Today we’re talking about the Thrive List.
This process is the anti-budget for all of you who might struggle to budget, save, and invest your money. It is the antidote to scarcity thinking and survival mode, which I know all too much about from our earliest days as business owners way back in 2005 with our first business, where we weathered, where we suffered. We were in survival mode during the great recession and then ultimately went bankrupt.
This Thrive List has come out of the totality of that experience.
I know many of you don’t want to spend your days thinking about money, feeling yoked to the almighty dollar, or anything to do with money is just so raw for you emotionally. This is exactly why I do what I do because I love money and some people say to me, “We just listened to your podcast because we need to hear you say how much you love money,” but I do. I love money. I love making it. I love managing it. I love talking about it. I love educating people on it and I am just getting started.
Money is a tool that brings us a choice. We can buy back our time, peace of mind, and financial freedom, but we need to understand how money fits into our lives. It all starts with a Thrive List. I’m sharing about, how did I go from bankrupt because of past business failures to starting this business and being able to bring in the income to provide for my family, hire an amazing team, invest heavily in myself?
The Thrive List is critical to our being able to do this.
Let me first tell you what I didn’t do.
I don’t scrimp and save. I don’t deny myself, my favorite things. I don’t cut back on Starbucks. I don’t drive myself into scarcity in survival mode thinking because that is exactly what is going to stop you from really achieving that level of financial peace of mind. I’ve done those things before and it’s wholeheartedly less effective than Dave Ramsey will lead you to believe. That is why we are looking at this differently.
I get asked all the time about my favorite tools for budgeting, is it Mint or YNAB? I don’t use either, because I don’t budget. As a matter of fact, my approach to thriving got me featured in Money Magazine and Yahoo Finance for its originality and uniqueness, and a different way of budgeting. I realized recently that, for me, talking about money is my hobby. I love reading about it, testing new things. I’m intrigued by the psychology of money, the energy of money, everyone’s different perspectives even if they don’t work for me, or if they don’t align.
I genuinely just love hearing people talk about money, whether it’s from a scarcity perspective or not, like, for example, I love FIRE peeps. If you don’t know what FIRE is, it’s Financially Independent Retire Early. They believe in work optional or retire early, those are their goals, but their propensity is for more extreme frugality that I just can’t muster. I know that the end result is possible for me, but I can do it my own way and that’s really what I want everyone to hear today. That you get to do this your own way and I’m providing just another opportunity, another option for you. If extreme frugality doesn’t feel good. If budgeting doesn’t feel good.
The Thrive List is how I approach managing my money from a place of values alignment, feel-good boundaries, and deep intentionality because I don’t align with being frugal or frugality.
However, I am incredibly discerning and intentional with my money. We might be playing semantics here, but talking about discernment and intentionality around money feels much better for me and my body, and my nervous system, than talking about frugality.
Most budgets fail or become burdensome because they’re too restrictive. Creating your Thrive List is the step right before you get into Profit First implementation because we want you to be in a place where you understand what you want for your money from a place of intentionality and discernment. And not feeling restrictive or like things aren’t livable for you, in your life, or your business. When you’re a small business owner, your personal finances matter just as much as your business finances. We discussed that last week when we were talking about some of the mistakes that small business owners make.
Oftentimes there’s a redistribution or a rebalancing that needs to happen when you start Profit First. Business owners tend to prioritize paying everyone else before they pay themselves. That means, that there’s a period of time where we need to evaluate your expenses, which can trigger feelings of scarcity. So if you have a well-written Thrive List, we know that we are always moving towards something better even if we’re eliminating an expense. And we never eliminate the thing that you absolutely need to thrive in your life and your business.
When we combine our Thrive List and a Profit First mentality, there’s really no reason to budget. We pay ourselves first, which is what Profit First is all about. It’s about paying yourself Profit First, take your Profit First. Do your CEO pay, then you pay your taxes. What’s leftover is what you pay your operating expenses. You can do the same thing. You can apply that same concept to your personal expenses. We pay ourselves first through retirement, investments, life insurance, if you have a mortgage payment and then what’s left, you spend on what you need to thrive. You genuinely don’t need a budget, if that’s how you’re going to live.
Creating your Thrive List allows you to align with what matters most in your life and then spend your money, time, energy, and attention only on those things. This is the first step in knowing your numbers as a business owner and aligning your desire for financial freedom with your personal freedom.
There is no limit to what can be included on your Thrive List. As long as it’s what you consider non-negotiable in your life.
Your Thrive List serves as a framework for your boundaries with yourself, your relationships, your money, your time, and your energy.
Thriving, we’re going to talk about why I position it this way, but thriving is about prospering and flourishing. The items on this list should be things that bring you deep joy, fulfillment, satisfaction. It’s a step up from basic needs. We all know, we need to have a roof over our head, some food on the table, and some clothing on our bodies, but what’s beyond that?
