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28 Life-Changing Books: My 2019 Reading List + Freebies

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I’ve eaten; even so, they have made me.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Books are bae! Didn’t you know?!

When I was kid, one of my aunts always gave me and my siblings books for gifts. We’d strain smiles and sing, “Thank you!” but we really wanted new Sega games, dolls or straight up cash. You couldn’t pay me to read then.

My fondness for a good page-turner came after leaving college. That’s when I realized no one was gonna save me from my debt or give me the life that I wanted BUT ME! The local library became my pusha and books, my drug of choice.

This year, I decided to read all of the 28 life-changing books curated by @FutureNow, formerly @FutureSuccessors, of Instagram. I had already read 8 by coincidence. So 2019 is marked for reading the remaining 20 books on the list.

I’ll also apply, at least, one thing that I learned from each book. Knowledge alone isn’t power. Applied knowledge is power.

Wise Woman Wallet Book List and Reading Log Blog Graphic

Do you want to join me? You don’t have to read all 28 books this year, but start by reading 12 (an average of 1 per month). Feel free to download the book list and reading, and start checking off your books ASAP.

Get the full list of 28 life-changing books and learn cheap ways to read them.

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My 2019 Goals and End-of-2018 Reflection

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

Happy New Year! Yes, it’s February, but I live in China and we’re celebrating the Lunar New Year. I’m right on schedule! (Also, it’s the year of the pig, as in piggy bank. Cha-ching! 🤑)

Check out what I accomplished in 2018 and find out what’s coming up in 2019. Check out the Ultimate Goal-Setting Checklist for guidance on your goals.

What are my 2019 goals?

My new goals include:

  • Complete Operation: Sock Away $10K by April 30. Having a huge Sunny Day Fund, or emergency fund, will give me peace of mind.
  • Visit 2-4 new places in China (e.g. Yangshuo, Xian, etc.). It would be a shame to live here so long and not explore its beauty.
  • Pay off $19K in ’19. This goal will help me pay off my penultimate grad school loan and break even on net worth. How amazing!
  • Read everything on the Life-Changing Books List and apply 1 thing from each book (20 books in 2019). Will you join the reading challenge?
  • Complete the Happiness Planner (100 days). This goal will help record my emotions and reflect on the highs and lows of each week.
  • Attend 1 social event each month. I gotta do something besides each brunch with friends. This year, I plan to branch out and meet more people.

Wise Woman Wallet 2019 Goals and End-of-2018 Reflections Blog Graphic

How did I do in 2018?

The 2018 goals included:

  • Reduce debt balance by $18,000.
  • Become a certified teacher in Florida through an online program.
  • Pay cash only for all certification costs.
  • Pay off Barclay balance transfer card by June 30.
  • Climb the Great Wall of China.
  • Create passive income stream(s).

Through dedication and the universe working in my favor, I checked off 5 out of 6 goals!
Learn which goals I checked off and ask yourself questions to reflect on your wins and opportunities to improve.

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How to Use Brag Binders for Job Interviews and Salary Negotiations

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

The term “brag binder” seems self-explanatory, right? Put all the good stuff in one place so you can easily show it to your boss or potential client. It’s no different than photographers having an online portfolio of their best shots. Would you hire a wedding photographer without seeing their work? Exactly!

But I didn’t have a brag binder at my last job. I didn’t really tout my accomplishments on LinkedIn—the digital brag binder—either. And guess who never got a big raise. Me. Guess who never got a substantial promotion. Me, again. Maybe adding this one tool to my arsenal could have helped me earn more to slash debt.

In her book, Real Money Answers for Every Woman: How to Win the Money Game With or Without a Man, Patrice C. Washington gives excellent tips on how to get over yourself to earn more money. When explaining how to negotiate a higher salary, Patrice suggested showing your value with a “brag folder.” So what do you put in it?

  • positive reviews
  • notes of appreciation
  • thank you cards
  • awards
  • certificates

I re-read the book over the winter and immediately started keeping my 

accomplishments and praise in a folder.

