Afford Anything with Paula Pant

November 29, 2011

“It’s not the balance in a person’s bank account that makes them happy; it’s the ‘spread’ between their bank balance and their bills. If there’s a wide spread, people have more flexibility, more options. If there’s a narrow spread, people perceive themselves as stuck, and their happiness levels plummet.” – Paula Pant

Having options and the freedom to do what you want in life is what Paula calls the freedom to “afford anything”.  I had the pleasure of sharing a seat and some interesting conversation with Paula on the bus to a Love Drop event this fall in Chicago. 

Her story is an interesting one.  She left her job in journalism to travel the world for two years and now she’s sharing what she’s learned and how she was able to afford the trip on her site Afford Anything.  One of my favorite things about the site are her answers to reader questions.  People write in wanting to know more about her travels and she shares the nitty-gritty details.

Many of us would like to be able to drop everything and travel but we all have fears and concerns about how it would work and the financial implications of such a big move.  Many of the questions Paula gets center around these fears and she goes into detail and explains how people can overcome their specifc concerns.  For example, she talks about location independent jobs , how to quit your job and travel, and how you can afford to travel the world.

Before the FinCon conference in Chicago, I sent Paula two questions about financial bullies and she was kind of enough to send me some interesting answers. I’m just now getting around to publishing her answers, check them out below.

1) Describe a time that a person or company tried to take advantage of you financially and what you did to stop them.

At a restaurant in Luxor, Egypt, my boyfriend and I asked the waiter how much a falafel sandwich costs.

“3 pounds” he said. (Prices are given in Egyptian pounds).

“And what about a plate of ful (beans)?,” we asked.

“10 pounds,” he said.

We ordered the falafel and asked to see a menu. The menu was written in Arabic, which my boyfriend learned how to read in college. The first two items on the menu? Falafel sandwich, 75 cents, and a plate of ful, 75 cents.

We called the waiter over. “This says “ful”, 75 cents,” my boy friend told him, pointing to the word “ful” and sounding out the letters. “And this below it says fa-la-fel,” he pointed.

“Oh yeah, well what does this say?,” asked the waiter, pointing to a different item.

My boyfriend sounded out the word.

“But what does it mean?” the waiter asked.

“I don’t know,” my boyfriend said.

“See, you can’t read Arabic then!” the waiter said.

“I don’t need to know what every food on this menu is. This says ful, 75 cents, and falafel, 75 cents! That’s all I need to know!” my friend replied.

The waiter wouldn’t budge, so we called over the manager.

“Those aren’t the prices on the menu,” the manager said, pointing to the prices on the menu. “Those, um, those are the barcodes. The scanner PLU codes.”

“Why would you print the barcodes on the menu — and why are they the same number for both dishes?” we asked.

“We have a different menu that we’ll release tomorrow that shows that its 3 pounds for falafel,” the manager replied.

“But this is today, and this is the menu you are handing out right now,” we retorted.

“What’s the big deal?” the manager replied. “Why do you care so much about money?”

We eventually wrangled the fair price from the manager, but it cost 2 hours of our time. 

2) Describe a time you were bullied into a financial decision (by a person or a company).  How did it end up impacting you and if you could go back in time how would you handle it differently?

My mom has had a lot of little fender-benders that have resulted in dings and scrapes to her bumper. There’s no major damage; her car only sustains some cosmetic blemishes. But we only care that our car is safe and reliable car — we’re not bothered about its appearance.

But people are constantly approaching us in parking lots — at the grocery store, at the flea market, where ever we go — offering to fix the bumper. The soliciting is incessant.

Sometimes we’ll be cruising through a parking lot and we’ll see another driver enthusiastically flagging us down, telling us to roll down our window. We roll it down, expecting him to tell us vital information, such as “your headlights are off.” Instead, he offers to fix the bumper.

Once, when my mom was alone, she was appraoched in a farmer’s market parking lot for the umpteenth time by a man using high-pressure tactics to convince her to let him fix the bumper. Here’s what you need to understand about my mom: She was alone, she’s 70, she’s quiet and peaceful, she hates confrontation, and she’d rather give in than cause a scene.

So she handed him $300 and let him fix her bumper. He took the car for a few hours and handed it back to her in identical condition, with no repairs. Then he drove off in his own car, leaving her $300 poorer.

In hindsight? My mom’s learned to try to be stronger and not cave to high-pressure tactics. And we learned to tell my mom that if she’s ever feeling bullied into a buying decision, she should call one of us for approval first.


Thanks so much to Paula for sharing her experiences and for sharing so much of her life and insight over at Afford Anything.  Check out her latest post on how to be happier and be sure to follow Paula on twitter – @affordanything


Will this article help you save or earn more money? Get others like it simply by entering your email address below. Your email is used only for delivering daily money tips and you can opt out of delivery at any time. Click here to see all your free subscription options.


Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

All posts by


One Response to Afford Anything with Paula Pant

  • Paula @ Afford Anything

    Awww, what a great introduction! Thank you so much for writing all those kind words and for recommending so many of my posts! 🙂