When my husband and I were at our financial worse, we had very few tools to help us get out of survival mode. We didn’t even realize it was possible to do things differently, even though I had started working on my money mindset and was using a lot of manifestation techniques. At this time, my money mindset and belief in manifesting was a heavy lift because, John, my husband was more practical thinking black and white engineering type in his thinking. I know this comes up a lot with just humans, but also in couples. I feel like the way I speak about money is a good combination of both the energy parts that I incorporate from my advanced Reiki training, but also my practical way of thinking from being in Enneagram 5 and my degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology.
We had no money and that’s just what was happening from a very practical perspective. This was a time in our lives, where we got really creative to make ends meet and that really was me driving the creativity. Me driving that vision. Me driving that, let’s manifest this, let’s try and think beyond what our current situation is to get us to a better place. I’m so grateful for that because it taught me a lot about how money is a tool, money is energy, money is repurposable, money is renewable.
We were operating from fearful energy and the energy of surviving. Definitely not the energy of pleasure or enjoyment, prospering, or thriving. I joke around all the time, John and I used to get ready in the morning, and we would put on deodorant and we would remind each other just one swipe. Because we were trying to make the deodorant last as long as possible, we were trying to save on our personal expenses.
In May of 2015, just for timeline purposes, this is 5 years after we went bankrupt.
This was less than a year of me starting this business, and so it’s May 2015, we’re on a road trip. I looked at John and we were on our way home, sitting in traffic on the Long Island Expressway, as you do. I said to him, “I am definitely leaving my corporate job and it’s going to happen so much sooner than we expected.” When I started my business in January of 2015, I established a quit date of March 2016, I wound up leaving my corporate job in August of 2015. It was very accelerated, especially for me because this is something I had wanted to do for 10 years. But was super stuck on how to do it, taking action, readiness. If you’re like, “Tara is just a natural small business owner. Just an action taker, and it’s just everything she wants just comes to her.” No, this was after a very long painful process of me being way too afraid to take action and leave my six-figure job with all the cushy benefits. And no, I didn’t have mindset blocks. I had beliefs about what work was supposed to be and what it looked like. How you’re supposed to experience that?
I said to him, “I’m definitely leaving my corporate job. It’s going to happen way sooner than expected,” and I said, “We need to stash as much cash as possible to carry us through those initial peaks and valleys of a startup”. Remember this was not our first time doing this. We have done this before and it did not go well.
At this time, I was really blowing my own mind with the early success of my business. Pretty much immediately, I was very close to $10K months. At work, we got our bonus checks at the end of January and by that point, I had made more money, a lot more money than I ever made in my bonus check. I was like, “Oh, man! This is possible.” I was excited. I was feeling more confident than I ever had in my lifetime and can finally, see how something I felt was impossible was now possible.
I also had trauma, images of cashiers telling me that my debit card was declined while I had a full cart of groceries and two babies in tow were still too fresh. Not being able to afford lease payments for a new car that I needed to go back and forth to work. The interrogations from the bankruptcy court judge when we eventually filed for bankruptcy, you know, all these things were really burdening and bogging down my system, and my ability to move forward and make these decisions. I didn’t ever want to go back there and yet those experience says that I had been very linked to business ownership. So, John looks at me, we’re driving in traffic and he responds with, “Okay, then we’re going to go on austerity,” and even if the kids want to buy a video rental for $3.99, we’re going to say no, everything’s no.
He was ready to go on astarity and it completely shut me down. If owning a small business came with words like survival, scarcity, and austerity I didn’t want any part of it. I felt so confronted. I stopped the conversation and said that I needed to gain more clarity before we start cutting out Starbucks, kids video rentals for $3.99, getting rid of cable, and Netflix.
The next morning with coffee and a journal in my hand, I started to make my way through all the complicated emotions I had. And finally settled on the simplicity of what’s the opposite of survival mode, it’s thriving. This was not a genius move. It was just what was the opposite of scarcity. I want to thrive and my brain loves a good list, so I thought let me create some boundaries around what it means for me to thrive.
What will I spend money on?
What do I need to make me feel good, abundant, prosperous, loved, connected, confident, all those things you want to feel?
I know Danielle LaPorte does a lot of workarounds, connecting things like this to our feelings, our core desired feelings. What did I need to feel good, abundant, prosperous, loved, connected, confident? What doesn’t make me feel good about myself, loved, confident, abundant? I also want to give you permission to feel good. It’s incredibly important.
When you ask yourself these questions, think of answers through the following buckets; with yourself physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Mentally and emotionally are so important priorities especially if you are running a business, if you’re a parent, a human being, whatever. Mental and emotional health for me comes first, above and beyond anything. How do you want to feel your relationships with friends, in your career, your relationship with your most important work, in your business, with the tools, systems, team, personal development, professional development, with your money, and your finances?