“Your goal is to become crystal clear about what qualities you bring to the table, so you can learn to articulate them effectively,” Patrice writes. “You don’t want to appear bratty or cocky, but you do want to make sure that you’re not ashamed to toot your own horn when and where it’s appropriate.”

She says the brag binder does two things:

  1. It boosts your self-esteem and helps you be confident walking into an interview or salary negotiation.
  2. It makes sure you’re armed with the facts, so the meeting isn’t an emotional conversation. (“I deserve a raise. I just do. I’ve been here 30 years.”)

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 1.25.41 PM

I recently interviewed for an internal promotion with a nice raise. I went a step further with my brag binder by taking into account the interview rubric. The man with the power to promote me wanted examples for each of the eight criteria:

  1. building relations
  2. entrepreneurial spirit (doing what needs to be done before being asked)
  3. customer orientation (satisfying customers)
  4. functional/industry knowledge (continuous learning and applying that knowledge to get good results)
  5. results orientation (setting goals and actively working toward achieving them)
  6. fostering teamwork
  7. developing others
  8. managing resources (being efficient with human resources, time, money and other materials like paper and ink)

Every hiring manager in the world is probably using the same barometer for measuring a candidate’s potential. Consider examining yourself to see what grade you’d get in each category. But I digress.

I pulled out my brag book to play Show and Tell with him. When he asked, “How have you fostered teamwork?”, I showed emails, texts and meeting agendas I created.

“Have you mentored other teachers?” I showed detailed notes and suggestions I wrote from observations.

“What projects have you lead at school?” I showed him the whole process of an iPad story writing competition—from training other teachers to emceeing the awards ceremony—and presented some of the students’ work.

The interviewer let out a few “Ohs” and “Ahs” while flipping through the pages. I think my interview ran longer than the others. Good sign, right?

I hadn’t done a physical portfolio in so long. I’m glad I took Patrice’s advice. When I left, I saw a coworker stand up with nothing in tow. These physical examples might give me a leg up in the hiring process. I’m hopeful.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 1.13.30 PM

Did I use a special binder?

Not really. I used a 30-pocket display book that’s ubiquitous in China. My school had already given it to me, so I didn’t buy anything.

What did I include in it?

  • cover letter
  • blog posts I’d written to help other teachers (shows expertise in your industry)
  • emails from higher-ups congratulating me on a job well done
  • emails and text messages (print-outs of screenshots) showing collaboration with coworkers
  • posters I designed to promote sign-ups for extracurricular events
  • PowerPoint presentations I create for the iPad competition training and the awards ceremony
  • examples of my students’ work
- agendas for meetings I lead (shows organizational and leadership skills)

How did I organize it? 

I put my resume and cover letter in the front. I tried to place examples in the order of the rubric. And I also put like things together, so the whole process for the iPad story writing competition was in one section.

How could I improve the brag binder?

Quantify. Quantify. Quantify. I could have dug deeper to find an instance where I saved money or increased profits with my ideas and execution.

How could you use the brag binder?

Show case studies. Everyone loves to see before-and-after, rags-to-riches or ugly-duckling-to-swan stories. That’s why we binge-watch home makeover shows and go gaga over #TransformationTuesdays posts about weight loss.

So tell a story about how you improved some aspect of your business. The case study should clearly state (1) the initial problem, (2) list the solutions you thought of and the reasoning behind it, (3)  how you implemented those solutions and (4) the results. Did you make communication more effective? Did you reduce costs? Did you eliminate redundancies? Did you increase profits? By how much?

Web designers could show how they turned a crappy website into a masterpiece, bringing in 200% more lead generations for that company.

Teachers could show old test results, methods they used to improve the students’ grades and understanding, and new test results.

Financial coaches could show their client’s busted budget and the budget they helped them create. They could say “On average, I help my clients save $500 a month after budget consultations.” Now, that’s something!

Don’t be afraid to show a company or employer what you’re made of. They want to see results. A brag binder is one way to do that.

Here are links to more explanations of brag binders:

Have you used a brag binder or portfolio to get a salary or a new job? How did it go? Please share your tips below.