“If you can’t see it and you can’t touch it, you won’t spend it.” That’s a money rule, and one I happen to live by on a daily basis. Just as I believe and adhere to the rule that you should live below your means.
Over more than two decades of helping people learn to manage their money, those are among the maxims that have stood out in my mind. They’re the things I find myself thinking (if not repeating) over and over again. Why? Because they make sense. They’re funny. They’re memorable. And they work.
In my own case, not having been able to see the money or touch the money I’d had deposited automatically into my son’s 529 account means that when he starts college next year, I won’t be worrying about paying for it. Living below my means on a consistent basis allows me to save for retirement — again, consistently.
But I never thought about gathering those maxims into a book until I picked up Food Rules by Michael Pollan. One by one, he laid out straightforward tactics for eating, well, better. “If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it’s made in a plant, don’t,” he wrote. And, “Don’t eat cereal that changes the color of the milk.” I was hooked and determined to do for money what he did for food.
My new book, Money Rules just hit the shelves.
Before you dive in, though, I have a confession. I didn’t come up with every single one of them. I came up with many, to be sure, including many of my favorites. But some of them came from people I know. “Your house is a piggy bank, not a cash cow,” for example, is my husband’s. “Personal finance is more personal than finance,” came from Tim Maurer, a financial advisor and longtime source of mine. Other rules came from people I don’t know. “Just because you have a coupon doesn’t mean you should go shopping,” is one of my favorites. Believe it or not, it’s a line uttered by a precocious child actor on one of those Disney Channel (or maybe Nickelodeon) shows.
To me, that only makes the money rules more interesting. We all have rules that we live by that have helped us out of jams or to toe the line when it was more than difficult. And so, with this post, we’re kicking off a contest. Tell me what your best money rules are. And explain how they’ve helped you live your best financial life. The authors of the best rules will win a signed copy of Money Rules. And who knows, your own personal maxim may end up included in its sequel.
Here are a few of my favorites to get your juices flowing:
Money Rule No. 10. Live below your means. Period. When I hear people saying live on what you make, I shake my head. You have to live on less than you make. Doing this consistently means you automatically have some money to put into savings. And that gives you the fortitude to overcome any financial problem.
Money Rule No. 36. It’s easy to buy things. It’s hard to sell things. And it’s even harder to sell things at a profit. Remember that when you’re shopping for stocks, art, real estate, cars. (In fact, if you can think of something where this is not true, I want to know about it!)
Money Rule No. 79. If you can’t afford to replace it, insure it. If you can afford to replace it, don’t. This applies to all sorts of purchases — cars, expensive jewelry, your home, but it also answers the question about whether or not you need life insurance. Think of it as income insurance. If your family couldn’t afford to live without your income, then you need to buy life insurance. If they could, you don’t.
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