When I reviewed my list, what stood out to me the most was how little money was required for me to thrive. You might be thinking this isn’t true for you like maybe you want all the expensive things. If this isn’t true for you and your list is full of stuff, this is a good place to start with curiosity and really look at what meaning do these things have for you? Do they truly bring you joy or are they filling a different need? Maybe they do truly bring you joy. That’s fine. But realize that sometimes we put things on our lists that fulfill a need that we can be getting in a different way. This is why I love doing the Thrive List over and over again, year after year because as I grow emotionally and as a human being, my Thrive List evolves.
As I share some of the items that are on my Thrive List, please remember this has been a work in progress for over a decade. Seven years ago, when I created my first Thrive List, it didn’t end there. We revisit our Thrive List annually and sometimes more frequently. Lately, I’ve been just living in this co-creation of my Thrive List because things are changing in my life and the world around us so quickly. I want to be able to adapt to those things and incorporate them into my new way of being.
Here are some examples from my Thrive List.
Firstly, I am an introvert. Give me a cup of coffee, a cozy blanket, a comfy chair, and a journal. I don’t love going out that much and so I’m just as happy to get sucked into a really good Netflix series. I married my best friend, and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company. It’s the only thing that’s kept us married for the 21 years that we have been married. When we went through bankruptcy, we learned that we can find pleasure in doing simple things together. We are early risers and we tap out pretty early, so late-night dinners just aren’t our thing. But we love to connect over a great date breakfast or a simple cup of coffee in the morning.
I was never a Pinterest Mom. I found that stuff exhausting. Of course, in hindsight, I can see how my ADHD brain had impacted those early years of motherhood. Making them so challenging for me, but I loved giving my kids 15 minutes of my undivided attention in the morning while they sat on my lap. They’re teens now. They don’t really want to sit on my lap. They don’t even want to hug me. They barely want to talk to me. But they would sit on my lap and we would hug, and I would tell them all the things that I needed to hear when I was their age.
Also, probably an ADHD thing but I just don’t have a lot of bandwidth for clutter, keeping things orderly drains me. I’m a huge fan of things being minimal, simple, and straightforward, especially business. I need a simple and clutter-free life to thrive. It allows me to focus, be more intentional.
I’m an essentialist through and through. A lot of these things really inform my Thrive List; a great cup of coffee. I have a sassy coffee collection. Sassy coffee mug collection that if you do follow me on Instagram, I do post them sometimes. So I’ll always be down to purchase a sassy coffee mug, a good cozy blanket, a comfy chair journal. I buy an abundance of pens. I buy in abundance. I would never cut my Netflix as a way to save money. These are all things that I need to thrive. Even things like paying for someone to come, clean, and organize my house on a weekly basis. I really value that because I don’t have that bandwidth for clutter and keeping things orderly, drains me.
When I originally made my Thrive List, my kids were younger and it was a total drag having cloth seats in my car with their sticky fingers. I know the parents who are listening to this really hear me. So, a car with leather seats, one of my Thrive Lists-, here’s the interesting thing, like I’m not a car person… My husband is a car person. He can really get into cars, their features, the technology, and all that stuff. I do not care. It could have been a new car, a used car, like… If they let me still roll up my car windows, that’s the car I would buy. I genuinely don’t even know how to operate my car with the level of gadgetry and technology it has. I’m very simple when it comes to my cars. The only thing I wanted was to not have gunked-up seats. So that one was on my Thrive List.
At that time, I was also trolling the aisles of target a lot and would get sucked into buying things because they were cheap. This was a time in my life where I was looking to save money, so I thought buying cheap things would help me save money, by the way, it doesn’t. But they would also tend to be not important, clothing that was trendy and would last a season, and then wouldn’t necessarily be something I was interested in the next season. So when creating my Thrive List, I would put on it that I would only buy high-quality clothing and high-quality items because they last forever. They’re worth getting mended and fixed.
High-quality items allow you to really get the maximum amount of utilization out of them, which is also how we want to think about our businesses. Are we utilizing tools to the maximum amount? Are we truly utilizing the things that we are paying for? And that’s hard to do when things are cheap or falling apart. So, I much rather have one pair of Lululemon align leggings, if you don’t have Lululemon align leggings you might want to try them and put them on your Thrive List, opposed to like five pairs of Target leggings. Like, I would literally just wash the Lululemon leggings every day and wear them. That’s fine with me because they don’t fall apart and they last. I have items, specifically from Lululemon, that I’ve bought years ago at this point.
