The way you spend your first few paychecks could set a pattern for years to come. Here’s how to make the most of your hard-earned dollars.
Frugality is in my bones.
From attending a community college before public university to living with my wife in a stunning tree house that I built from salvaged materials to driving my 15-year-old Volvo— I’ve always avoided expensive stuff.
Here are my sometimes silly cheapskate tricks I’ve collected from a long life of adventures, at home and abroad.
At home and work:
A 1/2-inch binder clip beats any wallet. It holds cash, credit cards, and the rest. It’s smaller — takes less pocket space so it’s more comfortable — and costs basically nothing.
New suits and dress shirts? I’ve always gotten the cheapest machine washable available, these days via Amazon. Saving here never stopped me from becoming wealthy. You’ll never get rich via looks — unless it’s Hollywood or by marrying rich.
I’m a compulsive walker. By visiting a good cobbler before they’re shot, dress shoes last virtually forever. Over the decades, you’ll save big by avoiding buying shoes repeatedly. Good cobblers can handle leather and luggage repairs; so my classic briefcase looks five years old but is now over 25.
I haven’t suffered a barber in over 40 years. Cutting your own hair saves money and time, big time. I use scissors and comb, like barbers. But self-cutting kits are easy and cheap online.
Anyone can save hundreds to thousands via energy savers like dropping your thermostat five degrees at night while using an electric blanket. Google: “home energy savers”
Things I never leave home without:
Paper clips can multi-task. When a zipper pull-tab breaks, on pants, suitcase, whatever— the clip threads through the zipper’s hole. Works for months. I’ve never, ever replaced it on one pair of pants. I have large clips permanently zippering my beloved old suitcase. They’re as comfortable as manufacturer’s tabs.
But $15 buys enough zipper repair gear online for permanent fix-its. Paper clips also make temporary fasteners (like a chain link or key chain). With one end straightened they make great pokers—or a hook to pull—when things get stuck in small awkward places. Safety pins make great fasteners, too.
Duct tape fixes almost anything. Stuck inside clothing it patches most rips temporarily—avoiding embarrassment. Learn to sew and carry traveler’s kits. They’re tiny and cheap. These fix-its salvage clothes, otherwise destroyed, and lets you keep truckin’. I learned sewing via my Boy Scout merit badge days. Its paid off endlessly. And one tiny super glue is super useful and indispensable for so many breaks.
Online $3-to-12 buys a foreign made metal nail clipper with a two-inch knife blade hidden inside—which makes it through airport security. A blade is oh-so handy traveling.
Finally, wherever you are:
Google the phrase learning to sleep well anywhere, anytime. It’s an art form. Makes life comfier. Saves money, too. How? Get the very cheapest, clean, safe hotels — and only be in them for sleeping and hygiene. Get out and do stuff. You’re not traveling to stare at fancy, expensive hotel walls. Motel 6? OK, but Motel 5 1/4 will do.
My biggest, best money saver and cheapskate trick? Never get divorced. Commit to learn to fix each other when broken. My boss and I almost killed each other repeatedly when young. Fix it; you’ll be glad later you did.
Pay up for quality where it really counts; like top-tier healthcare. Otherwise, it’s just blowing money down some rat hole. You won’t become a multi-billionaire by saving money. But saving a little along the way never hurts.
Ken Fisher is founder and executive chairman of Fisher Investments, author of 11 books, four of which were New York Times bestsellers, and is No. 200 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Follow him on Twitter: @KennethLFisher
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
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