Sunday Morning Reads: Happiness, Surprising Boosts to Productivity, and More!

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2021 – Quarter 1

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Sunday Morning Reads

Each week, I put out a newsletter to my subscribers called “Sunday Morning Reads” which features my latest post(s) along with some of my favorite recent articles from other bloggers. I decided it would be great to have a post dedicated specifically to these awesome articles I have come across. In the first three months of 2021, I have found some great posts on topics ranging from paths to happiness to surprising boosts to productivity, to living your values and completing hard challenges.

Check them out and hopefully you find them as interesting, inspiring, and entertaining as I did. Let me know which ones were your favorites!

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12/27 – Financial Best Life and Simply + Fiercely

Lauren has learned a lot over the last eight years, but a couple of her points really stood out to me. She said, “success and money are ladders, not elevators.” Nothing worthwhile comes easily, and that is certainly true of money. 

I’ve Been Blogging for 8 Years – Here’s What I Really Learned About Money (Financial Best Life)

I really enjoyed this list that Jennifer put together. If I had to choose one, I would pick Robert Waldinger’s talk on “What Makes a Good Life.” He focuses on happiness, something we all want more than anything in the world. 

5 Inspiring TED Talks about Minimalism and Simple Living (Simply + Fiercely)

1/3 – Burrito Bowl Diaries and Tread Lightly, Retire Early

David argues that we need to choose depth over breadth. Consume less and we will absorb more. We are all being pulled in so many different directions at every moment, it can be difficult to focus on one thing and get things accomplished.

Make One Thing Stick (Burrito Bowl Diaries)

In the personal finance blogosphere, No Spend January challenges pop up all over the place. The New Year and new resolutions combined with a quieter month after the holidays have passed, make January a perfect month to attempt a no-spend challenge. But, this year, with all that is happening with Covid-19, Angela suggests trying a “local spend challenge” instead. In this inspiring post, she urges us to support our local businesses that have been struggling throughout the pandemic.

No Spend January? How About a Local Spend Instead? (Tread Lightly, Retire Early)

1/10 – Late Starter FIRE, cFIRE Sim, and Teena Merlan

This post served as a reminder to me that we all make mistakes with our money, and we sometimes make decisions that we later regret. One of the interesting things about this post was that the mistakes were made later, not right out of college. Even with some of those mistakes, retiring by 55 is a great goal to have!

My Biggest Money Mistakes (Late Starter FIRE)

This is one of the best FIRE calculators on the internet. It’s a great resource whether you are planning to retire in a year or in 30 years. As of this posting, over 120,000 simulations have been run through this calculator!

Online Retirement Calculator (cFIRE Sim)

Try out the Japanese tradition of oosouji and do some decluttering. These were all great ideas, but I particularly enjoyed how Teena focused on physical, emotional, and digital decluttering. Most notably, she encourages us to ask ourselves what’s really important as we embark on a new year.

12 Decluttering Tasks to Welcome 2021 (Teena Merlan)

1/17 – Atypical Finance and A Little Rose Dust

Tim provides some excellent advice about improving your financial outlook. Specifically, I really enjoyed how he encouraged readers to not only set goals but also set milestones along the way to that goal. His seventh point also hits on an important subject. Sometimes we gain more by cutting things out of our lives.

10 Ways to Make 2021 Your Best Financial Year Yet (Atypical Finance)

I purposely chose this post in the midst of the cold winter months. Caity gives some great suggestions using the Danish philosophy of hygge. Put very simply, stay comfortable and cozy as a way to thrive in these cold, winter months. I love how Caity creates actionable steps we can all take to incorporate hygge into our lives. 

Slow Living in Winter Using Hygge (A Little Rose Dust)

1/24 – We Want Guac and Maximum Gratitude, Minimal Stuff

Darcy has some very interesting ideas for how to trick our minds into saving more money. Specifically, she encourages us to reward ourselves for accomplishing our goals or reaching major milestones. But, what stood out most to me in the post was the idea of making a conscious effort to recognize how spending makes us feel.

