“The secret of success is to do the common things uncommonly well.” – John D. Rockefeller
One thing’s for sure; there is a lot of financial advice available online as well as in books and magazines. With such an abundance of information it can be hard to know which pieces of advice to take and which to ignore; which pieces actually work and which are just trendy ideas for the moment. One resource, I’ve found to give consistently good advice is MoneySense magazine and so, when they recently published their 42 best money tips ever, I was intrigued to see what had made it on to the list. Along with core wealth building strategies such as “pay yourself first”, eliminate debt and lower your investment fees, I found a few new great money tips that intrigued me and I thought I’d share three of them with you in this week’s post.
Tip # 22: Buy Small…. And Don’t Move!
It seems as though all the marketing messages we hear are geared towards encouraging us to buy more, have more, spend more and this is especially true when it comes to housing. Mortgages are pre-approved based on the maximum amount that our debt-service ratio will allow us to borrow rather than on the amount that best fits our budget and all too often people find themselves living in houses that are much larger than they actually need and/or more expensive than they can truly afford. Add to this the fact that a lot of people choose to capitalize on the growing equity in their home by selling and moving to something larger (and taking on a bigger mortgage in the process) and it’s not surprising that an increasing number of people are entering retirement with several years left to run on their mortgage. Like many wealth building strategies, the idea of buying a smaller house than you need and staying there requires an active choice to live life differently than “the herd”, which isn’t always easy. The advantages to acting on this tip though can be significant: a smaller house means a smaller mortgage, which means that you have a better chance of getting it paid off sooner, as well as lower property taxes and utility bills. Not choosing to “upgrade” by moving to a larger home saves you thousands of dollars in moving costs (Moneysense estimates the cost of selling a $500,000 home at $28,100… not including the several thousand dollars worth of “stuff” you’ll need to furnish it!) not to mention the stress of selling and moving. It’s true that, as families grow, space can be tight but MoneySense suggests that perhaps, “adding a sunroom, finishing a basement or adding a modest second floor” might be a more cost-effective solution than moving to a larger house. This tip might not work for everyone but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind the next time that you’re tempted by the idea of moving!
Tip # 29: Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
Having spent some time in Israel and Turkey, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to haggle in the local markets and I have to admit, there’s a great sense of satisfaction in walking away with whatever trinket you just purchased having haggled back and forth to find a price both the buyer and seller agree on. Haggling is a core part of many cultures but it’s not very common in North America. A 2007 study by Consumer Reports however, found that “90% of people who tried to get deals on furniture, electronics and appliances succeeded, scoring an average discount of $50.” Now $50 might not be a large amount of money but as any savvy saver knows, small savings can lead to great wealth. With a 90% success rate, it definitely doesn’t hurt to ask!
Tip #30: Love Your Job – or Leave It!
This one struck a chord with me. I’ve long been an advocate of the idea that life is far too short to wake up every morning and think “oh no, I have to go to work today.” I believe that because working takes up such a significant chunk of our time, it’s really important that we’re not spending the majority of that time in an environment full of stress and misery. It’s also important that we’re paid appropriately for the work we do. According to Rona Birenbaum, a fee-for-service planner based in Toronto, “most people undermanage their biggest asset, their lifetime earnings potential.” Actively managing your career means thinking about how you can increase your salary and sometimes that means that moving away from your current employer and into a new role with another company is a smart move. Increasing your income (and maintaining your expenses) is an easier way to build wealth than reducing your expenses or trying to increase the returns on your investments and yet it could well be the one strategy that not enough people think about when it comes to managing their wealth.
This list definitely gave me some things to think about when it comes to my own finances. Do you have any other great money tips that have worked for you? If so, I’d love to hear them.