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Some of the simplest and most effective money management advice can be summed up in just a few words, or a couple of sentences. Here’s a little advice from people who know a thing or two about money and wealth.
“Never spend your money before you have earned it.” – Thomas Jefferson
Perhaps the simplest money advice ever given, and definitely the most universally ignored. Everyone lives on borrowed money now. We’re all spending money we don’t have, often on things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like.
Is it possible to live debt-free in the Western world in the 21st century? Yes, it really is. Is it still a desirable thing to aim for? Yes and no. Living completely debt-free can be liberating, but not practical for the vast majority of us, especially if we want to attend college or buy a home (both things generally considered desirable and potentially ‘worth’ going into debt for).
I challenge you, though, to aim to live free of consumer debt. That means no putting things on credit cards unless you can pay them off straight away. No running up an overdraft or loading up charge cards. When it comes to pure consumerism (as opposed to investments like property or education) vow to earn the money first, then spend it.
“Many folks think they aren’t good at earning money, when what they don’t know is how to use it.” – Frank A. Clark
Two people on the exact same salaries can have vastly different levels of wealth. Knowing how to use the money you have can result in far stronger financial security than simply earning a lot of money. Learning how to spend, save, and most importantly invest your money is just as worthwhile, and potentially more so, than simply chasing the next pay rise.
“That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest.” – Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau was famous for going off to live a minimalist lifestyle in the wilderness, as documented in his book, Walden. Something most of us can’t do, no matter how appealing it may seem at times. This quote remains true, however. How rich you feel depends largely on how able you are to live a life you enjoy on the money you have. Cheap (or free) simple pleasures are worth cultivating, whether that involves spending time in nature or reading a good book. As a bonus, simple pleasures are often much healthier than the ones that cost a lot of money.
“A simple fact that is hard to learn is that the time to save money is when you have some.” – Joe Moore
Times have been tough recently. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard someone say “I’m saving money by packing my own lunch/cooking more/blow drying my own hair”. Thing is, they’re not really saving money as such. They’re doing these things now because they have to. Because they literally don’t have the money for restaurant lunches, take-out food, or weekly salon visits. If they’d have taken those actions back when they had some money to spend on them, then they’d have saved money.
“Know what you own, and know why you own it.” – Peter Lynch
It’s never a bad time to take stock of what you own. Assets, investments, cash on hand, and everything else. And it’s always a good time to assess why you own it and whether you still need it. A lot of what we own can be converted to cash and used more wisely. If you don’t know why you own something, it’s probably time to get rid of it.
“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.” – James W. Frick
A personal favorite of mine. It applies to time as well as money. Take your financial records (and/or diary) for the last month and look at what you spent your money and time on. Those are your priorities. Surprised? Disagree with the result of this little experiment? That could mean you’re spending impulsively instead of mindfully, and it could be time to start aligning your spending with your values.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison
We live in an unequal world. There are plenty of people who have had different, and better, opportunities than you. Most of us, however, can pinpoint an opportunity (or many) that we missed out on because it seemed too difficult, or time-consuming, or inconvenient. That’s fine. Not every opportunity is worth the effort required. But some are. Don’t miss out on the ones that are right for you because of the hard work involved.
“If you don’t value your time, neither will others. Stop giving away your time and talents. Value what you know and start charging for it.” – Kim Garst
I’m looking at you, the side hustlers, and freelancers, and small biz owners. Most of us undercharge for our services, especially when we’re first starting out. If that’s you, it’s time to raise your rates and charge what you’re worth. If you’re giving away your time and talents for free right now, you’d better have a damn good reason (yes, there are some). If not, start charging.
“When buying shares, ask yourself, would you buy the whole company?” – Rene Rivkin
This one doesn’t make sense for everyone. Plenty of day traders buy and sell shares based purely on price movement, and have no interest in the underlying asset they’re trading. Plenty of people have made a quick buck on the stock market trading shares in companies they wouldn’t be proud to own.
If you’re an ethical investor though, you might find this advice useful. I don’t invest in things I don’t believe in. I want to be as proud of my investments as I would be of the company itself, had I started it from scratch. If this is you, you may want to investigate sustainable ETFs. They’re a convenient way to invest ethically.
“Wealth is not the same as income. If you make a good income each year and spend it all, you are not getting wealthier. You are just living high. Wealth is what you accumulate, not what you spend.” – Thomas J. Stanley
This quote is from The Millionaire Next Door, which succinctly explains why you should spend like a millionaire, even if you’re not one yet. It’s a simple concept, much misunderstood. Wealth and income are two very different things, which is why it’s possible (and not uncommon) to fail to build much in the way of wealth, even on a relatively high income.
“A part of all you earn is yours to keep.” – George S Callon
This one is from the 100-year-old book I still use as a basic personal finance guide. It’s just a slightly more poetic way of saying pay yourself first. Put part of every paycheck away as savings (and ultimately as investments) before you spend the rest. Save first and spend what’s left, as opposed to spending first and saving what’s left.
“In today’s fast-changing world, it’s not so much what you know anymore that counts, because often what you know is old. It is how fast you learn. That skill is priceless.” – Robert Kiyosaki
This goes beyond finance and applies to almost everything in modern-day life. Knowledge is only worthwhile as long as it’s current, and some of it is only current for a very short time (though not all of it, which is why 100-year-old books can still be useful). Stay up-to-date, especially in turbulent times. Learn to constantly self-educate, adapt, and roll with the financial punches life constantly throws at us all.
I’m a freelance writer specializing in online business, personal finance, travel and lifestyle. I also work as a content creator for hire, helping brands and businesses tell their stories, grow their audiences, and reach their ideal customers. I’ve lived, worked and studied in six countries, across three continents. Stop by my blog TheSavvySolopreneur.net to learn how to run your own (very) small business on your own terms. You can also connect with me at my website KarenBanes.com or follow me on Medium.com.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to encourage any lifestyle changes without careful consideration and consultation with a qualified professional. This article is for reference purposes only, is generic in nature, is not intended as individual advice and is not financial or legal advice.