The Simple Action No One Does That Will Make You A Millionaire

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What if I told you there was a simple,  almost guaranteed way to become a millionaire?

No, this isn’t a late night informercial. This isn’t a system you can get for just $997.97.  This isn’t quick… and its not definitely easy.

But it is VERY simple.

Do I have your attention yet? Good. Because this is important.

The simple, profound answer to all your money problems is this:

Spend less than you make. 

I know, this is probably not what you were expecting. You wanted something deep, something revolutionary, something you’ve never heard before. However, sometimes the most life changing truths are the most obvious.

Related: How to Become a Millionaire: The Ultimate Guide

The Problem with Getting Rich

During college I made $8.50 an hour working at Cold Stone Creamery, part time. Including tips and after taxes I brought home about $1,000 per month plus all the ice cream I could eat.

Somehow,  I still survived, albeit a few pounds heavier.  I drove a junky car, lived in an apartment with four roommates (even rented out my own room and slept on the couch in the living room… I was house hacking before I even knew what that meant!)

Related: How to “Hack” Your Housing and Get Paid to Live for Free

Finances were tight.. but I made it. I didn’t have any extra money at the end of the month, but I wasn’t wracking up the credit card debt either. I just lived. 

A few years later (in between house flips as the market was crashing) on I got a full time job at a bank making $15 an hour.  It was the most money I had ever made, and after taxes I was bringing home $2,000 per month. My wife was also working and bringing home about $1,000 per month from Starbucks and we were loaded, compared to previously.

But… somehow… finances were still tight.  I didn’t have any extra money at the end of the month, but I wasn’t wracking up the credit card debt either. I just lived.

Later, I bought a 24 unit apartment complex and a number of other rentals using various “low money down” strategies. I was able to quit my job and live on the cash flow that I was bringing in, making almost $4,000 a month in income. It was the most I had ever made and I truly felt I had “made it.”

But… somehow… finances were still tight.  I didn’t have any extra money at the end of the month, but I wasn’t wracking up the credit card debt either. I just lived. 

I have friends who make $200,000 a year… and their finances are tight. I have friends who make $22,000 a year and their finances are tight.


Because people spend what they earn! Its not always a bad thing, but the fact is: it’s almost impossible to get rich when you spend what you earn.  (Tweet This!)

When I was in college, I slept in the back of my car on road trips with my buddies. Today I sleep in 3-star hotels I find on for $99 a night. In a few years, I’ll probably be staying at the Marriott for $300 a night, booking directly on their website.

I used to drive a 1994 Toyota Camry I got from my parents in high school. Later I bought a Nissan Altima. Today I drive a new Prius. In a few years I’ll probably drive a new Camaro.

I could go on and on. There was never a point where I said to myself “I’m going to spend more money now because I make more.”

It’s just how the world works.

And it’s hurting my financial future.


I mean, is it really such a bad thing? I mean, we work hard: don’t we deserve nice stuff? What’s the big deal?

If You Want to Build Wealth…

Yes- there are ways to build wealth without using a lot of your own money. In fact, I’m working on a book right now on the very subject of No (and Low) Money Down Investing.


True wealth is built through compound interest. For the non-nerds out there, that simply means: wealth is build by recycling money.

$1 turns to $2.
$2 turns to $4.
$4 turns to $8.
$8 turns to $16

And so on.

However, if you always spend that $1 before you can send it out to make more, you’ll never build wealth.  You’ll be stuck in the rat race forever.

Rather than your money earning you more money, your money will be used to try and maintain your current lifestyle. Every raise, every bonus, every dollar will be used to propitiate the myth that you need to keep going on this wheel.

You’ll be trapped.

Building Wealth by Living Below Your Means

In the next few years, you are going to make more money. Perhaps its from a new job or your real estate investing business takes off.

Either way, your income will probably rise, as incomes generally do.

What if you didn’t match your new income with your lifestyle? What if, instead, you could save that extra money and put it to work for you?

