Category: money and happiness

How To Argue About Money Nicely & Productively

How do you manage money as a couple? Do you fight about money? This couple money advice is super doable and super helpful!

It’s 2009 and I’m standing in the tiny galley kitchen of the ‘garden’ (read: basement) apartment I hate, fighting back tears as I stare into the fridge.

Two days ago, I splurged on an expensive ball of fresh mozzarella. Today, where there was once fresh mozzarella, there is now a plastic container of cloudy mozzarella water.

That cheese cost $5. At the time, I was earning $16 an hour as a teacher at a non-profit. After taxes, the cost of that cheese = 30 minutes of my life. And my boyfriend ate it. My earns-three-times-what-I-do-doesn’t-have-school-debt-wants-to-split-everything-50/50 boyfriend ATE MY SPECIAL EXPENSIVE CHEESE.

It will not surprise you to know, dear reader, that what followed was an all out, raised-voices fight about money.

It also won’t surprise you to learn we did not remain boyfriend/girlfriend much longer.

If you’ve ever shared a living space and expenses with someone, you’ve probably had a similar experience. In fact, 57% of people who divorce cite money as the reason for their split.

Of course, money is complicated. We all spend it in different ways, for different reasons. These five basic steps can help you argue much, much less.

5 ways to argue about money nicely and productively 


‘Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is’ is open for enrollment!

I’m standing at the front desk of a palace-turned-hotel, sipping on a cocktail, as ceiling fans turn slowly overhead. I’ve been traveling for 8 months already and I’ve been in and out of dozens of hotels, but even I can admit this one is special.

“Breakfast is served at 8:30, Ms. Von Bargen. May I help you with your bags?”

If you had to guess how much money I was making when the above exchange took place – what would you guess?

$100,000? $85,000?

Nope. When I checked into that hotel in Laos, I’d just wrapped up two years earning $16 an hour and paying off $50,000 of school debt.

With that less-than-great financial situation, I managed to save enough for a 10-month international trip, pay off my car, and live in a cute apartment.  All without help from my parents or partner, credit card debt, or giving up my occasional $5 latte.

Sounds impossible, right? It’s not.

If you believe that you need to earn dramatically more to have the life you want, I’m say: You don’t.

If you believe that life-on-a-budget has to be all ramen noodles and deprivation, I’m here to tell you: It doesn’t.

This is exactly the kind of stuff I cover in my 6-week course Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is. Enrollment opens today!

Life after you start putting your money where your happy is:

  • You know what makes you happy and don’t get hung up on other people’s expectations.
  • You’re confident and calm when you log into your bank account. You know exactly what you’re going to find and why.
  • When you fill your shopping cart, it’s with things you know will bring you joy – no more purchases you regret once you get home.
  • Your life is filled with meals with friends, fulfilling hobbies, delicious food, and trips to interesting places.

This is the second session of Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is and my students have some very kind things to say.

I’ve taken every financial and budgeting course imaginable, but none of those courses got to the root of why I was making poor financial choices. This course has helped me change my thinking so I can design a life I want to live and spend my hard earned money funding that life. This course has more than paid for itself – and it is so fun!! I’m truly excited to begin my newly designed life. – Alanna M.


This course helped me realize how much money I’ve wasted on ‘close enough’ purchases, especially when something pretty is on sale. It really made me think about the ways I was wasting money, even though I thought I was good at intentional spending. It even helped me learn how to change those behaviours! – Kate A. 


What you’ll gain from Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is:

  • An understanding of why you spend money the way you do.
  • An understanding of what really makes you happy.
  • A new relationship with your money.
  • A plan to make your day-to-day life happier.
  • For many students, this course pays for itself in a month!

After you sign up, you’ll have immediate access to

  • 6 self-paced modules
  • 24 video lessons
  • 26-page workbook
  • Our private Facebook group filled with videos, live chats, and shared insights

Money and happiness are such important topics and they affect every area of our lives! I’m so, SO proud of this class and how much it’s helped my students. I hope you’ll join us! Doors are open through February 11th!

I was skeptical going in that spending money would help me save money, but it was totally worth it. Sarah is the first person who’s ever encouraged me to look at my budget and ask “Does this make me happy? Does my budget match my values?” I feel really optimistic that I can finally get a handle on those miscellaneous, regrettable purchases that have always sunk my budget. – Sarah C.

How to spend money on yourself + your happiness

This is not a post filled with budgeting tips or advice on how to save money. This is a post filled with advice on the weirdly hard topic of spending money on ourselves. If you're a mom, this might be something you struggle with! Click through for tips on how to stop.
I’m standing in the aisle at Target, staring at a plump, pink tube of $20 ‘cheek gel.’

