Don't Sweat the Small Stuff About Money

Simple Ways to Create Abundance and Have Fun


By Richard Carlson

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Featured in Don't Sweat the Small Stuff: The Kristine Carlson Story starring Heather Locklear, premiering on Lifetime

This #1 bestselling guide to managing your career and living comfortably with your finances reveals fascinating insights for everyone from businesspeople to those who manage the household budget. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff About Money illuminates how to:
  • Learn more about the relationship between moods and money
  • Be aware of what you don't know, and what you're not good at
  • Spend the bulk of your time on the "critical inch" of your business
  • Avoid giving away your power.



When the subject of money comes up, there's often stress in the air. Money is necessary, of course, but it's confusing to most of us. Most people feel they have too little of it; a few people have too much. Money causes rifts between friends as well as family members. Money breaks up marriages as well as lifelong friendships. I've heard that there are more arguments, fights, and disagreements about money than any other subject in the world!

People become greedy about money, and they become stubborn. Rarely does this topic bring out the best in someone; often it brings out the worst. Many people are foolish and wasteful with their money. Others become very controlling and uptight. To further complicate matters, money is often associated with power and prestige. Therefore, many people attach their self-esteem to their net worth and, in doing so, ruin their chance to have happy and peaceful lives.

More than anything, we worry and obsess about money. We wonder if we have enough now, and if we'll have enough later on. You turn on the radio to hear how the stock market is doing. You may even link your happiness to the market. When it's up, you're joyful; when it's down, you're miserable.

We have all sorts of questions about money. How should we use it? How much should we save? How much should we give away to charity, and how much to our children? Who gets our money when we die?

We have other concerns and gripes surrounding money as well. Most people think they pay too much in taxes and that taking care of their money is too complicated. Many feel "ripped off" when they think something costs too much. Others feel insecure when someone else has more than they do, or guilty when they are the one with the most.

You'd think that when a person acquired a certain degree of wealth, they'd stop sweating about money, but usually the opposite occurs. Rather than feeling relief, most people with money become even more obsessed. Now, rather than worrying about getting money, they are worried about keeping it, protecting it, caring for it, and so forth. Then, the questions come up: "Are people trying to take advantage of me?" and "Does he only like me for my money?"

I've known people whose family business destroyed the entire family, even when the business was profitable. I've met others whose families have been torn apart fighting over the estate after their parents have died. I've known family members and good friends who sue one another over money disputes. I once witnessed a taxi driver reach back and almost kill an elderly man over a disagreement about a few dollars. It goes on and on.

I've been with many poor people, a great number of rich people, and a vast number of people in-between. In all honesty, I'd have to say that 99 percent of them, regardless of their financial statures, sweat the small stuff about money. Indeed, it's a universal tendency.

This book was originally published with the title Don't Worry, Make Money. With the benefit of hindsight, however, it's obvious that it should have been part of the "Don't Sweat" series all along. Because money is perhaps our greatest source of stress, it fits right in with the philosophy of learning to be less worried, stressed, annoyed, and irritated.

You can't (and probably don't want to) avoid the issues surrounding money, but you can learn to take it more in stride. And when you do, your entire life will become more relaxing and peaceful.

It's quite possible to achieve great wealth and success in your life, yet remain unaffected by it. It's possible to make wise and appropriate decisions about money without excessive worry or grief. That's what this book is about: finding ways to create abundance and more fun without the stress that is usually associated with such intentions.

Learning to not sweat the small stuff about money won't take away all the monetary issues you have to deal with, but it sure will bring you more peace of mind. With added perspective, and perhaps a bit of humor, you'll be able to tend to your money wisely—make great choices and see things clearly without having fiscal issues take over your life.

If you've read any of my other "Don't Sweat" books, you know that I believe strongly in the potential of people. I believe we have the potential for great joy, compassion, and wisdom. And part of this potential is manifested when we learn to stop sweating the small stuff.

When you stop sweating the small stuff about money, everyone benefits. You'll feel better, and, what's more, you'll probably make more money, too. To me, it's pretty obvious that any success we enjoy is despite our worry, not because of it! Worry and excessive stress are distractions that keep us from our dreams and from our greatest potential. So as we discover ways to worry less, to "not sweat it," we ignite that capacity within us.

