Live a comfortable life, not a wasteful one. Do not spend to impress others. Do not live life trying to fool yourself into thinking wealth is measured in material objects. Manage your money wisely so your money does not manage you. Always live well below your means.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
– Benjamin Franklin
- Redefine your definition of “rich”. – I remember sitting in a cubicle at my first professional job staring at a picture of an SUV I wanted to buy (and eventually did). Now, I sit in my office and look at the pictures of my kids, and just outside my window I can see the beater I drive sitting in the company parking lot. What a difference a decade makes! To sum things up, my definition of being rich is having enough money to meet my family’s basic needs, a few of our wants, and to be able to give some away to others.
- Borrow and share. Everyone wins! – We borrowed a DVD from a friend instead of renting or buying and had a little snack from our own fridge! Way cheaper than using gas to drive to the theater/rental place, paying for a movie or Amazon Prime, and paying for a snack.
- Avoid the mall. – Going to the mall is not entertainment! We used to go when we were bored. Of course, we usually ended up spending money while we were there. If you need clothes, then shop sales or go to stores that offer name-brands at a discount. You can save a ton on these items if you are a smart shopper. Dave Ramsey says, “Never pay retail!” We probably save $15 to $30 per month by staying away from the mall.
- Limit your intake of advertisements. – Advertising sucks. That’s the cold, hard truth. It’s engineered to make you feel like you’re incomplete, that you have an unfulfilled need, that you’re not good enough.
- Buy with cash. – You can’t spend money you don’t have. Many bank accounts provide overdraft protection, so even with a debit card, it’s easier to go over your account balance than you think.
- Find a better deal and actually SAVE the difference. – Regardless of what they sell, if you’ve switched companies for price reasons, save the difference. Think of phone companies, internet access, cell phones, credit cards, and others.
- Adhere to a long-term investment strategy. – I’m a long-term investor. The stock portion of my portfolio is spread over several mutual funds, a few ETFs and a few individual stocks. Each and every one of these holdings was carefully chosen, after thorough research. I believe in these stocks and funds. I consider them as my best bet in growing my money – LONG TERM.
- Curb your consumerism! – Have you ever watched how a child can play with a cardboard box for hours, and leave the toy that came in it by the wayside? How is it that children can enjoy themselves without a lot of “stuff”, but we as adults feel the need to reward ourselves by buying more stuff?
- Stay Healthy! Medical problems drain bank accounts. – James M. Rippe, M.D is a best-selling author, world-renowned cardiologist, and founder of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute. He explains that if you look at all the risk factors for dying, the one that is most predictive is fitness level. In addition, an older person with high cardiovascular fitness is healthier than a younger person who is physically inactive. By increasing your fitness level, you can actually roll back your biological clock.
- Stay in and relax. – So, think about it the next time you go out. Are you going for with a purpose? Maybe the solution is to not go out at all. Stay home and save! Save up for something you really want or need.
- Gradually prepare yourself for a rainy day. – Even when things are going great, and you feel on top of the world, you must always be prepared for a change. If you take the time and patience to set yourself up properly, then when things to take a turn for the worse, you will be prepared to handle it. If you live above your means, then when the slightest change occurs, you will not be prepared to adapt. Financial flexibility is more important then keeping up with the Jones’.
- Stop competing. Forget about the Jones’ altogether. – If getting rich makes us happy, then why don’t countries as a whole get happier as they grow wealthier? They discovered that as a country gets wealthier there’s no overall increase in happiness. Why? We continually compare our wealth against that of others. We are competitive and envious. Add to that the fact that Western countries encourage people to strive for more and more, and you have a formula that spins many into depression.
- Get out of the “easy street” mentality. – I think there is too much emphasis on the quick fix or the easy option in today’s society. For example taking diet pills to lose weight instead of the “hard option” – exercising and eating well…. money is sometimes being used as a substitute for hard work. Do you think there is an increasing expectation that you can get want you want by throwing money around instead of working hard and “earning” it?
- Avoid impulse buying. Buy things you truly need. – Don’t you just love the excitement you feel after coming home with a new TV? Driving home in a new car? Opening the box on a new pair of shoes? I sure do. But, from watching the behavior of myself and my friends I’ve found that the new quickly becomes just another item. The excitement of novelty passes quickly.
- Time is money. Properly manage your time. – The fewer tasks you have, the less you have to do to organize them. Focus only on those tasks that give you the absolute most return on your time investment, and you will become more productive and have less to do. You will need only the simplest tools and system, and you will be much less stressed. I think that’s a winning combination. Focus always on simplifying, reducing, eliminating. And keep your focus on what’s important. Everything else is easy.
