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15 Little Life Hacks

Case Study: How a yoga instructor handled losing 40% of her income

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As I’ve been traveling around on my media tour, I’ve been doing local meetups in a bunch of cities. One of the things people have been telling me is they want more in-depth case studies of people dealing with money. Today, I’m trying something new. With the help of Janna Santoro, we’re posting in-depth looks at how people deal with money.

Let me know what you think — is the style right? What would you like to see more/less of? And if you’re interested in having us do a case study of you, follow the link at the bottom of this post.

* * *
This is a guest post by Janna Marlies Santoro, a freelance writer and editor working toward the goal of increasing her income by $1,000 per month.

In this profile, meet Asia Nelson, owner of Pranalife Yoga in Ontario, Canada, who who went from earning $5k/month in a stressful corporate job to earning almost $3k/month working 1/3 the time doing something she loves. As you read, notice how Asia:

• Uses free time to earn more (instead of whining about how much her expenses are)
• Has a low monthly burn rate and ahead for slow business by setting up a rainy-day fund
• Is productizing her knowledge so she can scale her business

Now, read on…


Asia’s Financial Stats

Pay Day: on average $2,800/mo
Expenses: $2,300/mo
Big Ticket Items:
Car=$700/mo, including monthly payment, insurance, registration, maintenance and gas.
Rent=$550/mo, including Internet and utilities.
Urge to Splurge: Travel
Money Philosophy: “In yoga, breath is the source of life and your key meditation tool. Money is like breath: You definitely miss it if it’s not there. If you have an even flow in and out, you’re healthy. If you can take more in when you need it, and let it out when you need to, you’ve got a good system to feed your life.”

Hard Numbers

When Asia left her job as an interactive design advisor to start Pranalife in 2006, she was making well over $5,000 a month. That number dropped to as low as $500 during her first six months of business. The only reason she made that leap, she says, is that she was so in love with the idea of teaching yoga.

During those first months, Asia lived on a line of credit until her bank called with the news that the credit line was about to turn into a loan – a loan that she’d have to start paying back. “I asked myself what I really wanted and what I’m willing to do to get it,” she says. “I didn’t want to replace a stressful life that I didn’t enjoy with another stressful life that wasn’t making any money.”

It forced her to start looking critically at what she was doing. She made drastic changes and implemented several critical strategies:
• Purged negative and unsupportive relationships
• Took time to observe what parts of her business worked and focused on doing them well
• Recruited mentors, asking them what to do today to stop the bleeding
• Leveraged relationships at her bank and, with projected income statements signed by studios where she taught, petitioned for a new line of credit
• Got a commissioned sales job, which allowed her to work on her own time and still bring in extra cash

Before the sales job, Asia says she was freaking out, attempting to run Pranalife based on earning money as fast as possible. She was broke and had to get people to come to her yoga classes. The sales job freed her to make smarter business decisions.

Breaking Even

From there, Asia came to a place where, over time, she established a name for herself. She also knew the value of a quality web site. Because of that presence, one phone call gave her the niche she’s built her brand around.

“A big breakthrough came with discovering private yoga instruction,” Asia says.

But when she got the call, Asia had no experience with private yoga instruction. So she spent money to make money and signed up for her own private sessions, which allowed her to learn the nuances of private instruction and modify her teaching accordingly.

“Now I can make $60-$120 an hour from one client instead of trying to herd people into a class for the same or less money. I niched and flourished.”

Asia is also no stranger to feast-famine cycles. “My father was a contractor in the oil field so we were always having to plan for the down times,” she says, “and I’d been a student for seven years, squirreling away when I needed to and dealing with ups and downs.”

By dialing in her income cycle – the motivated months of January and September versus the slacker months of December and August – she budgets accordingly for the year based on her average monthly income. She adapts and uses the down times for personal development, research, business planning and writing.

Asia also considers herself a low-maintenance spender who lives simply. “I keep my material possessions to a minimum,” she says, “and put money toward a good trip instead.” But she does spend when necessary, like on her car: a $5,000 purchase that she’s paying off at $400 a month. “I hate interest,” she says, “so I take the big per-month hits in order to get things paid off quickly.”


Once she stopped worrying about her cash flow, Asia moved from short-term, fast-money-making thinking to understanding long-term investments. Her long-term investments with Pranalife include developing training for yoga teachers, planning yoga retreats and writing a book. Moving away from the time-for-money model, she’s implementing things now that will bring her returns in five years.

Asia now averages about $2,600-$3,000 a month, working 1/3 of the time as her previous job. “That’s where I’m really rich,” she says. “I have control over how I spend each day, which is more valuable to me than anything.”

* * *
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  1. This is great! Please keep up the series. Love the book, btw.

  2. Excellent – I like this a lot. I love to hear action orientated stories of how people manage their careers and finances.

    Couple of questions:

    1. It states her pay day (I assume total income) is $2,800 and her expenses are $2,300. Where does the extra $500 go? Savings, invested back into her business, shopping, etc?

    2. I like the second sales job to supplement income. Is this meant to be a short-term solution to generating income while her business gets up and running? Also curious to what kind of sales job allows her to work reasonable hours to generate commissioned sales, while also allowing her to spend the majority of her time to focus on the business.

    Good stuff! Keep it up.

  3. It’s always inspiring to see someone take charge of his or her life and work for goals. Asia is being proactive and I personally would like to see more stories like this.


  4. I like it, although I would like to see more specific information about her spending, much like my favorite ‘money diaries.’

  5. This post came at the perfect time for me! I’m also in the process of starting my own business (life coaching and writing) and there was some great information in here that gave me some confidence in my own success.

  6. I like this case study idea a lot, Ramit. I’d also be interested in being able to follow updates on her successes and lessons learned.

    She will undoubtedly have to mitigate unforeseen obstacles, and I would love to see how she applies sound financial principles and solid decision-making to address them.

    Cheers from Atlanta.

  7. I’d like to know how Janna is doing with her 6 month goal 🙂

    I would like to see more details on the 5 critical changes she made; think they would make for great posts. Enjoyed this very much though.

  8. The concluding paragraph states: “Asia now averages about $2,600-$3,000 a month, working 1/3 of the time as her previous job.”

    Does this include her part time sales job? If it does, does she forsee being able to give up that sales job in the future?

  9. I like it, but would love to see more detailed info on discretionary spending a la The Money Diaries. Blending the 2 would make a really interesting series.
    And as someone else mentioned, having followups would be neat too.
    I would participate if I can be anonymous!

  10. Great post. I say, if possible just do what feels right to you. For example I just switched to four day work week. It’s what I always wanted, to have more free time, to read, exercise, visit art galleries… So I went and talked to my boss about it. He of course wasn’t happy, but after two months he’s as happy as a very happy person. That’s because my work improved dramatically and that’s what matters. And working 4 days and having 3 day off compared to 5/2 makes a big difference.