Even as importantly, others benefit, too. As we worry less about money, we are more willing to do things for others. We are more generous and charitable. Rather than postponing the giving of our time, energy, ideas, or money because of fear, we learn to give freely, from the heart. I've known many people who, after dropping some of their concerns about this issue, started donating money and volunteering their time for others. Their ability to "not sweat it" gave them the confidence to become more giving with their time and money.

Without the emotional burden of getting too uptight about money, you can use your energy in more constructive ways, doing the things that bring you the most joy. The strategies you are about to read were written to help you banish worry from your life forever. Whether you want the confidence to pursue a new career or dream, the emotional freedom to ask others for help or for a raise, the ability to handle criticism or rejection, the confidence to take a risk, speak to a group, do more for your favorite charity, creatively and confidently market a service or product—or simply to become less uptight about money—this book will help you.

I'm grateful that you're going to take the time to read this book and hopeful that it will help you create an even better life. I send you my very best wishes.



I can vividly remember the first sentence I ever wrote in my very first book! It seems like a long time ago. Yet had I not written that first sentence, I wouldn't have finished that first book, or the second, and so on. And so it goes. Every journey, however long it may be, begins with a single step. But you must take that first step. Once you do, each step takes you closer and closer to your goal.

Sometimes, when you consider taking on a new venture—whether it's raising a child, writing a book, starting a new business, beginning a savings plan, or anything else—the task can seem overwhelming. It's as though you'll never be able to arrive at your final destination, as if the first step isn't going to help. When you look too far out toward the horizon, it can seem too difficult. You might even wonder where to begin.

The trick to success sounds very simplistic, because it is very simple: Just begin. Take a single step, followed by another, and then another. Don't look too far out into the future, and don't look too far back either. Stay centered in the present moment as best you can. If you follow this simple plan, you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish over time.

When I graduated from my Ph.D. program, my dear friend Marvin gave me, as a gift, the complete works of Carl Jung. That's twenty-six long volumes of material. In volume one was a note from Marvin worth sharing here. He wrote: "Becoming educated doesn't happen overnight! Education is a lifelong process that happens in short intervals. If you were to read only eight pages a day, for the next seven years, you would be one of the world's most knowledgeable experts on the work of Carl Jung, and you would get through every page!" Despite not being a huge fan of Jung, I have always appreciated my friend's message.

The same, of course, is true with all ventures. A wealthy friend of mine, worth many millions of dollars, remembers opening his first savings account with his wife over forty years ago with $10. They both laugh when they say, "It's amazing what a little time will do." Had they not decided to start somewhere, their incredible success would never have manifested itself.

Over and over again I hear people telling me about the book they are going to write, the savings account they are about to open, the business they are going to start, or the charity they are planning to help. But, in many instances, these plans and dreams keep getting put off until "the conditions are right." One of the most powerful messages I can share with you, one that I'm absolutely certain of, is this: In almost all cases, the conditions you are waiting for will not be significantly different next week or next year. Don't worry that the conditions have to be perfect. The truth is, you are still going to have to take that first step! If you take it now, instead of later, you'll be many steps closer to your dreams by this time next year. Congratulations, you've just taken the first step in the completion of this book!



Many of us have heard the expression "Giving is its own reward." And while this is certainly true, and more than reason enough to give, there's another aspect of giving that many fail to recognize. Giving is an energy that not only helps others but creates even more for the person who is doing the giving. This is a natural law that is true regardless of whether the person who is giving wants or even realizes what is occurring.

Money is "circulation." It needs to flow. When you are frightened, selfish, or when you hoard everything for yourself, you literally stop the circulation. You create "clogged pipes," making it difficult to keep money flowing back in your direction. Any success you have is despite your lack of giving, not because of it. The way to get the flow going again is to start giving. Be generous. Pay others well, tip your waitress that extra dollar. Support several charities. Give back. Watch what happens! Things will start popping up out of nowhere.

The same dynamic is true if you want to fill your life with love or anything else worthwhile. Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. If you want more love, or fun, or respect, or success, or anything else, the way to get it is simple: give it away. Don't worry about a thing. The universe knows what it's doing. Everything you give away will return, with interest!



Without realizing it, many of us confuse nonattachment with not caring. In actuality, the two are completely different. Not caring suggests apathy: "I couldn't care less. It doesn't matter to me." Nonattachment, on the other hand, means: "I'll do everything possible, I'll put the odds in my favor, I'll work hard and concentrate. I'll do my best to succeed. But, if I don't, that's okay, too."

Being attached to an outcome, holding on, takes an enormous amount of energy, not only during an effort but often after an effort is complete, after you've failed, or been let down, or were dealt a bad hand.

