really great tech support that can help you through that. I haven’t personally used it, so I don’t – I can’t say that it’s great or it’s terrible or whatever. I’ve never used it.

What worked for me the most was that notebook on the counter because it was in my face as I walked in the door. Whenever I walked in, I walked in through one door, so having it there – whatever you can use to remind yourself.

Now that I have this on the phone, it’s kind of fun to have it on the phone and I don’t even leave the grocery store or the parking lot, wherever I’m at, before I track my spending just so I don’t forget it. Having it on my phone makes it really easy to – it’s in my head all the time and it’s a game. Now it’s a game, “Oh, how little can I spend?”

Pete Mockaitis
I’m also intrigued by you’re keeping this practice alive and well, though you mentioned earlier, you’ve done eight houses worth of these living in flips and you are currently at financial freedom. It kind of reminds me of Warren Buffet, who continues to live modestly and thoughtfully about his expenses even though he’s got massive wealth.

Can you give me a view into that mindset of you’ve got more than enough money and you continue these practices? Some might say that’s unnecessary, what’s your take?

Mindy Jensen
When I was doing a little bit of research for your podcast, I heard you ask people about their favorite quote. My favorite quote for decades has been from Coco Chanel. She said, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.” She’s really sassy.

But I don’t care what other people think of me. If you don’t like my car, I don’t care. If you don’t like my clothes, I don’t care. I don’t have the latest phone. I have the phone that I have figured out. I don’t want a new phone because I don’t want to have to figure it out. I’m not the biggest techie person on the planet.

I have a house that looks nice, but it’s also – it looks nice because I’m getting ready to sell it to somebody who cares what their house looks like. I don’t care that you think I live in a dump when I move from here to the next place, which will be a dump when I move in, because it doesn’t affect me  what you or what other people think of me.

I think that’s a really big part of financial freedom. I’m not trying to keep up with the Jones’s. I don’t even know who the Jones’s are. It’s just a mindset. It’s a confidence thing. I would rather spend time with my children than have the latest phone. I’ve got a really good bicycle that I’ve had for something like 17 years. It still gets me where I need to go, so why do I need a new one just because they came out with a new version of it. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. I think a large part of that is you’re really clear on what you want, what you value and the priority and thusly, the other stuff falls away.

Mindy Jensen
It kind of does. I buy what I want to buy and it’s because I want – I buy for quality when I’m buying something where quality means something to me. Like coffee, that’s a big one in the financial freedom world. “Oh, don’t go to Starbucks.” I don’t go to Starbucks. I don’t particularly love the taste of their coffee, but I buy good coffee and I make it at home. It’s good and I don’t care that I don’t have a green cup in my hand or I don’t have the red holiday cup or whatever they’re doing now.

Pete Mockaitis
When you talked about buying for quality, that reminds me of the book, The Millionaire Next Door, which is so great and full of research.

They mentioned that the average price of shoes for millionaires, like what do they spend on their dress shoes, I will not remember the number and it probably needs to be adjusted for inflation, but it was something like 200 bucks. It was not like 600-dollar crazy luxury brand, but it was also not the cheapos. It was a shoe that they hoped to resole it and wear for a decade or two or three.


Mindy Jensen
I will say that if you’re a man, you can get away with that. Lady’s styles go in and out. But again, if you don’t care – I’m trying to think what – I don’t even know if I have any dress shoes right now because I don’t dress up and go anywhere. That’s not something that I enjoy. I don’t go to the opera, the cinema – not the cinema, the theatre.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, the theatre.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah. I don’t do any of that. I don’t – that’s not something I enjoy. I really loathe the opera. I’m not a fan. I’ll just leave it at that. I’m sure it’s beautiful and whatever. It’s just not something that I want to go to. But I do go to the symphony, the local symphony, which is held in the high school auditorium. You could – as long as you have on clothes, that’s all they need you to be wearing. That’s more my speed.

Pete Mockaitis
The dress code is clothes.

Mindy Jensen
Yeah, having a good quality item that – you spend on what is important to you. You save money on things that don’t matter, so you can spend on what’s important to you.

Pete Mockaitis
Well said. Let’s hear about some other approaches for the saving. Once you’ve got a clear picture on where your money’s going and some of the mismatches, you make some adjustments. What have you found to be some common recurring opportunities for lots of people overspend on this and there’s an easy way to stop doing that?

Mindy Jensen
A lot of people overspend on their phone plan, on their insurance, on recurring charges that they don’t really think about.


Okay, one thing that I have heard – one recommendation that I have heard from a lot of different people is to go through your credit card statements every single month and make sure that the recurring charges are the least amount that you can spend for the level of service or quality that you want.

Let’s say you have a phone plan from your big name phone company and it’s $100 a month and it includes unlimited texting and unlimited data. I don’t even know what’s available because I don’t use any data on my phone. But I use Ting, T-I-N-G.com. They run over the Sprint network. There’s a couple of different ones. Republic Wireless is another one. I think Cricket Wireless is also a low cost, but don’t quote me on that.