Let’s consider a plausible situation: your boss gives you a raise.  You’ve been doing such a great job, he offers you $500 a month extra in your take-home pay.

Most people would simply take that $500 and upgrade their life. But not you.

Instead, you start to save that $500 per month. Maybe you put it into stocks. Maybe you invest in LendingClub. Maybe you start investing in real estate with it (good choice, in my opinion.)

Saving that $500 per month will get you $6,000 after a year. After 3 years you’ll have $18,000. That’s enough for a down payment on a single family house in the midwest. Now you are making $500 from the job and another $300 in cash flow from the house. Plus, your boss gives you another $500 raise. Now you are saving $1300 per month. After 2 years, you have $31,200. Enough for a down payment on a larger property. Maybe you sell the first and take the profit and fold it into the next.

How long do you think it would take to build wealth using this strategy?

(Want to know? Check out my article How to Make a Million Dollars in Real Estate: A Step by Step Path. )

It doesn’t take much time at all and its much better than the “Slave for 40 years then retire on social security” strategy that most Americans live for.

I’m reminded of the quote Dave Ramsey often says: “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”

I like that. After all, building wealth takes sacrifice. (Tweet This!)

Are you willing to sacrifice?

The Meaning of Life Is Not…

I love to read.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the greatest periods of growth in my life have been triggered by great books. A few financial books, in particular, have changed the course of my life:

2.) Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
3.) The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
4.) The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

Interestingly enough, as different as these books are, they all told me the same thing:

Life is about more than how much money I make. (Tweet This!)

Money is not the answer to happiness. If you ask a $40k income earner how much they need to be happy, they’ll probably say $60k. Ask a $60k income earner how much they need, they’ll say $80k. And on and on it goes.

I know I would love to make $200,000 per year… but, would anything change? Sure, I would stay at those nicer hotels, upgrade my house, upgrade my car, but still be just as happy as I am today. This “american trap” to level up your lifestyle to your current income level is hard to escape.

Instead, I’m making a conscience decision to stick with my current spending level no matter how my income grows. Sure, I’ll probably splurge. But I will no longer be held captive by the trap – I’m going to determine my future, not my neighbor The Jones’.

I think the best advice I’ve heard on how to do this is by paying yourself first. In other words, come up with your savings goal and save that money first, before you pay another other bill.  Then, with the remainder, pay your bills.  As I said, people always live up to their means, and its tough to fight it. Rather than fight it, I’m going to work with it by making my first bill my savings.

Will you?

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on,,, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather, and How to Invest in Real Estate, which he wrote alongside Joshua Dorkin. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.


    • Personally, whenever I can make money, for little or no work; I am a happy camper. I’d rather have the $4, 000.00 to start with. And then re-invest that money, repeatedly. That will become $20, 000.00 consistently; because thankfully money tends to attract more money, when invested properly. I love Compound Interest. Capitalism is a Beautiful thing.

  1. Instead of paying your savings 1st. I have our family on a set monthly paycheck, which is below what we actually make. Whether I have a great month or a crappy month we live on the same amount. If you make money in chunks (big commissions one month, only a little the next, etc) this works well.
    Also the idea of moving up financially and not being any happier is known as the hedonic treadmill
    It states that we have a baseline happiness that we return to relatively quickly after a new purchase or raise, etc. This is why I too was happy in a cheap apartment and a low paying job, and I am about the same level of happy now at 41 yrs old and more “things”. Because our stuff doesn’t make us happy long term.
    Lastly I would recommend the book, The Millionaire Next Door. It studies 1st generation millionaires. The results are in line with Brandon’s. Among 1st gen millionaires, the most popular vehicle was a Ford F-150, the most they ever spent on a pair of shoes was $150, and on and on. They spent less than they made! Do you want to look rich or be rich.

  2. Terrific blog post Brandon!!! Spot on advice!! Your advice here is something Matt and I have always lived by as well. This strategy is one of the ways we have been able to leave our jobs and become full time real estate investors!

