What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned about money?
The Financial Diet contributor Tracy White shared “10 Truths About Money I’ve Learned to Accept,” recognizing the money rules that make the most sense in her life.
The truths combine common sense with financial savvy, and it’s a list worth bookmarking and checking on a regular basis. The tips range from the relationship between money and happiness to why you should pay yourself first.
Here are a few of my favorite lessons from the list.
Your Job Helps You Earn — But Only If You’re Not Miserable
White recognizes earning a decent living at work is important, but she also admits things aren’t as cut and dried as some personal finance experts would make you think.
If you’re miserable at work, no matter how good the salary, you’ll eventually limit your earning potential — not to mention turn into someone that your friends and family just don’t want to be around.
But a 180-degree career flip isn’t feasible for a lot of people.
“If you can’t make a change at the moment, try to find a middle ground between ‘a job that makes me miserable’ and ‘a dream job that would make me happy,’” White advises. “Perhaps you could look for a position with shorter hours, a better commute, a chance for training in new skills or simply a nicer work environment. Our options are wider than we think.”
A better commute could mean more time with your family and less money spent on gas or car maintenance. Training paid for by the company means additional skills to help you earn more throughout your career.
A job might not be a perfect match for your dream career, but if you can find the positives and make small steps to a better career (and bigger earnings), you’re in good shape.
The $1 Rule Can Revolutionize the Way You Buy Stuff
Another one of White’s truths is absolutely genius. It’s worth sharing the whole description:
Assess everything on a ‘$1 per use’ basis.
I have my mother to thank for this one. Everything I buy – clothes, shoes, household items– is assessed on the basis of “Will I wear/use this enough for to only cost me $1 per wear/use?”
Now, obviously things like wedding dresses, for example, don’t fall into this. But next time you go to buy that trendy, ephemeral “must-have” item, break its cost down into realistic uses. Often, you’ll find that what seemed like a deal is actually a waste of money, as it will find its way to the back of your closet after a few brief wears.
I’ve used a similar bit of math in my own shopping experience, but it’s not as radical as White’s method. When I’m considering a big-ticket item, I try to estimate how many times I’ll wear it and use it in a season or year to see how fast the item will pay for itself.
For instance, I recently tried on a blazer that cost $198. If I wore that blazer on 25 days over three seasons in one year (let’s be realistic, I’m not wearing it during Washington, D.C. summers), it would break down to cost about $8 per wear. If I wear the blazer 25 times over two years (50 wears), it breaks down to $4 per wear.
So if I’m going to spend $200 on a blazer, I need to know that I’ll wear it a couple of times each month for two years — I can’t get bored with it a year in and donate it before buying a new one. Such a purchase is truly an investment.
The math for White’s $1-per-use rule is a bit simpler, and also a stronger test of your willpower. Take the blazer again: Would I wear it 198 times, for a cost of $1 per use? Will the blazer even last that long before the threads fray and it needs repair? Sounds like I should wait for a sale.
No matter your place in your personal finance journey, you’re sure to find a few money truths in White’s list that resonate with you. Read the whole list at The Financial Diet and let us know which one is your favorite.
Your Turn: What do you think of the list? What are your favorite money lessons?
Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor and podcaster based in Washington, D.C.