Commenter Trudodyr recently asked a good question:
Maybe an article about how tight you have to be in not spending money would make sense. Overall I would guess that many readers (myself included) do not fully realise how much aware you have to be about spending/saving/investing your money to get really good results. I assume that it is mostly about having a set of well thought money/budget rules and being very very strict about not breaking them? How precise/tight are those rules?
Warren Buffet is the world’s third richest man, with a net worth of about $90 billion. Every morning, he gets exactly $2.67, down to the exact penny and puts it in his car. This is exactly enough money to buy an Egg McMuffin at the McDonalds drive-thru, which is his breakfast every morning.
I used to work with Phil Knight, another billionaire, founder of Nike. A super nice guy, so what I’m about to say is not a criticism, but he would often look and dress like a homeless person. Crappy jeans, crappy shirt, messed-up hair, scruffy beard. The only time he would wear nice stuff is when Nike would come out with some new piece of clothing he liked. (Back when I worked with him, Nike had just released some high-end sunglasses, so he would often wear those.)
More importantly, he never had any money. He was notorious for bugging his fellow Nike employees for two quarters so he could buy a candy bar out of the candy machine. And again, this guy was worth around $4 billion at the time.
Mark Zuckerberg, worth $56 billion, drives a damn Acura TSX, an ugly little spud car that costs about $30K new, which is $15K less than my Lexus.
I’m not saying you need to be this frugal nor take things this far. I’m saying that these are important lessons and examples you need to learn from. Financially successful people generally don’t throw around a lot of money. They don’t spend a lot of money. They don’t like to. They don’t want to. They want their money in their bank accounts and in their businesses, not necessarily in their lifestyle.
The times you see rich guys throw a lot of money around is usually when they inherited it. Guys like Donald Trump or Dan Bilzerian, who live overly-lavish, gold-plated yachts lifestyles are guys who were born rich and who inherited the core of the wealth. But if you look at guys who started from zero and made it financially on their own (guys like me), you’ll notice that these guys generally dislike spending money and tend to be very frugal (like me), even once they start making a lot of money.
This tells you something. It tells you that if you have no money but want to make a lot, you need to be frugal about your expenses. You need to spend money very, very carefully, and focus on saving money, paying down debt, and re-investing in your business rather than blowing it on fancy cars, hookers, drugs, boats, booze, fancy houses, giant trucks, and other guy-lifestyle crap.
I’m not saying you can’t ever get something nice. Last month I bought myself a nice Italian suit that was well over $2,000. Pink Firefly and I are in the process of moving and we’re looking at some pretty nice houses (though still much cheaper than I could technically afford). Sometimes I drop several thousand dollars on a first class ticket when I travel internationally, or spend a few nights in a five-star hotel. Sometimes.
Sometimes you can treat yourself. But that’s the key word: sometimes. Not constantly. Your money needs to be in your investments and in your business. That’s where it belongs if you want to be financially free.
The way I control my expenses is to pre-plan every expense on paper before I actually spend the money. On a normal, regular basis, I operate on a strict monthly budget. Every type of expense I have on a regular basis is in there, including things you wouldn’t expect like eating out, travel, sugar babies, giving to charity, real estate upkeep, and so on.
If I want to purchase something outside of the usual budget, like a new bed, new car, or upgrade my living conditions, then I create a new spreadsheet and list out the likely costs, where this money is going to come from, how exactly I’m going to pay for it, and how this expenditure will affect my financial position. My financial priority, at this point in my life, is to grow my net worth every year, so if any financial expense damages that goal, I refrain from doing it, or at least delay the expense until such time it won’t hurt my investing goals.
That’s all you need to do. Start spending money on paper before you spend in real life. Dave Ramsey calls this “giving every dollar a name.” Every penny I spend in my life is spent based on a pre-existing budget or plan. Even frivolous fun stuff as a line item in my budget (called “Luxuries”).
Yeah, it takes a little effort, but once you get into the habit you won’t even think about it. And it’s worth it. I went from a guy who couldn’t even afford to pay his electric bill to a six-figure income just a few years later, to a big six-figure international income a few years after that. I went from a five-figure negative net worth to a very healthy net worth today. A big part of all this success is how I control my spending.
You should control your spending too, if you want to be financially free.
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This one right there highlights a concept you’ve talked about in the past about how a person can be really knowledgeable in one area of life but absolutely stupid in another area.