  3. Karin DiMauro on

    Great stuff, Brandon! These kinds of articles are just as important as any of the other how-to stuff on BP.

    I like each of those books you recommended, and would add “The Snowball” for a great example of living below your means. This biography of Warren Buffett was such an eye-opener for me, watching how he consistently squirreled away money for years on end, wore scuffed-up shoes and plain clothing, etc etc. Now he travels by private plane but still prefers Dairy Queen to a high-end steak house. Fascinating. Of course he’s upgraded his life in a number of ways, but he’s lived by the principles you outline here.

    It’s tough, though, isn’t it? We work so hard to get to a certain point and want to kick back and reward ourselves w/a cushier lifestyle. I’m working hard to edit that mentality. Dave Ramsey is the man!

  4. A great way to get someone to think about this: Ask the question, who is wealthier? Someone who earns a salary of $2,500 per month or someone who earns $12,000 a month? Almost everyone will say the person who earns $12,000 is wealthier. The real answer: If they both spend all their money every month, they are both equally poor.
    I live on 50% of my income per month. If I get a raise, 50% of that raise is mine to “upgrade” my lifestyle but I only live on 50% per month. Everything else goes to savings and investing.

    • I also live by that principle the best that I can. I have been self employed for 12 yrs now and at first I was spending everything I had and it would get scary when some months I didn’t make enough and then I had to pull out the credit cards, cash advances and NO savings to speak of.. Then I re-did my entire life and slashed all my bills and cut out everything that was not necessity and created a very well defined budget.. I try to live off 50% that’s the goal always but not very well feasible as I support 3 people and my budget is almost pretty barebones. The one splurge I have is good food as YOUR health is your wealth and nothing else is MORE important than that. but whenever I think of buying a new car or house for myself I look at half my income and say NOPE can’t afford it yet.. And it’s funny I also say the same thing. If I make 100 grand a year then I get to live off 50,000 and invest the other half.. etc etc.. I think this way of life it’s kind of hard to ever get yourself into trouble.

    • Jennifer T.

      So true! I had a friend who was dating an attorney that made a comfortable 6 figure income. And he was always broke. In fact, a number of times he had to borrow money from my friend (who made 3-4 times less than him) to “make ends meet” until his next paycheck.

      He might have out earned her by a good bit, but she was a saver and had a substantially better net worth.

  5. Cory Binsfield on

    Excellent post Brandon!

    One of the ways I avoid over spending may sound a bit strange to folks.

    Whenever I end up with extra cash on hand, I try to buy another property.

    By purchasing another cash flowing property, it ties up my money and make it extremely difficult to tap in an emergency or for an impulsive purchase-oops, bought a BMW!

  6. The King of living below your means and retiring early, Mr. Money Mustache. Love this blog he wrote:

    Most people do not like to sacrifice and in my opinion, focus too much on saving and not enough on spending. I didn’t learn how to effectively monitor my spending until I moved to Belize. Now I live well below my means, consciously consume, and when I return to the States soon, will be doing the same thing.

    If you understand that for every dollar you spend, it is someone else’s income. Put another way, every dollar you spend is one less dollar you have to invest. Once you get that concept, spending less becomes much more enticing.

      • I learned a lot from Mr. MMM as well. He really helped me to focus on necessities and slashing expenses. I also learned from his website not matter what investments I make, the most important thing is how much of my income I am currently saving. Now that I have been more active on BP, I use that saved income to buy more properties. Brandon, thanks for sharing your money saving/investing articles! I like that you have simple actionable plans that are intuitive and easy to follow. I feel it is hard to limit your spending unless you reward yourself somehow. In order to consistently save for the long term I think you cannot feel like you are depriving yourself. There must be some “fun” in your life. Similar to a workout routine by body builders, they usually have a cheat day where they get to eat anything they want. I guess by paying yourself first that is similar to rewarding your self as long as you still get to budget for Starbucks each month or something similar!

