Jaws dropped during that classic scene in the 1995 movie Sabrina. Sabrina’s father is revealed to be more than just a quiet chauffeur with a passion for good books. He’s shockingly a millionaire! How did he accrue such wealth on a presumably modest salary? By imitating the investing habits of his prosperous employer. You too can learn from financially mature people. You can avoid costly mistakes by watching what they do – and perhaps more importantly, what they don’t do.
1. They don’t spend more than they make
A recent Yahoo Finance study found that “fewer than half of Americans are spending less than they earn.” This problem is compounded by high credit card interest rates. If you’re finding it difficult to stick to a budget, try switching to cash as your currency. This will quickly stop the bleeding because once cash is gone the spending has to stop.
2. They don’t wait until the end of the month to see how their money is doing
Credit card bills should be formalities, not surprises. Expense tracking apps (or a pen and paper) help you stay on top of your money.
3. They don’t pay for subscriptions they aren’t using
Gym memberships, magazine subscriptions, and season tickets to your favorite team’s games are great – if you actually use them. Spend some time going through your credit card statement and cancel a few forgotten subscriptions. Chances are, you won’t miss them.
4. They don’t overlook small expenses
Small expenses add up. Look for opportunities to reduce them. Relax the air conditioning when you leave the house, turn off the lights in an empty room, use a refillable water bottle instead of buying a new case every week.
5. They don’t automatically spend “surprise money”
Tax returns and birthday money don’t have to be spent the day they’re received. Put some in savings, or use it to pay off debt.
6. They don’t use shopping to help them feel better
Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary argues that “retail therapy” should be avoided altogether. But come on now. We’re the species that invented sugarless candy – surely we can redeem the post-break up shopping spree? Here’s an idea: When heartbreak or frustration beckons you to the mall, think of one item you actually need. Maybe it’s a new pair of work shoes or a birthday gift for a friend. Set a “budget” for yourself and take only the CASH for that item. Then, enjoy a little shopping.
7. They don’t gift shop at the last minute
It happens to the best of us. We remember a birthday or anniversary with mere hours to spare. Then we’re off the nearest store in search of a last-minute gift and in our panic, we buy something expensive to hide the fact that we don’t have a card and the gift isn’t wrapped. Gifts are given to express love and affection. Shopping a little sooner can help you find a thoughtful, less expensive gift that shows how much you care.
8. They don’t eat out every meal
A recent experiment conducted by the Boston Globe found one home cooked meal cost half the price of a comparable restaurant meal.
9. They don’t waste leftovers
One of the easiest ways to make eating out more affordable is to simply save your leftovers. You can turn one meal into two.
10. They don’t let purchased food expire
Throwing away food is throwing away money. If you struggle with stinky fridge syndrome, try making more frequent trips to the grocery store. Buy exactly what you’ll need for the next 2 or 3 days, instead of “stocking up” for the week or the month.
11. They don’t spend money without stopping to think
Have you ever examined an old purchase and wondered, “What was I thinking?” Financially mature people ask the right question: “Do I absolutely love this?” Skip this step, and you’ll find yourself in need of a garage sale.
12. They don’t buy clothes they won’t wear regularly
Closet full of clothes yet “nothing to wear”? Save space and money by searching for versatile pieces you can’t wait to show off. Here’s a minimalist who’s happy to show you how (with photos).
13. They don’t buy something just because it’s a discount
An old episode of The Lucy Show poked fun at this common mistake. Lucy chided her friend for buying a 50lb bag of dog food. Her friend defended herself saying “that was half price.” To which Lucy hilariously replied, “You don’t have a dog!” If you find yourself thinking “These shoes are half off, and they’re not that bad,” take the money and buy a pair of shoes you actually like. You’re more likely to get some use out of them.
14. They don’t buy anything without asking the price
It’s an old trick. Selling stuff without ever mentioning the price and it works, because we’re often too embarrassed to ask how much something costs. We don’t want anyone thinking we’re poor, but we have it backwards. Poor is what you’ll be if you don’t ask the hard questions.
15. They don’t avoid expenses that save them trouble and money in the future
Getting the oil changed may be annoying, but it’s cheaper than a new car. Getting your teeth cleaned may be uncomfortable, but would you rather have a root canal? When you’re trying to cut back on spending, trim from the fat, not the essentials.
16. They don’t buy into get rich quick schemes
When people really do strike proverbial gold, they probably don’t tell the world about it in a “business opportunity” seminar. Financially mature people know that wealth comes through hard work and good choices over time.
17. They don’t forget to set financial goals
Without a clear goal and a doable plan, people tend to stay right where they are. Good goals illuminate the path between where you are and where you want to be.
18. They don’t let past mistakes keep them from improving
Peek at the statistics and you’ll quickly learn most of us aren’t very good with money. With practice, patience, and persistence, you can grow into financial maturity. You just have to get started. There’s an old saying. If you want a big oak tree in your backyard, the best time to plant it was 20 years ago. The second best time? Right now. Use these tips to start imitating the financially mature. Because let’s face it. Life’s more fun when there’s some money in the bank.