Make Saving Money Fun, Not the Spending (We Want Guac)

Karen explores what sparking joy really means. This post is based on Marie Kondo’s wildly successful and popular Netflix show. Many people started the Kondo method but had a tough time determining whether a pair of socks or an old t-shirt really “sparked joy” in their lives. Karen explains this process and includes some follow-up questions to guide you on your journey toward a more minimal lifestyle.

What Does it Mean to Spark Joy? (Maximum Gratitude, Minimal Stuff)

1/31 – The Three Year Experiment and Zen Habits

This post really resonated with me. Laurie discusses the decisions she’s made for herself and her family. They’ve tried to live their lives intentionally, frugally, and with purpose. They are active without being overburdened. They spend money, but only on the things they really value. They live their lives based on their true values. It sounds so simple, but it’s actually very hard to do. So many things get in the way and cloud our thinking of what is best for us.

Living Your Values (The Three Year Experiment)

Leo writes about the hard challenges he has created for himself as a means of better working through discomfort and uncertainty. By embracing discomfort, Leo believes that we can grow as humans, take more risks, and find the strength to persevere. Over the course of this year, he is completing 8 hard challenges that will each last for forty days. It’s a fascinating journey!

The Challenge of Doing Hard Challenges (Zen Habits)

2/7 – Modern Frugality and Rich in What Matters

Jen attacks the age-old question of whether paying off a mortgage early is the best financial decision. Some argue that ridding yourself of such a burdensome amount of debt is empowering and provides a tremendous sense of relief and security, making it the best choice. Others claim that with interest rates so low, your money is better off and will grow more quickly in investments. Jen lays out the pros and cons of putting extra money towards the principle to help you make a more informed decision.

Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Early? What We’re Doing and Why (Modern Frugality)

“Minimalism gives you space, time, and energy to focus on what matters, and one of the things that matters most is you.” I loved this quote (and this entire post) from Julia. Quit comparing yourself to others and stop with all of the “shoulds”, and you will better align with your true self. I agree that living in alignment with yourself can bring you happiness and following a minimalist lifestyle helps get you there.

Living in Alignment: How Minimalism Can Help You Get Back in Touch with Your Authentic Self (Rich in What Matters)

2/14 – Clever Girl Finance and Filled With Money

Since this site is Minimalism and Your Money, of course, I would find an article about improving your finances through minimalism pretty fascinating. Bola talks about the obvious points of how minimalism can save you money by owning less stuff and living below your means. But what I found most interesting was her first point about the clarity that minimalism can create around your core values. We realize what’s truly important to us.

Living a Minimalist Lifestyle to Improve Your Finances (Clever Girl Finance)

David’s post focuses on the idea that there are so many obstacles to success in our lives, so don’t let yourself be one of them. David uses some real-life examples as well as his own personal experiences to illustrate the limiting effects of not believing in yourself. Beyond just writing about the limitations of not believing in yourself, he also offers thoughtful suggestions to overcome them.

Self-Belief is the Missing Link Right Now For You (Filled With Money)

2/21 – Retirement Manifesto and Becoming Minimalist

Fritz lays out twenty strategies and things to remember when seeking happiness. I’m not sure if any of these could be considered novel ideas, but these reminders are so important for all of us from time to time. It’s easy to get caught up in the everyday stresses of our lives, so we need to take a moment to take note of some of these 20 ways to be happier.

20 Ways to Be Happier in Life (Retirement Manifesto)

Josh provides some great advice here about how to make a few simple changes to improve your life. Establishing some of these routines has certainly helped improve my life over the last few years. I especially enjoyed his first habit of creating a 3 item to-do list. It sounds very similar to the 3-2-1 Morning Routine I created.

7 Daily Habits to Change Your Life Forever (Becoming Minimalist)

2/28 – A Dime Saved and Cal Newport

Why is money such a shameful thing to talk about sometimes? It seems like so many people are hesitant to talk about it because they feel like they don’t have enough or because they are embarrassed by the financial situation they find themselves in. But, at the same time, others who have a lot of money stay quiet because of a feeling of guilt. This is a really interesting topic and something I’m interested in learning more about.