Being nonattached, however, creates emotional freedom. It means holding on tightly but letting go lightly. It suggests trying hard, really caring, but at the same time being completely willing to let go of the outcome.

Attachment creates fear that gets in your way: What if I lose? What if the deal doesn't go through? What if I'm rejected? What if, what if, what if… Your belief that everything must work out exactly as you want it to with no glitches creates enormous pressure. Everything rides on your success.

Nonattachment, on the other hand, works like magic. It allows you to have fun in your efforts, to enjoy the process. It helps you succeed at whatever you are doing by giving you the confidence you need. It takes the pressure off. You win regardless of the outcome. The act of not worrying helps you focus and stay on purpose. It helps you stay out of your own way. You know in your heart that, even if things don't work out the way you hope they will, everything will be all right. You'll be okay. You'll learn from the experience. You'll do better next time. This attitude of acceptance helps you move on to the next step in your path. Rather than being lost or immobilized in disappointment or regret, you simply move on—with confidence and joy.



Most people would agree that having passion for one's work is a helpful, if not necessary, ingredient for success. Many of these same people, however, confuse useful passion with hyper or frenetic behavior.

Passion takes different forms. It can be the feeling of being driven to success, of rolling up your sleeves, or working long, hard hours. This "hyper" passion can be very exciting, even addicting. The problem with it, though, is that it drains your energy and can be very exhausting. It's generated from external sources, from tight deadlines and big deals. Because of the external nature of this type of passion, a tint of fear always goes along with it: "I love this as long as everything works out well." This type of passion also lends itself to boredom. The only time you're having fun is when there's something on the line, when something exciting is happening. The rest of the time can seem like a letdown. You spend your time waiting and looking for more excitement.

Another, calmer type of passion is what I like to call relaxed passion. This is a contained, "time-release" type of feeling that permeates everything you do. It brings joy and great success to virtually anything. Rather than being frenetic, this feeling is more like exhilaration and enthusiasm. It's a much calmer version of excitement. It can be described as excitement without the worry: "I love this simply because I'm absorbed in what I'm doing."

The way to bring forth this type of passion is to learn to keep your attention fully in the present moment. Try to do only one thing at any given moment and give that "one thing" your full and complete attention. If you're on the phone, stay focused, be "with" the person to whom you are speaking. Don't let your mind drift; be there. If your mind does wander, gently bring it back to the present moment.

Almost anything we do—preparing a report, speaking to a group, solving a problem, generating an idea, doing a difficult task, and so forth—is a potential source of relaxed passion. And it comes not from exciting, external ventures but from our own attention, our own thinking. Too many of us live in moments past or moments yet to be. When our mind is not right here, in this moment, we suck the joy out of an experience. You can bring passion back into your life and your business dealings by simply being more oriented in the present moment. Your focus and insight will be greatly enhanced, as will your ideas and creativity.



There's little doubt in the minds of most business people I've met that, overall, stress interferes with the quality of business. People who are too stressed are reactive and frightened, and tend to make more mistakes than those who are calm. Stressed-out people blow problems out of proportion and fail to see solutions. Because they are moving so fast, they often spin their wheels, rushing around, repeating efforts as well as mistakes. Stressed-out people aren't very centered; therefore they have a difficult time seeing to the heart of the matter or being able to differentiate between what's really important and what's less significant. Because they are irritable and bothered, they tend to bring out the worst in others and often end up pushing people away—including customers, clients, and important prospects.

It makes sense, then, that if you want to maximize your chances for success and profit, when stress is present in your workplace and/or in your mind, you should do everything you can to prevent its spread. In other words, rather than get others all riled up and bothered and sharing all that's disturbing you, it's often best to keep it to yourself. Doing so can pay handsome dividends.

If I'm stressed out, that stress is going on inside my own head. For example, if I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to make my deadline, my thoughts about my deadline are the primary source of my stress. Or, if I've had to deal with an extremely difficult customer earlier in the day, my lingering thoughts about that person keep that stress alive in my mind.

Sometimes because it's therapeutic or even entertaining, other times out of pure habit, we feel compelled to share the details of our stressful thoughts with others around us, thereby encouraging them to get caught up in our dramas and/or to focus on other things they perceive to be stressful. We think about, commiserate, and emphasize the negative. As our coworkers become absorbed and focused on the stress, they reinforce and sometimes even exacerbate the stress we are feeling, creating a vicious circle that can be hard to break. It's hard to imagine anything less effective than an entire group of people upset, irritated, and stressed out!