Warren Buffet is an investment genius. So how does he not realize that healthy food isn’t an expense but an investment in your health? Why doesn’t he see the connection between him eating junk food every single day for decades and him getting prostate cancer?
Thank you Caleb great article. I too have my own business and this is something I’ve learned — that despite the income I have right now, That money is best served being in my business to spurn future growth, rather than a fleeting lifestyle.
The other time is when a super luxurious lifestyle is part of their business branding. You see it in fashion and entertainment mostly. Someone like Versace couldn’t live in a modest flat or even a nice house in a gated community. He needs a palatial mansion. The extravagant life style is part of the brand management. These are also the people who are exemplified in the media as typical super rich. They WANT and NEED to be portrayed that way. It gives people a lopsided view of how rich people live, because most frugal rich don’t want that kind of publicity.
Caleb,how do you spend your money in a year? how much do you save per year?how much do you put in your permanent portofolio?how much is for entertainment?,for charity?(in percentage from your total income)
so say I expect to make 130,000$ in 2019.
It would be wise to give these dollars a name?
Exactly. It’s stupid.
Via a budget.
Right now I save around 30% of my income, though it varies every month. And that doesn’t include money I use to re-invest into my businesses, which is much more powerful than saving/investing (but saving/investing is still required).
Very, very little (other than travel, which is usually free for me, paid by coaching, consulting, and/or seminars I do when I travel).
Normally 5% of my total income, but that has dropped a little in the last 18 months because my income has gone way up; I’ve increased my charitable contributions but I’m not sure if I have all the way to 5%. I’m going to figure all of that out in January.
One of my big financial goals is to get my charitable giving to 10% of my income; probably in a few years, after I turn 50.
Assigning usage to increased anticipated future income is a different thing entirely. I’m talking here about money you’re getting now and know for sure you’re going to get in the near future. Good idea for a future blog post though.
Warren Buffett is nearly 90 years old right now. Even if he ever bought into general health statistics, his “bet” paid off and he pretty much crossed the age-line of “not caring anymore”.
How much longer would he prefer to live? 100? 110? Seems silly to covet longer lifespans once you’ve aged this far and achieved as much as Mr. Omaha B has.
Second, if you read through Buffet’s biographies, you’ll see that he was always a very self-conscious, self-knowledgeable. Whatever statistics about the general population say, he pretty much ignored all of them throughout his life, because he knew his own body danced to a different tune.
The guy is exceptionally smart and talented when it comes to investment, so it’s not a surprise that’s he may be an outlier on a few other life factors, even physiological ones.
His family and friends always begged him, for instance, to lose weight and become just a little bit less of a slob, and he cheerfully ignored all of them (and outlived most, by the way).
The only time he ever seriously got into diet habits was when he’s made a bet (to one of his sons, I believe) with a lot of money on stake if he failed to lose a certain amount of pounds within a year.
He lost said amount of pounds in three months or something like that. ;p
So, in general, all indicates that Warren Buffet is not out typical average human and he d#mn well knows that. 😀 He lived his past 60+ professional years drinking Coke (and rarely just pure water), eating beef, lots of candies from his childhood and going to McDonald’s, and being highly productive, highly lucrative (and healthy) all throughout.
And the worst the came out of this? Some pesky initial-phase prostate cancer at the age of 80-something, which he treated successfully in the same year.
If life is a game, I’d say he won it with an S score. 😉
True that. He succeeded despite his bad diet, not because of it. Maybe the mental state of a person is really the strongest force when it comes to health. When you have a strong mission and you align your whole being to that mission your mind and your body become machine-like.
Another example was the German poet Friedrich Schiller. He worked on his mission up to the very last moment of his life. An autopsy of his body later revealed multiple organ failure and the doctors didn’t even know how he managed to live up to that point.
Two people in two weeks told me I need new shoes. One of them is my neighbor who is 55 living in a studio apartment with his gf and her 2 kids from another marriage. The other is a friend from the bar who works part time and literally lives with his mother.
FWIW, I think you are cherry picking the data about rich guys. After all Roman Abramovich is a self made billionaire, and he doesn’t just own a yacht, he owns a navy. And one of the yachts is so big it can’t dock in Monaco harbor. Plus, he owns Chelsea, one of the most powerful sports teams in the world. But maybe you think he is not a businessman but a gangster. But have you see Bill Gates’ house? Or his yacht? What about his partner Paul Allen? Have you seen his yacht or the two sports franchises he owned (before his untimely death.) Even Warren Buffett might buy his Egg McMuffin every morning, but that includes the mornings he drives down the the local general aviation airport and takes his Gulfstream G5 to whereever he goes. He always flies privately.