Should We Talk about Shame and Money? (A Dime Saved)

The lulls in our lives tend to be the times when we have the most opportunity for growth. In this post, Cal looks at the interesting work/life balance of John Steinbeck to discuss the concept of productive inactivity. Creativity thrives during inactivity, and we all need to be creative to succeed. Unfortunately, most people pigeonhole creativity. It’s not just artists, musicians, and writers who thrive on creativity. We all benefit from our creativity each and every day.

Steinbeck’s Productive Inactivity (Cal Newport)

3/7 – Two To Fire and Balanced Mamma

We have all been guilty of trying to keep up with the Joneses at one point or another in our lives. We see what others have whether it’s the new TV or the fancy car, and it can be easy to fall into that trap. I loved the ideas for how to combat the urge to consume simply to keep up with others. Specifically, venting it out and focusing on what brings you joy is important.

Conspicuous Consumption aka Keeping Up with the Joneses (Two to Fire)

This post shares 9 important lessons that were learned while converting to a more minimalist approach to the home. The tenth is the funniest and probably the most useful piece of advice as well!! She also asks a brilliant question that we should all consider: “Is your home relaxing or contributing to your stress?”

10 Things We’ve Learned While Minimizing Our Home (Balanced Mamma)

3/14 – Accidental Fire and A Mindful Minimalist

Dave introduces us to a great concept that he calls greasing the groove. Basically, by making small, incremental changes, we can eventually do much more difficult things. What once seemed impossible is now attainable. Dave uses exercise as his primary example but explains how this philosophy can be applied to money as well. These “meanwhile habits” can have a tremendous effect on our overall productivity.

Grease the Groove to Financial Independence (Accidental Fire)

I’m a huge believer in the power of maintaining a positive mindset. Sometimes it’s really hard to do, but it’s so important to keep practicing positivity. As a teacher, it’s something I am constantly trying to instill in my students. This list from Jennifer provides lots of actionable steps to take to stay positive and continue to grow.

10 Ways to Create a Positive Mindset (A Mindful Minimalist)

3/21 – She Picks Up Pennies and Wit & Delight

Penny writes an important post here. We often get caught up in trying to save, save, save. Sometimes, that just isn’t feasible and that’s okay. Ashley and I did the same thing when we had our second child, and now that our boys are both a bit older, we have started to contribute as we used to. It was hard to do, but it was absolutely the right decision for us, and it certainly wasn’t a sign that we were failing financially.

Why We Pushed Pause on Our Debt Payoff Plans (She Picks Up Pennies)

This post dives into the many reasons to track your mood each day. Sophie explains how mood tracking is a great way to learn how to deal with certain emotions and understand what potentially caused them. Sophie is quick to differentiate between mood tracking and gratitude journaling, taking into account the fact that some days it’s really hard to be grateful.

The Benefits of Tracking Your Mood Each Day (Wit and Delight)

3/28 – Get Rich Slowly and Keepin’ It Frugal

Sometimes being content with what we have is the hardest thing to do. JD’s post intertwines his personal experiences to explain how lower expectations can lead to greater happiness. It’s a pretty powerful post. If we’re always expecting more, we’ll never be satisfied, and therefore, never be happy. JD offers that happiness equals reality minus expectations.

The Power of Low Expectations (Get Rich Slowly)

In this post, Sarah and Laura use the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule to really improve their overall happiness. Specifically, they use this basic principle to make a small number of changes to their home that provide a big boost of happiness in their lives. Happiness does not come from major milestones or once-in-a-lifetime experiences, but instead from minor, everyday improvements to our daily lives.

How We Removed 80% of Our Unhappiness in the Home (Keepin’ It Frugal)


Do you have a favorite post you’ve read recently? I’m always looking for new bloggers to follow and great posts to read. Stick it in the comments below or email me and I will be sure to check it out!

And, as always, if you are interested in catching these favorites every Sunday morning, sign up below!

Sign up for our weekly newsletter, “Sunday Morning Reads” and also receive “The Intentional Budget” Planner for FREE!

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