Probably the biggest difference between wealthy people and poor people is their perspective toward money: the wealthy think about their money and the poor mostly worry about it. The wealthy engage in proactive and constructive thought about how to earn more, keep more, and spend less of it—as opposed to the poor, who generally fear not having enough of it.
To be able to think about it, you’ve first got to know where you stand, financially. Then you can begin to consider how you can spend less, earn more, and keep more of your money.
Here are five steps you can take towards a wealth mindset and actual wealth:
1. Face Your Finances
A 2013 survey by Bankrate.com found that 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Another survey, by MagnifyMoney.com, reported that 56% of Americans have $1,000 or less in their combined checking and savings accounts.
What this tells you is that most people don’t really look at their money in terms of the future. And frankly, if you don’t know where you stand financially in the present, how can you consider your financial future?
Go get a pencil and sheet of paper. Make two columns on the page and write down your monthly expenses on the left-hand side:
- Car payment
- Credit card bills (monthly minimum due)
- Utilities (electricity, water, cable, internet)
- Insurance (car, home, etc.)
Include any other monthly expenses you have.
On the right side, write down your monthly income from your job and any other sources.
Add up all your expenses and subtract the total from your income. What’s left?
It’s possible that what’s leftover on paper is not what’s leftover in your savings or checking account.
So, what else do you spend your money on? Clothes? Entertainment? Vehicle repairs or maintenance?
Take-away: Wealthy people know how much they spend and how much they have in the bank. Evaluating your finances can be a sobering experience, but you can’t take control of your finances if you don’t know what shape it’s in.
2. Spend Less
Now that you have a firm idea of how much you spend, figure out areas where you could spend less.
You were just getting ready to click away from this article, weren’t you? Yes, this is the part—cutting down your spending—where most people rebel and fall back into their usual habits.
This may seem ridiculously obvious, but the reason you want to spend less is so you can have more money.
At the beginning of this article, you read that the difference between wealthy people and poor ones is that the wealthy think about money, whereas the poor worry about it. Well, here is another difference:
Wealthy people HAVE more money.
It’s not necessarily because they earn more, but it’s definitely because they keep more. According to a 20-year study by Tom Stanley and William Danko (which became the book, The Millionaire Next Door), wealthy people save or invest 20% of their income, compared to the five percent or less average for others. By finding ways to keep more and spend less, you will have more money next month than you did this month. (Put it in a savings account or in the cookie jar.) You will be wealthier.
Make it a game or a challenge. If you eat out a lot, preparing your meals at home can save untold amounts of money every week. Can you pay off any of your credit card balances? See how much you can save on your power bill by making sure no lights or appliances are left on unnecessarily. Are there items you can buy for a lot less at the dollar store than at the supermarket?
Take-away: Many associate wealth with extravagance: diamonds, new Ferraris, and mansions. According to Stanley and Danko, the majority of millionaires drive second-hand GM cars and wear watches that cost less than $100. They don’t have flash, they have money—and they have it because they keep more of what they make.
3. Eliminate Penalties and Fees
Often, people who do not have very good control of their money (see #1 and 2, above) also do not have very good control of their credit card bills. Late payments result in late fees and, sometimes, increased interest rates, both of which eat into your wealth.
One of the best ways to prevent fees and higher interest rates is to automate your bill-paying. Most credit card companies give you the option to create an online account and monthly automatic withdrawal from your checking account to pay bills. If you’re the kind of person who forgets to pay until it’s too late, this is the way to go.
Take-away: Wealthy people don’t waste money and wouldn’t be caught dead with a high-interest credit card, let alone paying a late fee—two of the biggest ways to waste money.
4. Buy for Value
While it’s necessary to reduce expenses, especially when just starting out on your way to wealth, shopping for everything based only on the lowest price can sometimes end up costing you more in the long run.
Rather than shop for the cheapest, look for the best value.
This is easy to see in terms of car shopping: If you finance a vehicle for three years, the payments will be higher than if you finance it for five years, but you will actually spend more in interest on a five-year loan than on a three-year loan. (As of late, some dealerships are offering no-interest financing for three years, which makes that an even better value.)
When shopping for a used car, that $40 or $50 membership to a service like CarFax is extremely cheap compared to the thousands of dollars in future repairs you might have to pay if you buy blindly.
You can apply this to more routine purchases like food and clothing: when a particular food item you like or use often goes on sale, stock up on it and save future dollars. Cheap clothing or shoes wear out faster and need replacement; buying better quality items may cost more up front but is cheaper in the long run.
Take-away: Wealthy people don’t concentrate on “cheapest” but on “best value.” Get into the wealthy habit of buying for value when making a purchase.
5. Earn More
While a considerable part of wealth consists of saving money and eliminating wasteful spending, you can’t ignore the importance of increasing your income.
It’s said that the average millionaire has seven income streams. That may or may not be true, but one thing is certain: it’s better to have multiple income streams than to have only one.
There are many ways to create additional income streams. Here are some:
- Learn about the stock market and start investing.
- Start a home-based business on the side.
- Sell products through Amazon.com.
- Write a book and sell it online.
- Drive for Uber or a similar service.
When you start thinking in terms of bringing in more money, you will seek out and become more aware of ways to do it. Ideally, you want to find some ways that create income without requiring you to work more hours.
Take-away: Wealthy people tend to have multiple sources of income, which may include things like businesses and investment property. Do your research and figure out one new income. Get it solidly established and productive. Then find another and develop that.
Do these five things. They will get you to think like a wealthy person and you will be on your way to attaining greater wealth.