In regards to your general advice, although I think there is some good learning there, I think a wise person always recognizes trade offs. Fastidious focus on minutia of spending has both pros and cons. On the one hand you can certainly reduce your expenses, but on the flip side you consume a considerable amount of time doing it. Time that could be spent elsewhere, either making money, or enjoying the time you have available to you. When you are poor and up and coming I think that is good advice. But if you are a billionaire it seems rather counterproductive to strain at the gnat while ignoring the bigger camel.
A simple question: would you be willing to pay a virtual assistant to do all that bookkeeping for you? Maybe you would, but if your answer is no then I would wonder why you are spending your time doing $5 an hour work.
I heard some analysis that clipping coupons could save you enough for the time spent that it would be roughly the equivalent of a minimum wage job. Now, not that there is anything wrong with minimum wage work — if that is what you are doing, good on you as long as you are striving to improve your position. But if you are beyond that, why would you do that rather than other types of thing that have a far higher ROI? And to be clear I don’t mean just business work, but also your recreational time too.
To me, time is the most limited of all resources, and to spend it on saving a few dollars a week seems a poor way to use such a precious quantity.
I think a budget makes sense. Lets say you can afford $200 per week to burn on crap. Well get $200 cash out of an ATM every week and spend that. Or auto transfer it to a special debit card account and use that. But taking the time to count out $2.69 every morning is a shocking waste of time.
I don’t give advice to billionaires, nor was this article directed at them.
Of course and I do. All my bookkeeping is done by virtual assistants.
I agree. That was an example to illustrate a point, not a literal piece of advice.
Awesome post, loved the Dave Ramsey point!
I’ve read “the millionaire next door” and in those cases it seems very reasonable to be frugal. However, if you’re worth 80 BILLION DOLLARS, why the fuck would you care about expensive food? Especially if you’re as old as that crotchety bastard? I understand if Macdonalds makes you happy, but to do it just because it’s cheap seems borderline insane. I tend to agree with your ideals of matching your income to your personal preferred lifestyle in order to maximize happiness. What’s money if you aren’t using it in a way that makes you happy?
Good article. However, I think the take-home message here isn’t just frugality, but the power of habit and strong discipline, which transfer to other life areas and help those billionaires success.
BD, can you give your opinion on Minimalism movement from the financial/lifestyle viewpoint? What applicable and what is too extreme?
I track all my personal expense to the penny with a free app called “AndroMoney”.
It doesn’t look fancy but it’s highly customisable, it manages multiple currencies and accounts. It took me a few months of using it before I fully graped its features.
And I use it only for my personal expense but I could use it for any project, I probably will.
It’s an app on my phone so I can log each expense at the moment I spend it, cash, cheque, card or transfer. It synch a database file in the cloud and it’s possible to download and use the database file for the most advanced users who want to do more with the data than the built in detailed reports.
I love it. I’ve been a partial minimalist for about 12 years (but never an extreme one).
When you start making LOTS of money, than you can get more lavish if you really want to.
Everyone needs to make their own judgement on that. My opinion is one should always live well, well below their means and save/invest the difference.
First Step: Get out of Debt
Only Balance should be Mortgage or Car Payment and even then work to get rid of it ASAP.
In California there is so much Dan B money blowing going on. Only Possible exception I see to this is some of my friends who do illicit activities who Can’t save their money or spend it legitimately, but even then there are wiser ways to spend and save that money.
In Fact I’d argue there are many dumb asses I know that get involved with drug dealing and such Just To live that lifestyle Dan B. depicts on Social Media.. It’s really sad. The whole time they think the girls they have around actually like them for them.. It’s very very sad the unnecessary risks they take.
Also hard to save due to our cost of living here in California.. Even a 3 Bedroom House can cost you $500,000.00 Very Easily
Thank you, cant get enough reminders that guys like dan b inherit their money and the actual reality for first generation wealthy is different.
All for adopting a more warren buffet , henry rollins mindset.
Even the Rock had half a foot in the wrestling world with his family, but he works hard so it isn’t nearly bad as the others.