When you make the conscious decision to become a stress-stopper, you'll find yourself nipping tons of stress—especially stress that is "small stuff"—in the bud. Your refusal to "spread the virus" not only prevents stress from escalating around the office or workplace, but actually reinforces to you that many of the things we get all worked up about are, in the scheme of things, pretty irrelevant. Plus, what you start to see is that much of what we stress or worry about never manifests itself anyway.

I was once driving to the airport with Kris and the kids, certain we were going to miss our flight. I must have mentioned my pessimistic prediction more than a dozen times. So, I got them all worried and concerned, too, and reinforced my own worry. When we ended up making the flight, I realized how silly it had been to draw them into it—there was no upside; only downside. Had I simply been a stress-stopper, I could have avoided getting the others in the car upset and frightened.

The idea of being a stress-stopper even applies to simple situations surrounding your finances at home. A friend told me that she was really frustrated by her and her husband's poor record keeping. In a stressed-out state of mind, she ranted and raged to her husband how horrible and disorganized everything was. She got him all worked up and concerned about their tax records, and he too became stressed and agitated. She later realized that it would have been far more effective and substantially less stressful for both of them had she simply kept her bearings, waited for a calmer time, and discussed some constructive organizing ideas with her husband.

Obviously, there are times when it's necessary or useful to share our stress with others—for example, when doing so will help solve a problem. Yet, if you're honest about it, I think you'll find that much of the time it's better and ultimately more effective to be a stress-stopper rather than a stress-spreader.



On the surface, this is one of the least original ideas in this book. The idea of paying yourself first—before anyone else—is a concept that is often talked about. Most financial professionals realize that it's virtually impossible to accumulate great wealth without this type of discipline and wisdom. The idea is that, if you wait until everyone else is paid before you pay yourself, you'll never get around to it. There won't be anything left. Despite its importance, however, a very small percentage of people actually implement this strategy. The major reason: worry.

If you are worried about having enough, you never will! Fear will prevent you from taking the obvious steps that are needed to create abundance. Thus, one of the first and most important steps you need to take is to nip your worry in the bud.

From this moment on, make a commitment to yourself that you will ignore all thoughts of worry and pay yourself first—before anyone else. Every day, or week, or month—whatever is appropriate for you—write yourself a check. Invest in yourself. Trust in yourself. You will have enough for everything else.

You'll be surprised, but somehow, regardless of your income, there will always be enough left to pay your bills. You'll make invisible, wise adjustments in your spending habits. You'll make new choices. And in a very short amount of time, you'll get into the habit of always paying yourself first, saving or investing something for you. You'll watch your savings and net worth grow. As this happens, you'll see how destructive worry can be and how unnecessary it was all along. This will create even more confidence, which will translate into more discipline, creativity, and new ideas. You will find yourself in a new mind-set, creating wealth.

It's critical to realize that you won't stop worrying simply because your income rises. There are plenty of people with enormous incomes who worry all the time. The trick is to trust, without any doubt whatsoever, that the magic works in the other direction. You need to stop worrying, first, and then you'll do what it takes to create the abundance you deserve.



One of my favorite salad dressings is Paul Newman's Balsamic Vinaigrette. Near the top of the bottle are the words "Paul Newman donates all his profits, after taxes, from the sale of this product for educational and charitable purposes." What a great example of someone who does good while doing well!

Many celebrities and successful businessmen and women are doing similar things—mixing business ventures with charity and good causes. What a brilliant and wonderful thing to do—and everyone wins. The charities receive financial benefits and, in some cases, name recognition, while the businesspeople feel the joy of helping out while also earning goodwill in the marketplace. The customers, too, are the winners, because each purchase helps the selected cause(s). All things being equal, I'd much rather buy a product that was helping a great cause than one that wasn't.

There are countless examples of noncelebrities who are doing the very same thing. People everywhere are looking for, and finding, ways to combine business with good works. This is a relatively easy strategy to implement, regardless of what type of business you are in. In fact, I'll share with you a funny (and touching) story to demonstrate this fact.

I was discussing this topic at a book signing when a somewhat cynical gentleman commented, "Easy for you (Richard) to say." His point was that it would be easy to combine business efforts with good work for others if you were in a financial position to do so. Otherwise, it would be a huge burden. Before I even had a chance to respond, a little boy, no more than ten years old, stood up and said, "Do you want to know what I do?" "Sure," I said. "We'd all love to hear." "I keep track of my sales. After every hundred cups of lemonade I sell, I donate a whole pitcher to the retirement home down the street." The crowd loved it! Can you imagine how hard it would be to not buy lemonade from this young man?

