4 Habits That Helped Me Stop Scraping By

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Standing in front of my open fridge one summer night in 2011, I considered my meal options: leftover pizza scavenged from my job working for a late-night TV show or a post-sell-by-date panini I pardoned from its dumpster fate while working at my second job as a barista. After soaking up a few minutes of refrigerated coolness, I picked the tomato, mozzarella and pesto sandwich, and popped it into the toaster oven.

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This was a pretty common scene from my early 20s. I was scraping by on just $23,000 a year—but was still determined to avoid debt and even tuck a little money into savings: I pillaged leftovers to reduce my grocery bill, refused to use an AC unit (no matter how hot) to keep my electric bill low and ushered at Off-Broadway shows to keep my entertainment costs close to zero.

But, of course, penny-pinching can only take you so far. Over the years, I’ve adopted other habits that helped me transition from scraping by to officially getting my financial life together—so successfully, in fact, that I literally wrote the book on how to stop being a broke millennial. Here’s how I did it.

1. I found the budgeting approach that worked for me.

At first, I used a combination of an all-cash diet and the envelope system (where you stuff envelopes with cash dedicated to each spending category) to stay on target. But as my salary and net worth grew, I allowed myself more flexibility.

Now, I move money into savings and investments first, and transfer cash for bills to a dedicated savings account. Then I can spend what’s left however I’d like—no buckets, categories or percentages. This “No Budget” Budget, as I call it, has helped me move away from the hyper-frugal mindset of my early days, while still ensuring I stay on track financially.

2. I negotiated for more pay.

4 Habits That Helped Me Stop Scraping ByAfter some trial and error, I finally figured out how to calculate and convey my market value to an employer or client, and negotiate my pay effectively. I keep meticulous records of my achievements and feedback over the course of the year, stay on top of what other people in similar roles in my field are earning or being offered—and role play asking for more with a trusted friend so I go in well-prepared and confident. In one instance, I scored a $20,000 raise for my efforts.

3. I leveled-up my financial products.

I’m an early adopter to Internet banking and haven’t had an account at a brick-and-mortar location since 2011. But it took an embarrassingly long time to move my money from a checking account to a savings account that earned more than .01 percent interest. Now I make sure my savings account pays a minimum of 1 percent—because why shouldn’t my money be working for me, even in savings?

I’ve also learned to maximize my credit card rewards without incurring debt. Once, I pooled enough rewards to cover two round-trip tickets to Berlin as a surprise Christmas gift for my boyfriend.

4. I stopped letting other people spend my money.

The best lesson I’ve learned over the years is to stop letting other people spend my money. I’ve worked hard to identify my values and ruthlessly prioritize them. So I don’t feel bad saying no to a $16 ticket for a movie I don’t want to see or feel pressured to shop for clothes just because they’re on trend.

Does this mean I only ever spend money on what I want? Nope. Sometimes I knowingly buy things I know are overpriced (bridesmaids dresses). But in those cases, I’m investing in relationships, not things. And relationships are at the top of my values list.

Erin Lowry is the author of “Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together.”

This post originally appeared on Grow.


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Chris Petrie

Chris (Peach) Petrie is a personal finance expert, money coach, speaker and podcaster.

In 2011, Chris and his family were exhausted from living paycheck-to-paycheck and facing a mountain of debt. They started going against the society standards of misbehaving with money and made the decision to take back control of their lives and money. Within seven months they paid off $52,000, started saving like crazy and began building real wealth.

The word spread fast and Chris started showing friends how to create a budget over dinner. Soon after he started showing their friends how to do the same and eventually Chris started teaching personal finance classes around the community. As the need for the classes grew, Chris launched Money Peach in 2015.

Money Peach was created to help everyday people remove the stress and fear of money by showing them how to save more, make more, and keep more of their money.

Chris Peach has been featured in places like Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Elite Daily, and CheddarTV.

When Chris isn’t at “work” he can be found at the Crossfit gym or riding on the fire truck — Chris is also a full-time firefighter in Phoenix, Arizona.


  • We keep most of our money in an internet banking account. Since we also run a local business, we still have a local bank as its easier to deposit customer checks and make withdrawals when necessary.

    What’s nice about keeping our savings and emergency fund online is that we rarely look at the account balance. That means we don’t raid it to pay our bills or think we can take an extra trip because we happen to have extra money in the checking account this month.

    • That makes perfect sense to me! Having your money stored in different places can help take away a lot of that temptation.


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