My original Thrive List also had things like massages and manicures on them because those were requirements for me to feel abundant, to feel good about myself, and to get me into my body, but they’re not on my list now. It’s absolutely lovely to get a massage. If massages are on your list added, I judge you not. But I no longer need a massage to help me connect with my body and be in my body. I can do that now on my own. They were critically important to help me get there but now I don’t need them as much. Well, the pandemic really cured my desire for manicures because everything closed down, and I was like, “Well, why am I even doing this?” And I’m fine without getting a manicure.
I want to give you an action step. I want you to answer the question, what do I need to thrive with myself physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally?
In your relationships with your partner, with your children, with your friends, in your career, relationship with your work, in your business, the tools, the systems, the team. For me and my business, I do not want to do it by myself. I know plenty of people who don’t want to have a team, I don’t ever NOT want to have a team. That is what I need to thrive. Professional development is something that I need to thrive. I need to be supported by mentors and I love to learn. That’s where my money is going to go.
What do you need to thrive when it comes to your money and your finances? Don’t give yourself limitations. Don’t question why you want what you want. Don’t judge or be critical of your desires, just allow it to just come out on a piece of paper. I hear from a lot of people that journaling isn’t their journey, so use a voice note or however, you need to get this out of you, but obviously, our brains are not a great place to store things. So, make sure this is out in something that you can access again or share with somebody else.
Women have a hard time allowing joy, pleasure, feeling good in their lives; for example, when I say that I’m an introvert and I have cozy blankets, coffee, mugs, and that stuff in journals on my list. I spend on those things lavishly, like, show me a good blanket, I won’t even question how much that costs as long as it feels like, it gives me the feeling that I want to have. Women have a hard time wanting. When we can’t claim what we want, we default to somebody else’s desires. It’s so important that we are claiming our own desires and not someone else’s desires, which is where we get lost when it comes to our money, our goals, and our businesses.
Just get the things on a piece of paper. Write the list.
Sit with it. I get asked questions all the time around, how many items can I have on my Thrive List? What if everything on my Thrive lifts costs money? What if I need 801 pairs of Lululemon leggings to thrive? Which I get because I’m a big fan. So, you have the answers to these questions. Your intuition is critical to thriving. Your body knows. So, I want you to sit with it and allow yourself to revisit this list, continuously, edit, check in, and listen.
I’m in a huge time of transition with my own Thrive List, as I untangle my beliefs that I’ve adopted over the years from society; mainly marketers, what I need, and what are my goals. How does this thing on my list support that larger goal, and how does it allow me to thrive in the obtainment of that goal?
Assess your life and business based on this list. I want you to block off time to sit with your calendar, your energy, your bank accounts, and align the items on your Thrive List with you’re spending. Your spending of time, you’re spending of energy, you’re spending of money. Are there things that you are spending time, money, and energy on that are not on your list? Those are the things that you are going to cut.
If you really want to amplify your savings, as you cut those things out, toss that money into your savings account and save it. That’s how when we were doing this experiment, initially, we really accelerated that savings that I needed. We repurpose the money that we were spending on things that we didn’t need to thrive into something that I did need to thrive. An account with some cash in it, to allow me to leave my corporate job and run my business for the first few years with the ups and downs, and peaks and valleys of early business ownership. That was more important to me than anything else. So, everything got reprioritized to that.
Share your Thrive List with your family and ask them to share with you what they need to thrive. This simplifies my life so much. I no longer need, as a mom, to do all the things for my kids. I simply need to help them lead from their Thrive Lists. Back to school is a great time to have this discussion. It’s kind of like a reset for families. When my kids were younger, I would just ask them, what do they need to feel good in their bodies? Little ones are intuitive and naturally connected. As a matter of fact, I find it easier because my kids now are older in their teens. I find it easier to do this with younger kids than I actually do with older kids. This is a great time for my kids, with teens. This is a great time to have conversations about money, personal goals, friendships that aligns with their values. All of those things can be highlighted on their Thrive Lists.
When my kids clean their rooms, are feeling over-scheduled, asking for lots of stuff, it’s an opportunity for me to bring them back to what’s most important to them. Remember, when we have this conversation about what you needed to thrive, what you needed to feel good in your body, in your friendships, that’s what I’m able to bring them back to.
Join The Bold Profit Academy, so you can work on further incorporating your Thrive List into your business. So your revenue has a purpose. We meet you where you’re at, by supporting you and implementing Profit First. We have various money experiments for our clients in that program to help them turn their small businesses into mighty wealth-creating machines. In addition to the content in the program, which is designed for implementation. We want to actually be able to demonstrate a result or that this was a value.
In addition to designing our content for implementation, we host two co-working calls per month, where we guide you in what to implement, and coaching calls with me to help you implement with more specific guidance for your business. You can join us inside The Bold Profit Academy now.
Upon joining, you will complete an intake questionnaire which we use to create a custom 90-day growth plan for you, so you know exactly where to start getting the results you want.