  7. Jeff Brown

    EVERYTHING starts from spending less than we make. The rest is HappyTalk while whistling through the graveyard. I still live on far less than comes in. Who knows how many thousands of young folks you’ve helped with this post, Brandon? This is truly a public service post.

  8. Great post Brandon.

    I think you make some great points. The vast majority of people spend what they make regardless of how much they make. If they only were educated in the concepts in your article things could be so much different.

    Why they don’t teach these types of concepts in early on in middle school and high school is beyond me.

    Stop and think for a minute how differently people would think if they were educated about these concepts before they went out into the world. Most teenagers don’t get this type of education from their parents because they didn’t get it from their parents. Great job.


    • Sharon,
      I came from the old country and they do teach about value of saving money in the old country because there is not much to go around. Here in the blessed US the corporations are running the show and we are bombarded with commercials 24/7 and someone even suggested to put ads on the toilet paper so we would still be thinking about spending while we are answering the nature’s call (by the way a guy in Florida uses urinals for “we buy houses”) so one must have fire in the belly, a vey clear financial freedom goal in mind and be very discipline in order to achieve that goal. It is doable but very difficult (if it was easy, everybody would be doing it). At the end “everybody likes to go to heaven but nobody likes to die”.

      • That’s hilarious Kay. We buy houses on urinals.

        Sadly most children aren’t taught the basics of budgeting and how money can work for you. Then they grow up and they don’t teach their children because they don’t have that information themselves. It’s a cycle that repeats itself.


    • Jennifer T.

      I read a fascinating article several years ago that looked at the psychology of spending vs. saving money. They did an experiment with a fairly large sample (I think a few hundred people) and followed their income vs. spending for 20 years. What the experiment found was it didn’t matter how much someone earned…their spending habits did not change over time.

      For example, if they lived paycheck to paycheck. They always lived paycheck to paycheck, no matter how much they made. If they saved about 10% of their income, they’d save about 10% of their income regardless of how little or how much they made. And the same was true for whatever that savings percentage might be.

      That article really opened my eyes to the power of our psychological make-up, even when it comes to finances. By being aware of what I was doing, I was able to break the chain of being a “little bit of a saver” to now consistently saving a higher percentage of my income. I’m definitely not perfect, But, I get ahead by keeping my expenses to a minimum. In fact, I spend less money on my basic bills than I did 15 years ago (when I made substantially less money)…though, a lot of that has to do with buying a house instead of renting.

  9. While I agree spending less than you make is the key to getting your personal finances in order, I disagree with the MMM philosophy. You can use the save, save, save philosophy only to a point. You are limited by your income. I live frugally but invest heavily in my business. I could never get to where I am at by simply being conservative and not taking risk and investing heavily. The MMM philosophy is to use his own man power to accomplish things, ie riding a bike, doing “high paying jobs” like carpentry work on his homes etc. My most valuable asset is my time, I can generate new business, and network in the time that would be spent doing manual work. I am not saying you can’t become a millionaire by saving and being frugal, but do you just want to be a millionaire. I don’t know about you but settling at millionaire just doesn’t cut it for me. I enjoy working and talking to people and really don’t like saving pennies.

  10. Great post!!

    Here’s another relevant link from MMM that digs into this idea some more

    Avoiding lifestyle inflation by not instantly allocating your raises to more spending, is a great strategy, because it doesn’t really require giving anything up – sacrifice through omission, as it were.

    Things get even more exciting though, once you actually make conscious decisions to optimize and trim down your “lifestyle” (consumer spending). Making purposeful steps towards your goal makes you feel bad-ass and sets up a virtuous circle that just builds momentum over time.

    Keep savin’!

  11. Brandon this is always a great topic to remind people. My parents drilled the philosophy of spending less than you make into our heads from the day we were born. My dad didn’t get a credit card until he was almost 50 and then only because they started traveling and needed a credit card to get a hotel (usually Motel 6) when they traveled. They never had a car loan and had a mortgage as their only debt.