If a ten-year-old's lemonade stand can be a vehicle to help others, why can't the rest of us contribute? Imagine how easy it would be to set something up in your business, however small, in order to help a great cause. Or, if you work for a business that isn't open to doing so, you can just as easily do it as an individual. You can donate a portion of your money, time, or energy. Whether you formalize it or not, there are thousands of ways to be helpful. You'll be amazed at how good you'll feel knowing you're making an actual difference. Your business efforts will have even more meaning to you, and, in fact, I believe you'll be less stressed as a result. I've found that people who consciously set out to be helpful to others are far less likely to sweat the small stuff. So again, everyone wins; especially you!

I often wonder what kind of world we'd live in if everyone looked at their work as an opportunity to be of help. If each of us does our own little part, we just may find out someday.



When I suggest that clients not work on problems, they often appear irritated, as if I'm telling them not to bathe or brush their teeth! This is because most people assume that the only way to solve problems is to work on, or struggle, with them. I have found, however, that focusing on problems is one of the key ways of keeping them alive—as well as preventing you from moving past them. Focusing on problems is also a key ingredient keeping people stuck in worry.

I can assure you that there is a way to get from where you are to where you want to be without focusing on problems. It's a natural, virtually effortless, yet far more effective alternative to the usual "roll up your sleeves and solve this problem" manner of dealing with issues.

Recently I knelt down to clean up some glass and a piece got stuck in my knee. I ended up at the urgent care center getting ten stitches. We all know that the worst thing I could possibly do to the healing process would be to poke or pick at my scab. A wiser method is to treat the wound gently, creating the best possible healing environment. Miraculously, the wound will heal all by itself.

Most problems can and should be dealt with in a similar manner. The thoughts we have around our various issues—business and otherwise—create and trigger emotional reactions. What usually happens is that we spend our time and energy dealing with these reactions instead of the actual issue. Simply put, when we are frightened, angry, or impatient, we lose our bearings and get in our own way. Instead of bringing out the best in ourselves and others, we bring out negativity and squeeze out creativity.

Deep down, we all know that for every problem there is a solution. Many times, the solution is obvious to a dispassionate observer, which is the primary reason corporations as well as entrepreneurs hire outside consultants. Often, the reason we cannot see these obvious solutions is that we are trapped in our emotional reactions and habitual ways of seeing life.

The alternative to dealing head on with problems is to clear your mind instead of filling it with painful, confusing details. Quiet down, reflect, and listen. Allow your wisdom, that softer part of your thinking, to surface. More often than not, seemingly out of nowhere, you will have an insight, an answer to your problem. You may be shocked or even struggle with how easy this process is to implement. Nevertheless, the less you worry about your problems, the easier they will be to solve!



  • Praise for Don't Sweat the Small Stuff:
  • "Over a decade of positive psychology research seems to validate what we learned twenty years ago from Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. . . . These wonderful books help break down and simplify how to achieve that happiness."—ShawnAchor, bestselling author of The Happiness Advantage
  • "After almost two decades since the original release of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson's insights on the meaning of life continue to be timeless. The book teaches us to focus on the 'now' and find balance by living through contentment."—DeepakChopra
  • "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff has the power to change our individual and collective lives. I am deeply grateful to Dr. Richard Carlson and his beloved wife Kristine for their wisdom and compassion in bringing transformational practices and perspectives to millions of readers."—ShaunaShapiro, author of The Art and Science of Mindfulness
  • "Richard Carlson caused a revolution in all our thinking with his Don't Sweat the Small Stuff books. He was like a Zen master in disguise, taking almost an aw-shucks attitude toward shifting the culture."
    MarianneWilliamson, New York Times bestselling author of A Return to Love

On Sale
May 21, 2013
Page Count
240 pages
Hachette Books

Richard Carlson

About the Author

During his life, Richard Carlson, Ph.D, was considered one of the foremost experts in happiness and stress reduction in the United States and around the world and was a frequent featured guest on many national television and radio programs. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff continued to be a publishing phenomenon with over twenty titles in the brand franchise, two of which were co-authored and authored with his beloved wife, Kris. He died of a pulmonary embolism in December 2006, at the age of forty-five.

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