7 Surprising Money ‘Rules’ Most People Don’t Know (But Should)

Finance experts reveal the advice that they personally make sure to follow in their own lives.
There's more to money management than setting a budget.
d3sign via Getty Images
There's more to money management than setting a budget.

You’ve probably heard common financial advice like keeping a budget and trying not to spend more than you make. But other tips aren’t as well-known that can help you save a lot of money and create a financially healthy life.

From daily hacks to long-term tips, we talked to financial experts about not-so-obvious money advice they follow. Here’s what to know:

1. Sometimes you have to spend more to save more.

“A low price on a lousy product is actually a terrible deal because you will end up spending more, in the long run, to replace cheaply made items that break easily,” Andrea Woroch, a consumer-finance and budgeting expert, told HuffPost. “Focus on quality and spend more if it means it will last.”

Woroch tries to save on quality merchandise by shopping second-hand for name brands. For big-ticket items, she recommends taking advantage of retail sales events (like Amazon Prime Day) and buying seasonal items (like patio furniture and winter clothing) at the end of the season. Other tips: Participate in free loyalty programs and search for online coupons before making a purchase.

2. Don’t be too restrictive with your budget, and don’t try to change it all at once.

“Although a detailed budget keeps you on track to meet your financial goals, one that is too restrictive will actually backfire quickly due to burnout,” Woroch explained. “[And] if you try to change all your spending habits overnight, it will be difficult to stick to the plan.”

Instead, she suggests making a few small changes to your spending and savings habits — and then building on these once they become routine.

She said it’s also important to make room in your budget for expenses that matter to you. For example, if a dinner date with a friend or partner is a priority, keep this in your budget. Find other ways to cut down on spending, like canceling unused subscriptions and unplugging gadgets to decrease energy bills.

3. Beware of convenient methods of payment, like auto-renew.

“It’s extraordinarily easy now in our society to spend money without thinking about it,” said Anne Lester, author of “Your Best Financial Life.” “You can sign up for auto-renew … you see something cute on Instagram, you go tap and boom, you bought it.”

But being able to buy things too easily can lead to unconscious spending. Instead, Lester advises slowing yourself down to make spending money more of a conscious decision.

One way she does this is to always create a shopping list before she goes into a store or buys items online. For online shopping, she suggests setting aside a specific time once a week to make purchases. When reviewing your list, ask yourself: Do I really need this? Is there a tangible moment when I know I’ll use this? Just making the list will give you time to reflect on whether the purchase is worthwhile.

For subscriptions, it can be easy to forget ones set to “auto-renew.” Lester suggests doing a “subscription cleanse” periodically, reviewing all your subscriptions and canceling the ones you’re no longer using.

Being too restrictive with your budget may actually backfire.
Milko via Getty Images
Being too restrictive with your budget may actually backfire.

4. Automate saving money instead of letting it sit in your checking account.

“You should automate everything you can about saving so that you don’t have to make a conscious decision to do it,” Lester said. “[If you don’t] you set up a conversation … with yourself about what you could be doing with that money, and often you lose because getting stuff is more fun than saving.”

Michael Finke, professor of wealth management at The American College of Financial Services, suggests setting up an automatic transfer to a high-yield savings account. For example, if you get paid at the end of the month, you can set up a transfer on the first day of the next month.

“Money in a checking account can be tempting to spend,” he said. “Making regular transfers to a high-yield savings account can help you build an emergency fund without feeling the pain of writing a check.”

Lester also recommends automatically transferring money to a retirement account. If you work for a company that offers a 401(k) plan, it’s ideal to sign up for the full employer match.

“Not taking advantage of a match is like leaving hundred-dollar bills on the ground,” Finke explained. “Even if you took it out after a year and paid a 10% penalty, you’d still come out way ahead.”

If you don’t have access to a 401(k) plan through work, you can set up an individual retirement account (IRA) and still have money automatically transferred, Lester explained.

5. Pay close attention to even small purchases on your credit card statements.

When reviewing your credit card statements, it’s easy to just focus on the bigger charges. But it’s actually key to also review the smaller line items.

“Not every fraudulent charge is a four-figure shopping spree,” Sara Rathner, personal finance expert at NerdWallet, told HuffPost. “Often, thieves test your card out with a few purchases of just a few dollars.”

These purchases are easy to overlook, and if you miss them, bigger fraudulent charges could follow later on.

Rathner advises checking your credit card statements monthly, and if you see something you don’t recognize (even a few-dollar charge), report it to your credit card company immediately.

6. Have one main investment account and another for short- to mid-term projects.

“[While] most of my clients have at least one long-term [investment] account, I encourage them to consider opening another investment account for mid-term goals,” said Elaine King, a certified financial planner and founder of Family and Money Matters.

Mid-term goals could include buying a home, paying for education, purchasing an investment property or starting a business.

“When separating investment accounts, we aim to match the portfolio allocation to the specific goals and time horizon and, in the end, save you time and money,” she explained. For example, if buying a home is on the short-term horizon, the “real estate fund” should be invested in short-term assets.

7. Most importantly, know there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to personal finances.

“Personal finances [are] personal and seasonal … [they should be] based on values [and] life circumstances,” said Kara Stevens, founder of The Frugal Feminista and author of “Heal Your Relationship With Money.” Once you understand that other people’s priorities are not the same as yours, “you’ll be able to better identify the tools … that make the most sense for you.”

Before creating a financial plan, Patrick Yono, founder and CEO of Sure Life Financial, recommends mapping out what’s important to you: What type of home do you want? What type of work-life balance is best for you? What interests do you want to pursue? Once you have the end goal, then you can figure out how to earn the money you need, what type of investments to make, etc.

Stevens added that we also need to be flexible and responsive to what’s happening in our day-to-day and in the larger world and not feel bound by our financial “rules.”

“There are a lot of rules of thumb out there when it comes to money, but don’t feel pressure to follow them all,” Rathner said. “The best thing you can build into your personal financial plan is the flexibility to make changes as needed.”

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