- Find ways to give without spending. – Want a quick, easy and (almost) free way to be guaranteed that you’ll make someone’s day special? Send them a letter. Why not set aside some time this weekend to sit down and write to a few people? If you don’t enjoy writing, try buying some nice postcards of your home town. If you’ve got an artistic streak, why not design your own note cards? You don’t have to write a long letter for it to be effective. It’s the thought that counts and the personal touch that makes it special.
- Don’t let greed and deceit get the best of you. – According to Stephen R. Covey, if you reach an admirable end through the wrong means it will ultimately turn to dust in your hands. This is due to unintended consequences that are not seen or evident at first. The example he gives in The 8th Habit is: The parent who yells at their kids to clean their rooms will accomplish the end of having a clean room. But this very means has the potential to negatively affect relationships, and it is unlikely the room will stay clean when the parent leaves town for a few days. Now, to return to the topic of wealth, I think it is possible to see much of the world’s current financial problems as stemming from people who wrongly believe the ends justify the means. My advice? It is fine to aspire to wealth, but don’t lose sight of the means to accomplishing it.
- Never ever pay retail. – You can easily save hundreds of dollars a year on clothing purchases by waiting for sales or shopping at discount retailers like Marshalls. Better yet, avoid name brand clothing all together.
Also, check out these best selling books for more financial tips:
- I Will Teach You To Be Rich
- The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, & Broke
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
Photo by: CayUSA
Nice list, here’s another quick tip about bringing instead of buying lunch, and how to cut down the “making” time.
Beverly Choltco-Devlin says
I would like to add a 19th mean. The most valuable card in your wallet is your public library card. One of the biggest ways to save money and live below your means is to use your public library. Of course, you can borrow books at your library. Why pay money for a book or movie you are only going to read once? I am a librarian and my secret for saving money is to only buy those books I will use over and over again. I borrow everything else, including music and movies. Also many libraries allow you to search their catalog online and place requests from home, to save a trip and gas.
If your library doesn’t own what you are looking for (and many small libraries can’t afford everything) they can often borrow it for you from another library (ask about “interlibrary loan”).
What you may not know though is that many libraries offer access to “electronic online databases” which include access to the full-text of magazines and journals of all types, online reference books and information about any number of topics including quality business and consumer health information and genealogy that is not available by simply searching the internet.
Also, did you know that many public libraries offer downloadable audiobooks for free that can be copied to your mp3 player or CDs? If you commute, it is a great way to use the time efficiently or be entertained. Why spend $35-$70 for books on CD or from an online source when you may be able to get them from your library.
If you have lost your job or need to tune up your resume, most public libraries have many materials on job-hunting.
If you have children, libraries have a wealth of picture books and chapter books and sometimes even puzzles and toys that can be borrowed. Taking your child to the library can instill a lifelong love of reading and make learning fun.
Finally, many public libraries in the United States offer free internet access and some even have wireless connections. In my community which is rural and where often the only way to get internet access is via expensive satellite, many people rich and poor use the internet connections at the library.
So I would recommend that one of the best ways to save money is to use your public library. It is one of the best returns on your tax dollar investment out there.
Ian Peatey says
Great article pulling together lots of advice from different places.
Having lived part of my life beyond my means and the last few years below I can say for sure I’m happier, less stressed and feel greater freedom living below my means. Becoming more aware of how I use my resources (not only financial) was half the battle. The other half was letting go of the constant push to increase my income.
Strangely enough, throwing out my TV was a huge help … helped me filter out part of the bombardment of ‘Money Makes The World Go Round’ messages!
‘Manage your money wisely so your money does not manage you.’ Great advice! Thanks again for this. Ian
Great stuff!! Lots that we’ve already put into practice in our household, but a great reminder. It’s so easy to get caught up in society and spend, spend, spend. Is it any wonder few of us exercise restraint when our government is leading the way into oblivion!
This list would be a step up for a lot of us living on below “society’s” standards. (Which aren’t standards to look up to.) (Not to mention on the list is obvious. ) With all the diggs I was hoping for something better.
A theater and a mall might even be a luxury once a year or even every couple of years for a lot (if not most) people.
New car? New TV? Sorry – never experienced it. Either have a lot of people. Can’t remember the last time I had new shoes except from the salvation army.
Stocks are for people who have money.
Our capitalistic system needs to be shredded to pieces along with every other economic “theory” out there so someone came come along with something more intelligent that’s not based on greed or control.
David’s the only one who hit it on the nose. Redefine “rich.”
And I don’t think people need to be confined to the house to save money. We don’t want everyone living in a cocoon and that’s what’s happened to society. I also think someone giving up everything they love just to save money isn’t going to help anyone. We don’t need a lot of miserable people running around. (We certainly have enough.) Everyone finds happiness in their own unique way.