Frugality is a feminine quality. Let that sink in for you guys.
If you’re working 80+ a week on your career while building a business on the side, it’ll be very hard to break the bank, because you won’t have the time. An hour you spend making these budgets is an hour you could be making $$$
IMO (as opposed to Wallstreet Playboys’ O perhaps), continually having your money sucked out of your accounts, under the influence of the highly sophisticated marketing techniques of multi billion dollar corporations, is even more of a feminine quality than frugality.
oh boy the shades of gray
Sure it’s definitely a grey area when it comes to spending. Some people are better off being restrained
Frugality / careful spending is more a matter of habit than of discipline. At the beginning it may often be a matter of necessity that over time shapes one’s personality.
My grandfather was an immigrant with no higher education. He worked two jobs at a time for years to build a house in his new country. He never earned big and he never travelled far or afforded any big luxuries because he couldn’t. Over time that turned him into a very frugal person. Only at the end of his life, he spent more freely saying that the last jacket does not have any pockets.
In cases like BD where you want to hit a certain net worth, obviously some frugality coupled with clever investing will help.
It is hard to understand people though who earn good money and do not use it for consumption that would improve the basic quality of their life (health, housing, nutrition, education,…). Reasonable and circumstantial frugality can easily turn into stingyness.
I know a 75 year old man who is worth millions. This guy is so cheap he quit drinking name brand cola because he did the math and could save $20 a month… this same guy is also driving a piece of shit 1992 volvo. I don’t get it. Your towards the end of your life and have 10-15 million in the bank and a large passive income from 50+ rental properties. Why aren’t you living it up to the fullest? Honestly I think this type of frugality is a mental disorder.
I don’t know how to enforce a budget. Say I want to save 50% of my after tax monthly income. Sounds easy to manage but for one thing credit card purchases can complicate things (you buy this month but pay next month) and also I may buy something expensive and then return it.
For me, becoming financially independent at a reasonably young age was simple.
Whatever I earned, I save 50% and invested it… shares, index funds, property (real estate). Even when I was earning very little I was determined to save half. If I wanted something really badly, even though I had the money I did without. Sometimes if I really wanted something and couldn’t do without I made a promise to myself that I would have to earn double in order to buy this.
I realise that this may sound over simplistic and I would agree that it is. But I often find it is the simplest fundamentals that produce the most predictable results.
I have been asked many times my secret and shared this often. But to date I have never met one person years later that had the discipline to follow it.
So I think wealth creation may be like any other discipline, if you can’t stick to the path through good times and bad, then your chances of success are negligible.
What will happen with debt when the economy crashes? That debt will not be worth nearly as much, correct? Wouldn’t it actually therefore be a good idea instead to get loads of debt, invest the money into something more tangable like gold or real estate and then when the currency crashes easily repay the debt and profit on the difference?
Also could it be that if there is a huge economic collapse some of these entities you borrowed money from will not exist anymore? Therefore your debt doesn’t exist anymore?
Maybe I am missing something but to me it seems like this.
This plan may work assuming:-
You can service the debt during the period. Do you have a contingency plan if you lose your job or your business(es) collapse?
If the above happens, what is your strategy in avoiding bankruptcy and thus your creditors pursuing your investments? Is your plan to have these assets in an outside jurisdiction? What is your strategy if your government then implements travel restrictions? Or capital controls? Do you put the assets in say your significant other’s name? Can you fully trust them not to depart the shores with your hard earned?
In the worst case scenario, during complete collapse of the economy and probably society as a whole, does your plan give you the highest chance of survival and potentially prosperity?
I am generally against debt. And the main problem in the plan is actually the fact that economy might not collapse that soon and I might be asked to repay.
Therefore to specify more closely the plan would need the following:
1. Zero or minimal interest.
2. I only borrow what I can repay. For example if I have 20 000 in cash in my accounts I can borrow less than than that.
So if economy does not collapse and they want it back I can just pay it and I did not gain but also did not lose anything by doing this. Small interest is also okay because then the loss will be minimal. Also I dont like the idea of stealing money so I would see this that we both take some risk and its an investment from both sides – they are hoping to cash in on the interest and I am hoping they will not exist anymore when/if the crash comes.
To further clarify I do not simply plan to run away with the money. That would be stealing, which I don’t want to do. I am talking about the fact that I am betting on the probability that the landing institution will not exist anymore or the probability that the currency in which I have to repay will be worthless compared to what I used the money to purchase.
