6 Lessons on Surviving and Thriving Through Tough Times From Author Donna Freedman

When you need a haircut, you go see your barber or hair stylist. When you're feeling ill, you go to your doctor. And when you need sound financial advice from someone who would never belittle or money-shame you, you go to Donna Freedman. We sung her praises after reading her book, Playbook For Tough Times: Living Large On Small Change, For The Short Term Or The Long Haul, and lucky for us (and you) she has recently released her new book, Your Playbook For Tough Times, Vol. 2.

Yep, Freedman is back with even more spectacular tips on how to make the most of what you have, even if that is very little. Here are some of the best ways to stretch your dollars and survive a financial setback Vol. 2 had to offer.

1. Know that you are not alone

The best part of Your Playbook For Tough Times, Vol. 2. — or any bit of wisdom Freedman shares, really — is that she gets where you're coming from as she's been through financial struggles herself. Freedman has faced a lengthy divorce, she's been a single mom to a disabled adult daughter while scraping by on money from part-time jobs, and she went back to school later in life. She gets it.

She's not sitting up in a gold tower on a pile of money telling you how your financial struggles are your fault. Freedman's empathy is genuine and her tips are realistic. It's like a best friend who is also your financial adviser telling you how to achieve your goals, and showing you why there's no doubt you will.

2. Stop seeing frugality as a punishment

Freedman emphasizes that frugality is not punishment, but rather, a power move. Controlling your spending urges, scaling back a bit on entertainment and dining out, and other frugal strategies will ultimately help you reach your financial goals. So while the road to reaching those goals may seem long, you shouldn't view your careful money habits as restrictive and misery-inducing, especially if they lead you to paying off your mortgage and retiring early. Because isn't that the whole point?

3. Always be prepared for tough times

After Freedman published Your Playbook For Tough Times, Vol. 1, she received the following comment that caught her eye:

"I realized that 'tough times' are no longer an isolated event. They're pretty much like a fifth season, like hurricane season, and (something) one really has to prepare for."

While many people see financial hardships as something to always be prepared for, others still view them as isolated incidents that may happen once or twice, but never again. That's not the case, though, is it? Life is long, and your financial situation may change a dozen times before you reach retirement. So rather than seeing these obstacles as temporary and infrequent, proactively gain the upper hand by spending mindfully and saving diligently, even when your finances are solid.

4. Focus, focus, focus

Every time I go to put an item into my cart from this point on, I'll hear Freedman's clever words, "The trick is to care about what you spend vs. spending without a care."

Sure, it looks like a blast to grab cute clothes off all the shelves of your favorite store and hand your card over to the cashier without even looking at the total, but nobody should be making reckless money moves like these unless all of their debt is paid off. Freedman provides actionable steps to kick this urge and spend more mindfully.

There's also a section where she recommends adding personal finance goals in between items on your shopping list. Seeing things like, "Retire by 40" and "Pay off credit debt by next year" sandwiched between things you're planning to spend money on keeps you laser-focused on careful spending, keeping you from falling victim to impulse buys that can pull you off-course.

5. The right attitude can change everything

In chapter two, "A Winning Attitude," Freedman discusses how vital it is to be able to adapt. A job loss or a health setback can quickly derail your finances. And as difficult as it is to recover, you must be able to strategize in order to survive.

An example she gives is a woman living paycheck-to-paycheck who has just gotten her hours cut at work. Her attitude might be: "Once I pay my rent and utilities this month there will be nothing left for groceries." Sure, it's a reasonable reaction, but how will that help her? Instead, Freedman recommends a shift in mindset like this: "I'm going to make it my business to find short-term help to get through this, and also search for a steadier job."

This subtle tweak into positivity and determination can mean the difference between scraping by and going hungry. Those who can adapt during tough situations are the ones who will make it to the other side, after all.

6. Acknowledge how lucky you are

Freedman acknowledges that it may seem trite, but the importance of appreciating all that you do have during a financial crisis cannot be understated. She writes, "When I was at my lowest point financially, I kept reminding myself that I had family and friends, a roof over my head, basic food, a library card, and a chance to improve my life by going back to school (on scholarship — no way was I borrowing money)."

So while it may take some time to reach your financial goals and to really feel the comfort of the cushion you're building, the ride will be a lot smoother if you can look around and be content with what you already have.

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6 Lessons on Surviving and Thriving Through Tough Times From Author Donna Freedman

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