My cart is already filled with sensible, not-really-for-me-purchases. Toilet bowl cleaner, frozen peas, ibuprofen.

Can I afford this blush? I can.
Is my current tube of ‘cheek gel’ almost used up? It is.
Do I feel cuter and more on top of it when I’m wearing makeup? I do.
Am I pretty sure this particular blush would work best with my skin tone and type? Yup.

And yet.

I sigh and shuffle my way to the Wet & Wild and buy the $4 blush instead.

Maybe you’ve never done this. Maybe you’ve never spend $150 on sensible purchases and gifts for other people and then denied yourself something you want and can afford. Maybe you’ve never bought the ‘close enough’ jacket because it was cheaper (even though you could afford the jacket you truly loved).

If you’ve never done that – congrats! You can stop reading now. Here is a post with photos of animals in buckets.

If this behavior sounds familiar: I see you and I get you.

One of the things I hear from many of my ‘Put Your Money Where Your Happy Is’ students is “I just can’t seem to spend money on myself or on anything fun.” They don’t have trouble living on a budget and they top out their 401 k every year. Their savings accounts are flush and healthy but their closets, homes, and calendars are, uh, less so.

Why do we do this? Why do we deny ourselves things we can afford and we know would make us happy?


Why You Need To Diversify Your Happiness + How To Do It

If you're looking for happiness tips that go beyond gratitude journalling, this will help! You can add more happiness to your life, when there are more sources of happiness. Click through to cheer up and get happ(ier)


When it comes to happiness, I’m afraid I share a few traits with lab rats.

Yes, I too have nearly invisible eyelashes. I too have nearly hairless extremities. But what I’m talking about here is my personal propensity to find the button that brings me what I want. And then I push it over and over till I’m a quivering pile of mush.

See, many years ago, I discovered two things that always brought me happiness:
1. improving the aesthetics of my living space
2. travel

So anytime I felt stuck or lost or blue, the solution was easy: fuss with my living room or take myself on a trip. Daytrip to a new city = 1 week of improved mood! Rearranged office and one new throw pillow = I am a new human who loves everything and everyone!

And while it’s great to know myself and know what makes me happy, It seems reductive and short-sighted to winnow my joy down to, uh, TWO SOURCES. Click To Tweet
What happens when my house is ‘done’ and every corner has been perfected? What happens if I develop a health issue that prevents me from flying? Or something happens that requires me to stay close to home?


How To Add More Money + More Happiness To Your Life In 5 Days

This isn't about budgeting tips. It's not about investing or snowballing debt. This is a totally different approach to money + happiness. Click through and find out how you can have more of both!

Are you rolling your eyes at me right now?

Are you groaning “NOT POSSIBLE, VON BARGEN” while closing your laptop?

Don’t think the Money And Happiness Puzzle can be solved in five days?

Friend, you’re right about that last one.


How to define success for yourself (no, but REALLY)

How do you define success for yourself? How do you distance yourself from family and social expectations of what you 'should' be doing? Click through for 5 questions that will help you define success on your own terms.
Pre-P.S. This is exactly the type of stuff we cover in my free 5-day money + happiness bootcamp More Money, More Happy. A previous student used the hashtag #lifechanging to describe it (!!!)

Drop your email in here and join us on January 23rd! 

We’ve all seen those hand-lettered quotes floating around Pinterest, haven’t we?

“Write your own definition of success!” “Success is: [photo collage of six pack abs, checked off lists, and lattes]” or that illustration of the imagined path to success versus the reality.

If you’re anything like me – you nod at your computer screen. You think “Yes! I should write my own definition of success!”

Then we forget about it.  We go back to subconsciously believing the version of success marketed by every magazine, tv show, and movie.  And based on those standards we’re doing life wrong.

It took me yearrrrs to realize that I – like everyone else, ever – had quietly absorbed all these ideas about success.

I’d watched enough sitcoms to know that success looks like stainless steel kitchen appliances and European cars. I’d read enough women’s magazines to know success looks like a high, tight butt and a high-earning husband. I’d been an American long enough to know that success looks like a six-figure salary, 2.5 children, and good teeth.

I’d never opted into these beliefs. They seeped into me by osmosis.

But somehow, one day, a light switch flipped on in my brain. I realized that if I actually wrote my own definition of success, it’d probably be a lot easier to achieve and a lot more fulfilling once I got there.

At the risk of rhyming/making you roll your eyes: If you can’t name it, you can’t claim it. Click To Tweet

Want to know what my version of success looks like?