Living that Whole Foods life when your reality is Trader Joe’s? Tips to stop the stress from an award-winning entrepreneur
Edited and updated April, 2022.
When I was in my early 20s, I started Nasty Gal, originally an eBay store for vintage clothes, which turned into a huge apparel retail business. Then I wrote “#Girlboss,” a memoir-slash-business book that led to a Netflix series and the creation of Girlboss Media, a content company focused on women’s personal and professional progress. Over the years, I’ve scaled businesses into the 9-figures—and face planted like nothing you’ve ever seen. Only to get up and do it again and do it better. So it’s safe to say that I’ve had plenty of adventures with money and the stress it can cause.
As an entrepreneur, you often put aside financial security to pursue your passion, so not only are you worrying about your personal finances, but you’re also worrying about your business finances. It’s one of the reasons why I started Business Class, an online course about entrepreneurship for founders who are serious about building smart and profitably. So I’ve always been asked about how to manage financial wellbeing and stress. These are the top 3 actionable, practical tips that always come up:
It sounds so simple, but it’s not always easy to live within your means. For the first several years of Nasty Gal, I bootstrapped the business—I had no debt and no investors. I didn’t want “things”—I didn’t have a nice car, and I wore vintage clothing. I kept my lifestyle and material needs below the level of success in my business. But it’s tough to not get caught up in this idea of “success,” especially with social media showing everyone’s perfect apartments and clothes.
Then once you have some money, you think, “This is great, I feel less stressed out.” It’s a slippery slope though because then you rent a more expensive place. You start buying luxury here and there. You leave Trader Joe’s for Whole Foods. Now you’re used to this new lifestyle, and you look around and say to yourself, “Wow, look at what I’ve achieved.” You keep going down this path and then all of a sudden, you’re on this treadmill of financial stress because your income isn’t scaling at the same rate as your lifestyle. You have to be very vigilant in recognizing that this treadmill exists—and maybe it’s better to just stay off of it altogether. Trader Joe’s is pretty great, after all.
Recognizing that not everyone can afford an accountant or financial planner, I really believe in apps and online budget planners like Mint.com because you can visualize where your money is going. Mint can track and categorize your expenses, then tell you when you’re over budget in a particular category—not to mention all these features are free. In conjunction with using this type of technology to help you budget, I highly recommend writing everything down that’s stressing you out about money—and get super real with yourself: What are your fears? How is your job going? Can you get a new job if you need to? Then when you’re alerted that you’re over budget, you can truly assess how problematic that’s going to be and realign your budget for the future.
Also, one thing that I’ve come to learn about financial wellbeing is that once you learn to manage the essentials of money—like monthly budgeting with an app—you then allow yourself the opportunity to make contributions to the planet and the people around you. Even if that means volunteering, not monetary donations, because you’ve freed up that mental space of struggling with your personal finances. And being able to give back in and of itself can be a stress reliever.
No, really—have talks about money in your relationships. As anyone in a relationship can probably tell you, money can be one of the biggest sources of stress and friction. It’s the number one cause of arguments and often cited as a key reason for divorce. This is hardly surprising, given that money can touch practically everything in a relationship—from your living situation to the food you eat every day to the type of soap you share in the kitchen. So if you’re not transparent about it from the get-go, you can inadvertently dig yourself into a hole of bickering.
For example, if you’re an entrepreneur who’s just starting out, you’re probably constantly worrying or thinking about money. Your partner needs to understand this, and it shouldn’t be disconcerting to ask for help, if you need it. There are always ups and downs when it comes to finances in relationships—sometimes you’re the one supporting your partner, other times, it’s vice versa. The key is not to hide from this reality, so finances don’t become a source of embarrassment for you or your partner. Money causes enough stress outside of your personal life, you don’t need it causing stress within it, too.