More people need to give away used/unwanted things instead of throwing them out. Many times the problem is those who want and those who give need to be connected.
If you save someone else money (i.e, donating furniture or clothing), then in essence you could be saving yourself money by helping people be less dependent on the “system” (that doesn’t work) and your taxes will be lower.
There are also many people out there willing to share or donate or volunteer but don’t know who to give to or where to go or what to do that’s within their means.
Call your churches and local charities to donate what you have. If a tenant moves out, don’t throw all the furniture on the curb – take the time to find a home for it. Don’t throw out bags of clothes. Donate them, ask around if anyone could use them. Don’t live in a cocoon.
The people writing here and most of you commenting here are living lives of luxury. Take a look at Ma and Pa Ingalls. I’m not saying I’d want their life! But they are great examples of what “living within your means” really means.
Great tips! One of the things that correlate with your tips is my attempt to keep up with the Joneses.
Just a Reader says
“Buy with cash”? Really? It depends what kind of cash; the one you earned or the one you borrowed from the bank.
The general air of this article seems to be flow in the “spend less” direction. When consumers “spend less” for their own benefit, there is actually a contrary, negative effect on economy.
Pinny Cohen says
Great tips Marc, especially #5. Buying with cash is the fastest thing you can do cut down on out of control spending.
I wrote a whole thing on recession proofing your lifestyle here:
Nishant Mishra says
Dear Marc, It’s a great post! I have translated it in Hindi. You can see it here http://zen-katha.blogspot.com/2009/04/blog-post_319.html
Uncle B says
My best investment, yielding the highest returns by far, was for a pressure canner I bought over twenty years ago. My next, all time high returns came from a slow-cooker. A rototiller, for those with garden space, has to be the next big winner. Every car I ever owned cost me far more than bus and taxi fare, and although convenient, a very expensive luxury that made spending more money easy! I bought a bicycle at a yard sale for $20.00 ran it for ten years, and now use an adult trike out of necessity (stroke) and love every minute of it! My weed whacker is my big gasoline consumer, followed by my lawn mower, and if bylaws permitted I would replace both with a goat! (milk and meat for free!) I think aquaculture of fish and veggies at the same time will keep some city-folk from hunger, and see most city-parks as potential garden plots for the good folk nearby! Compost and loving care will grow a garden in any sunny spot, and supplement a hungry folks diet with all kinds of good stuff! We have to re-learn gardening skills, that were not passed down to this generation – the folks of this generation are good, but their lot in life is precarious and lacks hope and a chance for independence – Even Thoreau had it better – read On Walden Pond by him and see! The internet, a free source of great information will compensate, and soon, young folk will grow their own, food I mean, and good on them, they need all the encouragement we can give them.
I agree that credit cards are not always a bad thing, and there should be a qualifier that credit cards can be used as long as a balance isn’t carried over…yes, while our country as a whole does not handle credit well, the rest of us who do should be given the chance to learn the benefits of credit. I use my credit card for everything…EVERYTHING (I barely remember my atm pin number). I do automatic w/drawal on my cc, I go on vacay with my cc, I grocery shop with my cc..etc etc. I have 0 cc debt and I make $50-$100 OFF of my cc each January with cash rewards. I pay my balance at the end of the month. Instead of forgetting I have a credit card and using cash only, I forget about the cash and use the credit card only; meanwhile I have 2 pay cycles being auto deposited into my checking account for every one cc cycle. I DO NOT touch my income until I am ready to pay my cc bill. If you don’t use your credit card WHILE making cash w/drawals, and you either limit your cc spending, or your cc balance, you can get to the point where you can make your credit card work for you with cash/airline rewards etc. My balance is half of my monthly income so I know I can pay it off even if I max it out (which has never happened.
You forgot, “Do things instead of paying other people to do them”.
Example: When you paint your house, you might pay someone $1000. To get that thou, you might have to work, say, a week and pay $250 tax on the income.
The painter takes the money and HE pays maybe $200 tax on it.
Paint it yourself, and nobody pays any tax. and you have a pretty house, and the thousand bucks.
This works in barter deals too.
I don’ t want to brag (but I will :).
I commute to work every day on my bike. It saves a TON of money (on gas, car repairs, fitness club membership), and promotes fitness/health like gangbusters. At first it was daunting, so I started with 5 miles each way (drove part way then rode). I’m currently up to 8-12 miles each way, depending on my selected route, and it only takes me about 20-30 minutes more than it would if I drove (and I don’t deal with traffic headaches).
I’m fortunate in that I get to ride most of the way through nice neighborhoods or on trails by the river. I feel great, look good, save money, burn lots of calories, enjoy myself, and I bet my heart is in better shape than most guys half my age (I’m 51).