Where my plan, my basic plan is $15 a month. That includes unlimited Wi-Fi, phone calls, and a few other things, and like a gig of data or something that I never go over because I hardly ever use it. But they have different levels of plans and you only pay for what you’re using.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fascinating. You can just sort of take your existing phone once your contract is up and say, “Hey, Ting me up.”

Mindy Jensen
It depends. You would have to talk to Ting to make sure that your phone is compatible. I think that not all phones are compatible. This is something that I don’t do a lot of. I got on Ting and then I never look at it again. I have the same phone for a long time because I don’t want to learn a new phone. I just want to have Google maps and the ability to text and make a phone call.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Mindy Jensen
Then everything else is bonus.

Your insurance, your car insurance, your home insurance. One thing that I have noticed is that your premiums go up every year. If you shop around to other companies, you might get a teaser rate or you might get a lower rate simply because your insurance company is kind of banking on you to be lazy and not-

Pete Mockaitis
Like the cable companies do. Yeah.

Mindy Jensen
Kind of like the cable companies do, yeah. Do you need everything that’s in that list of insurance? When I first starting driving, I had full coverage. Now I have pretty basic coverage because I’m a good driver and I don’t hit people. I’m covered if somebody else hits me. I have enough money to cover the old car that I have, which I probably wouldn’t get anything for anyways.

I don’t have coverage if I hit somebody. I don’t coverage for my own vehicle. But I also haven’t been in an accident that was my fault since like 1992 or something like that.

Another thing to do is raise your deductible. My deductible when I was a kid was like $100 because I couldn’t scrape together anything more than that. Now I think it’s $2,000 because I can come together with $2,000 and have everything else covered.

Just review your recurring charges, ask for discounts everywhere you can. Again, what’s the worst that they’re going to do? They’re going to say no. Then you threaten to cancel the account or you cancel it and go someplace else that gives you a better price.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s nice. I also like one takeaway I picked up from Bigger Pockets is to focus in on the big areas of spending and to not stress so much, like the latte, “Oh I love the latte. I don’t want to give up the latte.” Well, the latte matters less than what you’re spending on your home, your domicile, your living arrangement, your transportation or car, and your food, your groceries, what you’re consuming, whether it’s out or in. Do you have any pro tips on optimizing those big ones?

Mindy Jensen
I do have pro tips on optimizing those big ones. Let’s start with your car. Do you need your car? Do you need it all the time? Do you have an alternative way to get to wherever it is you’re going in the car? Most people use their car to get to work. How close do you live to work?  Could you walk? Could you bike? Could you get a ride with somebody?

We have a guy at bigger pockets named Craig who used to rent out his car on Turo and made a lot of money doing it. He would take his bike to work. He would get a ride with somebody if he needed to. He just rented his car out all the time. That’s a way to get rid of your expense when you don’t really need the item.


Housing, you can – Airbnb, you can rent out the unused portions of your home. You can have a roommate. How much space do you have that’s just vacant and not being used ever? You house hack.

There’s a lot of ways to cut down your expenses, eliminate them, even make money on your previous liability, now it’s an asset, simply by tweaking something. If you don’t want to move, you could just rent out a room in your house. Maybe you’re not having your entire mortgage paid, but any portion of your mortgage that you don’t have to pay is a win.

Pete Mockaitis
Absolutely. How about on the food side of things?

Mindy Jensen
On the food side of things, I would absolutely recommend to plan your meals. Look at inexpensive food ingredients. Sweet potatoes are inexpensive and potatoes are inexpensive. Look for ways to build your meals around inexpensive staples with a pinch of something else.

If you are a meat eater, maybe you have a small amount of meat with your very vegetable heavy meal. I am a meat eater, so we do have a lot of meat. But I do have a daughter who saw this movie called Free Birds, which is a cartoon. That was the first time she equated turkey that you eat with turkey the bird and has never eaten a piece of meat since, so I have learned to do a lot of vegetarian meal planning.

Beans are cheap. Canned beans are cheap, but dried beans are even cheaper. You can buy in bulk. Plan your meals around these protein sources that aren’t meat, which is fairly expensive.

Pete Mockaitis
I love if you have dried beans, if you throw them in an Instapot, you can get them raring to go and eat pretty quickly without the whole soaking process, so there’s another one.

Mindy Jensen
That’s what I’ve heard. I don’t have an Instapot, so I can’t speak to that. But there’s – go to – excuse me – go to Pinterest.com and look up 50 billion recipes for insert ingredient here. “What I can do with canned beans?” or “What can I do with dried beans?” “Oh, here’s 47 recipes for you.” Chile is a super hearty meal that you can make and – you just throw in a bunch of stuff in that pot.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s wild just how far you can take this. The Wall Street Journal recently had an article about the FIRE movement, Financial Independence Retire Early. They profiled someone whose monthly grocery bill was $75 and that’s what does it for eating for one for a month, $75.

Mindy Jensen
That is not my budget. Good for her for being able to do it. She had tips like buy produce that isn’t optimal. I think there was this quote that was kind of bandied about in the FIRE community, “Oh, she eats brown bananas.” So what? That’s when they’re the best. The Chiquita banana song, “When they’re flecked with brown and have a golden hue, bananas taste the best and are the best for you.” I don’t know, sorry.

