Acupuncturist Paige Bourassa Knows How To Stop Financial Anxiety In Its Tracks
With an estimated 67 percent of Americans at least a little anxious about paying the bills, and 58 percent worried they won't have enough money for retirement, it's becoming increasingly clear that being financially well is an integral part of overall wellness. Of course, money management isn't one-size-fits-all, so we're talking to people from all walks of life to find out how they achieved a healthy relationship with their finances. We hope it empowers you to live a life Well Spent.
Paige Bourassa kick-started an acupuncture empire to bring alternative healing modalities to the masses, Shen Medicine. A mindbodygreen Collective member and class instructor, she's a foremost expert on applying ancient medicine to the modern day. But as she explains in this candid interview, Bourassa had to work long and hard to get together the money she needed for her education, and she's never lost that inexhaustible sense of hustle. Read on for her take on what it means to be financially well.
What does financial well-being mean to you?
Being comfortable and happy with where you are financially and able to afford things like emergency medical care. It's also about being able to take care of yourself. For me, it's being in a place where I can spend money on self-care or do a deep dive to figure out a health concern and have the financial ability to visit functional medicine doctors and acupuncturists or get craniosacral therapy or osteopathy.
What has your financial journey looked like?
"Started from the bottom, now we're here" would be my financial journey theme song. I grew up in a very poor single-mother family in the projects of Vancouver, and we barely had money for food some weeks. I didn't get to go on field trips because of money. I never went to summer camp. I missed out on all of the fun kids' stuff because our finances were scarce.
Living through that taught me that I had to do everything in my power to make a good living because I never wanted to feel that way again. So I put myself through college working three jobs (two bartending jobs and a telemarketing job) and being a promo girl at events on the weekends. I worked every night until like 4 a.m. and then would get up for 8 a.m. classes. It was very much a scrappy hustle to get myself through school so that I could build a career where I felt like I was more in control of my finances.
I knew that if I was doing everything I could to make money, then I wouldn’t have the financial stress.
The first time I took out student loans was for my master's degree, and I'm really proud of that, because I didn't have any help from my parents during undergrad but I still graduated without loans. When I got to my master's, I still worked two bartending jobs, but school was too expensive, so I had to take out student loans. That was the only debt that I've ever had.
When I got out of school, I went directly into my acupuncture practice and worked as hard as I could to try to get new patients. I would stand in the aisle of the drugstore and watch people grab pain medication and be like, "Hey, I just noticed that you grabbed this pain medication. Do you know what a great remedy for headaches is?" I had no startup money. I think a lot of other students had someone give them $10K to start their practice, but I was like sitting in my local CVS and Walgreens and basically accosting people anytime they reached for anything.
Did financial anxiety ever get in the way of your hustle mentality?
I remember two months in particular when I wasn’t going to make rent and I had three days left before it was due. I was like, "Unless I make $500 a night bartending, I'm not going to make rent." I just remember asking everybody around if I could pick up their day shift. I think for two full days, I did two day shifts, two night shifts, and then worked half of a banquet. I could always work a little harder or do a little more. I knew that if I was doing everything I could to make money, then I wouldn't have the financial stress.
I think that sitting there and not getting out and getting busy is part of the overwhelming anxiety that a lot of people deal with. If you ask around, somebody usually needs help with something. Just be innovative. See somebody who is struggling in their business and see if there's something you can offer them. Thinking outside of the box and hustling was the best way for me to get over financial anxiety.
There’s a lot of fear and anxiety around just looking at what’s actually there, never mind making more.
Looking back on that time of your life, is there any advice you wish you could give your younger self?
It's so funny that we're having this conversation because I was just talking to my office manager, who is 24, about this. We sat down and I made her sign up for Credit Karma. She has debt and credit cards and didn't want to look at her score. I remember the feeling of not wanting to look at your finances because you were scared and you thought you were dumb. Especially for women, I find, there's a lot of fear and anxiety around just looking at what's actually there, never mind making more.
I would definitely tell my younger self (or anyone in their 20s, for that matter) to grab somebody who's in their 30s, 40s, or 50s who you know is very good with finances, who you respect, and who you trust with your financial information. Ask to take them out to lunch or just sit down with them and run through your finances and see where you're maybe paying too much interest on your credit card or where your student loans can be consolidated. See where you can do a little investing. Get involved with it as young as you can so that you're not scared of it and it doesn't overwhelm you.
What wellness trends do you think are worth the money? Which ones aren't?
I would say personally, I will spend an unlimited amount of money on anything evidence-based. I know that's sort of nerdy, but if you can show me studies showing that something works, I will spend money on it. And in terms of self-care, the body/energy work I get at least every two weeks is nonnegotiable. It's either osteopathy, acupuncture, or craniosacral work—some kind of physical touch.
You'd be shocked by how many people come in here and I just hold their hand to take their pulse and you can see their whole body release. It's just crazy. We need that, though. That's something I have no problem spending money on. That and vitamins. If I'm not going to do anything else for my body, I want to take high-quality supplements.
What recommendations do you have for someone who is trying to practice self-care on a budget?
Find the loopholes. You can go down to Chinatown and get an hour massage for $25. You're not going to get the exact same quality of care, but you will still leave feeling better. There's also like community acupuncture. That's super easy. You can do trades. If you're interested in energy work, go take a Reiki 1 course and then find a buddy and practice on each other. Whatever it is, you can find some cheap loophole. I've lived as a poor person for the majority of my life. Trust me, there's a way to do everything.
What do you think about when you're deciding whether or not to make a purchase?
Every time I buy something, if it's an item below $100, I think about how many lattes it is. Like, "Is this $50 shirt worth 10 lattes? Will I get 10 lattes of use out of this? Or will I get three lattes of use, but am I paying for 10?" And then if it's a big purchase, I'm always like, "What vacation could you take? Would you enjoy that more?"
What is the best money you've ever spent?
I think the best money I've spent lately was I spent $479 to sponsor a child in Africa through this company called Children's Cup. You get them clean water, medical supplies, education, all of it. Then in return they give you a picture and regular letters from the kid you sponsor. My girl's name is Malwandze—she is super cute!
Q4 for us is our biggest season, and I have a bunch of awesome things coming. We just hired a new acupuncturist. There are so many awesome things coming up in life, but I literally wake up every morning and I'm like, "I wonder if she's written me a letter." It's the thing I'm looking forward to most in life.
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