Some bits of advice are so common that they’re cliche – don’t put all your eggs in one basket, don’t count your chickens before they hatch, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and so forth. But have you ever thought about how advice for other areas of your life can apply to saving and personal finance?
Take housekeeping, for example. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is my mother’s motto. She applies this advice to keeping her house neat and spotless, but it also is a good description for budgeting, too. Whether you use the envelope system or have separate accounts for separate savings goals, designating specific places for your money and keeping the money designated in those places helps you keep track of both your saving and spending so that you know where you stand at all times.
People tackling big organization projects or learning to better manage their time are often advised to “do a little bit each day.” Breaking down big goals into smaller tasks and establishing good habits by following this advice is a good way to finish an organization project, and it is also a good way to save money. Those who save the most are in the habit of making wise choices about their money each and every day.
A related bit of advice is doled out by almost every parenting book – “be consistent in discipline.” No matter how strict or lenient each parenting book recommends you be with your children, it will almost surely tell you that your children need to know what to expect from you. Consistency is vital not only in disciplining children, but also in disciplining yourself. Saving only when you feel like it may increase your net worth slightly, but saving consistently (even if you save relatively small amounts) will almost surely lead to financial security.
Dieters and those who want to eat healthy are likely to hear about the value of balance and eating everything in moderation. In personal finance, balance means walking a fine line between being cheap and being a spendthrift. Saving each day is important, but everyone needs to spend money occasionally, too. Those who try to maintain overly strict diets are likely to give up and gain back all their weight; those who try to save on everything may also find their frugal lifestyles too difficult to maintain and wind up spending all of their hard-earned savings on too many splurges. Occasionally allowing yourself to buy small treats can help satisfy your appetite for spending and keep you on a saving diet.
Nearly every bride-to-be who receives a book of advice from her shower guests will have a reminder not to go to bed angry. This tidbit is somewhat difficult to apply to personal finance, as finances are not particularly likely to enrage someone. However, the idea of getting rid of any anger and other negative emotions (as much as possible) before you go to bed is a good way to improve the amount and quality of rest you get, which will help you be more productive in your earning and saving efforts and may also help you save on medical bills.
In the work world, two bits of advice that are common to all fields are “know your strengths” and “dress to impress.” At work, knowing your strengths will help you be effective in whatever job you do, and in personal finance, it will help you be an effective saver and investor. Do your strengths lie in making a high salary, in clipping coupons and finding deals, in discovering creative ways to make extra cash, or in picking stocks on their way up? Focus on using those strengths to increase your savings. (However, just because you are using your strengths doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try anything new – you may be able to turn weaknesses into strengths with some practice.)
The advice to “dress to impress” can be good or bad when it comes to saving. Yes, dressing well can help others see you in a positive light and possibly get you a higher-paying job, but it also has some disadvantages. For one, if you are dressing to impress, you are probably spending more on clothes than you have to. For another, looking too prosperous can cost you money if you shop anywhere that bargaining is expected. When someone else is sizing you up to figure out how much you will be willing to spend, expensive clothes suggest that you have a lot of money and you don’t mind parting with it when you see something you really want.
In social situations, you may find that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. This advice helps your finances when you need to return a product or ask someone in customer service to fix a problem for you. One of my relatives has had all kinds of difficulty getting a particular grocery store in our area to fix problems caused by its cashiers, while I have had excellent experiences at the same customer service desk. I’m sure that a lot of it is because the other person goes there angry, demanding that the staff make things right, while I try to be polite and ask nicely for help. Asking nicely can garner not only hassle-free corrections to problems but also coupons and freebies from manufacturers.
The blackboards of many public speaking classrooms have worn the abbreviation “KISS,” for “Keep it simple, stupid” (or, if you’re using honey, “keep it simple, sweetie”). When applying this advice to life in general, you are likely to find that simplification brings savings as a side effect. Our culture has become increasingly complex, and most of the time, cutting out some of life’s complications will save you time, energy, and money, too.
Many times, good advice has become clich