I should probably mention, too, that there’s a tax credit available – $20/month (with talks about it going up to $30/month). If you’re interested, talk with you employer about it.
Joel Gray says
Great ideas. We should start applying these tips especially in times like these. If you get the chance, feel free to visit my site for helpful finance tips.
Jessica Connors says
Well thought through ideas. I have to put many of them in my day to day life. I always think but never implement. But this time I must implement them all.
To add, some big ways to save money (if you don’t already do these) are to buy online and avoid eating out as much. Buying things online delays your gratification but the savings can be huge. I’ve also noticed impulses aren’t as bad when your not actually seeing/feeling the product you want.
Avoiding fast food and the likes is a huge saver. When you eat out, you not only pay for the (marked up) food but pay for the service of preparing the food as well. Buying something (even frozen foods) at the grocery store instead could save you a couple of bucks per meal. And if you do eat out, take your own drink. I take water with me because its not only cheaper, its healthier!
Great advice for living below your means. Best advice is to use cash. Credit is to be used only if you have the collateral to back it up.
Great ideas to save money I always search online for coupons or discount before buying.
Die Wahrheit über Bauchmuskeln says
A great set of ideas! I especially like no. 11
edward d says
I use a credit card for most purchases over $20.
Discover Card has a different 5% cash back promotion every 3 months. Whatever the promotion is that quarter (groceries, gas, travel, apparel, whatever), I use the Discover card for ONLY those things.
Everything else, including some bills, goes on a frequent flier miles card. I’ve got over 150,000 miles after a few years.
If travel weren’t an interest, I’d use some other rewards card.
I totally get that when you make something easier (like spending money), you make it more likely to happen. However, a little discipline goes a long way, and I feel that I’ve mastered the art of using credit cards to MY advantage. I haven’t paid interest on a credit card in over 10 years.
Now this is dangerous: When I was making way less money ($10/hour) and when I was unemployed, I juggled 0% credit card offers. Eventually the credit card companies wised up and started charging people for transferring balances. However, it’s further evidence of using credit cards to my advantage.
That being said, if I were to lose my job again, I would NOT go down the path of using credit cards (except for a medical emergency). I am 10 years older and less willing to dig myself into any holes.
change your life says
I really need to be happy in life in the past decade. Thanks for all the helpful hints.
Just a Reader —
Agreed. Our consumer economy depends on the mass of the population buying, buying, and buying. Since there’s only so much stuff one needs, and that is much less than each citizen must buy to prop up that consumer economy, the only way for the economy to thrive is for the members of society to continue to snap up the latest shiny bauble, cling to the mistaken belief that sufficient money does not make one as happy as more money and more money will make one happier still. We are the rats whose race drives the treadmill; no question.
I do have a question, though — is it a functional or a dysfunctional economic system whose success depends on we the people living beyond our means, crushing ourselves under consumer debt and the hopeless of finding happiness by letting advertisers convince us we are nothing and only rushing to buy what they are selling will rescue us from being losers and nobodies? We are society; it is not our obligation to collectively serve as the rats running and running to drive the mechanical wheel of an ideology cooked up by ivory-tower dwellers. I say, anyway. (It is notable that the eggheads who cook up economic theories measure wealth and status themselves in intellectual regard, and see modest salaries — their children generally being guaranteed free or nearly free college educations — as no price at all to pay; for it is the despised masses, foolish enough to pile up shiny stuff as reflexively as magpies, who keep the engines turning and stoke them with the hours of their lives, which is what money is. When keeping us slaves to our appetites is the price of the economy, is that economy not merely a new face of tyranny; and did we Americans not pledge our faith and blood to live free of all such?
1. Switch out all your lighting to LED bulbs.
2. (For women only) – stop using disposable tampons and pads. Invest in a Divacup and/or Lunapads. You’ll stop throwing money away every month.
3. Pay MORE for higher quality clothing, if that’s what it costs. Buying clothes at discounters just because it costs less might ultimately cost more, if those clothes don’t hold up as long or as well. Better to shop around and get the best deal for the highest quality. Great deals on retail can be found at thrift stores, outlets, or just buying on clearance.
4. Support and use your local library.
5. Shop at farmers’ markets.
6. Keep ONE credit card. Pay for everything you would buy anyway with your card, and collect reward points. Set up an automatic system to pay off your entire balance each and every month. I’ve been debt free for many years, and using my card keeps my credit score active. I actually have paid for a car with a check, but a house or condo or grad school isn’t something I could live long enough to save up and pay for up front.
7. Drive a diesel car. They last forever, and you’ll end up replacing the car around the engine.
8. Use linen napkins.
9. Buy high quality shoes (don’t buy them at Marshalls’).
simply just eliminate consumerism.