    The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley is great. You should also read his follow ups where he digs deeper into what you can do to build wealth; “The Millionaire Mind”, and “Stop Acting Rich”. Stop Acting Rich is especially on point.

    And his first 3 books are great if you own any kind of business – Marketing to the Affluent, Selling to the Affluent, and Networking with the Affluent and Their Advisers. I re-read those books every couple of years and use the actions described to build my businesses.

  12. Excellent discussion.I am especially intrigued by the varying thoughts about drastic budgeting and using your own labor to economize vs applying your skills in a more focused way to bring in a higher return. I don’t think there is any “right” answer there – more a matter of perspective and individual skill sets and inclinations. Of course the overarching concept of spending less than you make is a foundation to all.

    Suzette, I too would add “Your Money or Your Life” to the list potentiality life changing books.
    Read it a long time ago and though I choose to not employ many of the strategies and continued to trade my life as a worker for the option to spend more money and hopefully worry a little less about it. But I felt it was important in my being able to know that I was making that choice vs it just happening.

    We are all going to make different choices in how we approach the economic part of our lives, it seems like the important thing is to give ourselves the awareness of what options there are and ways to have control over the choices we make .

  13. Brandon, Great post. One additional benefit of this strategy – it helps greatly during downturns. last downturn was my 3rd as an investor and due to living this way, got through the downturn with no lifestyle change and no loss of assets.

  14. My uncle used to say, his ex-wife (my aunt) made him a millionaire, he used to have two million, now he has one…lol

    But you are spot on. Spend less than you make is a difficult concept for people. After a few years, you will hate to go back to being a millionaire…

  15. Major thumbs-up!! Brandon, you’re totally on-point. The BEST way to become wealthy is to live like a college student (or maybe just one or two notches above a college student) for as long as possible … and shovel every dime into investing!

  16. Spending is more fun than saving.

    Sometimes the obvious, when put in writing, can be remarkably clarifying. The above can be important to consider when one spends on experiences.

    Few people grow up, leave their parents’ home, then think, “I want to go out and live a SMALL life. Then I want to meet a wife, live a small life with her, and then have kids and teach them how to live a small life too.”

    But then that’s exactly what most go do.

    One can only cut out so much to the downside. But when one is financially educated and acts, there is UNLIMITED upside.

    Spending on experiences with loved ones – though often not required – enhances our quality of life. That is our time.

    Life is made up of time. Time is all that we’ve got.

    Live well and give well.

  17. Jennifer Kurtz on

    Great book suggestions, I would have to agree on Napoleon Hill and the 4 hour workweek. I saw some more recommendations in the comments I look forward to reading. If someone gave me twoincome figures and said which is wealthier, rather than saying the obvious higher income, my question would be “tell me how much time is involved in generating this income.” My time to live and experience the world in the ways I want to is my currency. I save and invest with the goal of freedom, not a 40 year slave to someone else’s business 🙂

  18. Michael Dorovich on

    Excellent article, I agree 100%. Also recommended ‘Secrets of the Millionaire Mind’ and the ‘jar system’ of saving for different areas in your life, including the ‘play account.’

  19. Just want to add one note; money sitting around in a savings account loses value…

    You may make around 1% in a savings account (if you’re lucky) but you lose between 1-3% on inflation every year. You may still have that same dollar in the account but the power of that dollar has dwindled. The strength of currency varies every minute of every day and can be seen in foreign exchange. (another vehicle to invest in for some)


  20. Nice work Brandon!
    Saving is definitely the key to wealth. I think MMM has some great ideas for saving, but I think he goes overboard with it. He really emphasizes spending as little as possible on everything! i don’t think people should be afraid to spend money if they are also saving and investing. We only live life once and I want it to be as exciting as possible. To me being frugal should not be the end goal but a way to get started. Having goals for nice things or things you really want also help you achieve more and make more. The more money you make the easier it is to save.