The idea is that either I dont have to pay it back because the bank doesnt exist anymore or I have to pay it back but the currency collapsed and I used it to buy gold or real estate abroad therefore I can easily pay it back with a healthy profit.
In the event that the economy does not collapse or I am asked to repay before it collapses I will just pay it back from the cash on my account and worst case I lost some time on this and maybe a bit of money as interest, which seems a low risk for potential big gain.
In this way the debt is basically an investment. What do you think about this plan? Is there some problem with it?
I meant to add, how do you manage to obtain this debt? I am assuming that most of the debt would be secured to an asset? In the event of repayment default, wouldn’t the lender just repossess the asset and sell to clear the debt?
I’m not sure of the US, but in the UK where I am based it is difficult to secure any meaningful debt unsecured, the lender looking to you to produce a cash deposit of 10 – 40% to complete even the simplest property deal.
Lending to a business? You would have to have the necessary security as well as a Floating Charge (which effectively gives the bank first dibs if the company should collapse) and a Personal Guarantee, which means they can pursue you personally for any Limited Company (Incorporated) debts.
I’m not sure if your strategy makes sense, can you elaborate?
I see what you are saying here. Your strategy is only to borrow what you can afford to pay (due to holding cash deposits)
For this to be somewhat successful the following would need to happen:-
The interest rate that is attached to your borrowings would need to be fixed at a lower rate than that of your cash deposit. What you are essentially doing here is simple interest rate arbitrage. You need to be careful here as banks are notorious for changing the goalposts on lending contracts. What would happen if the interest rates rise on your borrowings and stagnate or are cut in your deposit account. Please remember that you are dealing with ruthless lenders here, not Bob your local bank manager who you see at church every Sunday with his lovely family.
For a sum of say $20K is the return going to be worth your time and the work put into setting this up?
Would it maybe be a better strategy to put your $20K into a business that you also put your heart and sole into? When it starts to pay off, live as simply as you can and save as much as possible. Invest this into something passively that will produce an income stream, which you will reinvest 100%. If and when the economy does collapse you will still have something that will potentially feed you if you can offer something that people need during the hard times.
Remember, during an economic collapse the wealth does not disappear but is redistributed to those with the foresight to plan for it.
Is it not better to be debt free, with a few passive income streams that will feed and clothe you and your family whilst others jump out of windows as some did during 1929.
Further, it is my experience that lending institutions do not just disappear, other lenders simply acquire the debt book and if it is profitable they will be looking to recover.
Recent history has demonstrated how ruthlessly litigious lending institutions are. They are all part of a big club who want to keep the average guy weak and straddled with debt.
If you can begin to really understand debt and how and why usury was designed, you would see debt as something toxic which should be used minimally if at all.
Just my two cents (plus interest of course :))
Yeah, I have seen a few other guys suggest this. It’s a high-risk investment plan. (Are you sure everything is going to collapse? And when, exactly? And will it be inflationary? What if it’s deflationary? Can you afford all the payments on that debt until then? What about lifestyle considerations until then? What if you lose your job or have financial trouble before things collapse? And on, and on, and on…)
I don’t like risk when it comes to my investments.
Have you ever read through Mr Money Mustache’s blog? He is fanatical about earning wealth through saving a lot of money on a “regular” salary and I highly recommend anyone rich or poor to put his ideas (or his entire worldview, extreme as it is) into practice.
Yes, I forgot to add: the interest rate would need to be fixed. Obviously thats an essential part because otherwise if the currency would collapse a variable interest would just adjust the inflation so then my plan doesn’t work.
For this I would “simply” need to have in the contract that the debt is only towards that exact instiution and is not transferrable. I put “simply” in quation marks because whilst this is quite simply it can be tough to find someone willing to put that in the contract.
Repayments is not a problem because like I stated above it would be covered by a cash reserve, also there would be the possibility for me to repay it at any time if my situation changes. The main problem would indeed be if its deflationary then because I have fixed interest rate as explained thats necessary to make it work would result in me getting screwed over. I have not taken deflationary scenario into account. That would be very bad.
Oh yes. He’s a little extremist in his views, but is overall concept is fantastic. Highly recommend.
But how are your budgets exactly? For example do you specify a set amount for clothing per year? Then what if for some reason you needed to buy new clothing unexpectedly?