Pete Mockaitis
I love it. Any musical number is welcome. We’ll take them all.

Mindy Jensen
Great. My grocery store has a dented aisle. It doesn’t matter if there’s a dent. It doesn’t matter that something – the can is – the box is crushed on the corner unless it’s taco shells. Those are always just disintegrated. Don’t buy those in the dented aisle. But everything else – like I have a box of cereal it’s got a dent in it, so instead of $4.99, it’s $0.99. I’ll take that every day.

Pete Mockaitis
This is handy in terms of earning more and saving more. What do you see are sort of the most common mistakes or difficult decisions that folks are really wrestling with when they’re trying to get their financial house in order?

Mindy Jensen
Personal finance is personal. It means it’s what happens to your finances. If you want to go to Starbucks every morning, then go. Put that into your budget and cut back on other things.

What I see people doing is reading – there’s a guy who’s been blogging since the beginning of time called Early Retirement Extreme. He lives on beans and rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He’s okay with that. I’m not okay with that. I don’t live on beans and rice and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I see people thinking that it’s got to be this extreme thing when it doesn’t really have to be this extreme thing.

One of the things that we hear a lot on our podcast is “What did you do when you first discovered financial independence?” “Oh, I cut out everything.” Then month two, they add things back in. It is a good exercise to cut out everything to see what you really, really, really want, what means more to you than you thought it did and then add that back in.

But another way to do it is just cut out one thing at a time. Do you watch a lot of TV? We actually don’t watch a lot of TV, so we don’t have a TV plan. We just have Netflix. If you watch a lot of sports and it’s a big part of your life, then cut out something else that doesn’t mean so much to you. But don’t try to live my life because my life isn’t your life. You need to live your life. It all goes back to writing down your goals. What do you enjoy? What do you want out of this life?

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Well, Mindy, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Mindy Jensen
No, you’re pretty thorough, Pete.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh shucks. Thank you. All right, well, we heard your favorite quote, so how about a favorite book?

Mindy Jensen

My favorite book is called The Richest Man in Babylon. It was written in 1920 by George S. Clason. As you read it – it’s written in like King James Bible language, Shakespeare language. It’s – I love Shakespeare and I love that language, so it was fun for me to read. You don’t get a lot of books like that anymore, but it can be a little bit difficult to digest just based on the language.

But he talks about don’t spend every dime that you make. Don’t invest with people who really don’t know what they’re talking about. Pay yourself first. What’s really telling about this book is it was written almost 100 years ago and it’s all still true. There isn’t any bit of this advice that isn’t still valid.

Pete Mockaitis

That’s a good one. I remember I listened to an audio version of the book. I don’t know why, I’ll just remember it forever, the way the narrator did, it’s like, “The Richest Man in Babylon. Pay thyself first.” It was a good memory. Thank you.

Mindy Jensen

That is hilarious. Yeah, he probably sounds just like that. That’s a great-

Pete Mockaitis

It was very regal. It was like Patrick Stewart doing a Shakespeare thing.

Mindy Jensen

But it’s a really great book.

Pete Mockaitis

And how about a favorite tool?

Mindy Jensen

A favorite tool. I’m going to go back to that Waffles on Wednesday spending tracker, just because I don’t have a lot of tools that I use and I use that one all the time.

Pete Mockaitis

And a favorite habit?

Mindy Jensen

Favorite habit. Write down what you did that day. It’s really easy for Monday to turn into Friday and you get to the next Monday and you’re like, “Oh, what did I work on last week. I don’t remember.”

But get in the habit of writing down what you have accomplished, what you have worked on, even some failures, what you tried and didn’t work so that you can learn from that too so that you can represent yourself when you go to make a request for a raise, so you can represent yourself when you change jobs.

Do you remember what you did four jobs ago? I don’t. Four jobs ago was a really long time ago. But I don’t remember what I did four jobs ago, at least not day to day. “Oh, I entered products into the system.” That’s not exciting. What else did you do?

Pete Mockaitis

Very good. How about is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get retweeted?

Mindy Jensen

Save on the things that don’t matter so you can spend on the things that do.

Pete Mockaitis

If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Mindy Jensen

I am all over BiggerPockets.com. You can find me on Twitter at MindyAtBP, M-I-N-D-Y-A-T-B-P, for Bigger Pockets. My email is Mindy@BiggerPockets.com. I am slow to respond. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m inundated, but if somebody has a question about anything I love talking about everything I just talked to you about.

Pete Mockaitis

Oh cool. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Mindy Jensen

I would just challenge everybody to start tracking what they’re doing with their life, what they’re doing in their job, what they’re doing with their spending. Just start keeping track of stuff. It doesn’t have to be some detailed minute-by-minute account of what you did at your job that day or penny-by-penny accounting of your spending, just a general overall picture will give you a lot of insight into how you are living.

Pete Mockaitis

Well, Mindy, this has been so much fun. Thank you for the good work you do at Bigger Pockets and sharing the good word. I wish you lots of luck in all you’re up to, the next house sale and purchase and all the rest.

Mindy Jensen

Pete, thank you for having me. I had a really, really fun time.

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