    When I stopped limiting myself about what I thought I could achieve or how much money I could make, things exploded for me. I think saving is extremely important, but making a lot of money while having a saving attitude can be a game changer. Those goals and shiny things can help you motivate yourself and make more money.

    Hope that made sense. It’s difficult to explain saving and spending at the same time.

  21. Robert Blanchard on

    You make many great points Brandon. Some of my relatives spend every cent that they bring in. I doubt they do not even have an emergency fund set up which is baby step 1 per Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course.

    Many people that I know live paycheck to paycheck and do not know how to change their financial outlook.

    What will it take for the schools to start teaching basic financial planning in schools?

    Real Estate Investing allows many people to become millionaires even if only on paper.

    I will go out and get the books mentioned here and start reading them.

    I read somewhere once, that every day you should try to accomplish something to improve your life or your bottom line. If you throughout your life being happy being just over broke, it will be hard to have a retirement that is not dependent on relatives or the government. The Social Security program will be drastically different by the time that I retire. I am not planning on getting much back out of it, even though I will have been forced to contribute to it for many years.

    Now off to do some time management so I can get some books read.


  22. Brandon!!!! Dude!!!! Book turned out great! It’s been about 3 days and I’m about half way through it. Great article! You have me thinking of starting a PF blog. My housing is hacked and I’m saving up a slush fund and down payment for a 4 plex. Next summer I may have to ride out and buy you coffee or lunch or something! Appreciate all the inspiration.

  23. Shane Woods

    Wow Brandon! I just saw this, I’m late to the party, but awesome stuff. I haven’t read any of the books, but I’ve listened to Dave Ramsey, and my grandparents, and a good landlord friend for years. And watched my parents, and many MANY other people do all the wrong things. Living at or above their means consistently.

    A good lesson can be learned from “old People”. Of course most of them are gone now, but folks who lived through the depression at the VERY least knew how to pay yourself first and live below your means because you never know when things might get worse. Now, that’s a great start, but taking that too far can get us into that “scarcity” mindset, so I think it has to be coupled with taking those savings and investing it. The “abundance” mentality…

    At my previous job, I had a general idea what I would make every month, but it could shift drastically every paycheck. We had to figure out a budget that worked. We set our budget on what take-home for a 35 hour week would look like. We didn’t always make it, but we did save everything we could above and beyond that most paychecks. Over time the savings account slowly built up and when we needed that money for extra slow months it was there. And when we wanted a vacation once a year it was there. But wait…we’re spending it all again… dangit…

    So now I have an awesome knew job where I know what I’m going to be paid every month, and we’ve adapted our budget to saving a bigger chunk. We truly pay ourselves first, and we’re about to take that cash and buy a house. Then we’ll have a couple hundred extra each month not going to rent…we’ll build up an Oh-S*** fund for the house, and keep socking the money away until there’s enough to put towards something that will make money. RE might be a good choice 🙂

    Thanks again for this Brandon! I’m going to keep this around and show my kids as they get old enough to understand.

  24. Adam West


    Love it B! I just wish I’d read all this when I was 19 and making $8.50 an hour. My fiance and I are giving ourselves a financial makeover right now and this was a great read, for motivation. Since I got in to real estate, found BP, started hanging out with “Financially Literate” people, my finances have seen alot of benefit. I make plenty of money, but like you said, always live up to my means. I was good about not living above them, but now I’m working on living below them, and I have to say…the stress relief has been the biggest benefit! Not to mention all the savings!

    Again, thanks for the great read, B! Just got your new book in the mail from Amazon, skimmed through and it looks awesome! Digging in to it tonight and looking forward to it!!

    Keep up the great work!

  25. Wendy Black

    Sorry, but I find this article simplistic.

    Obviously, if you spend less than you earn, and you invest wisely, you will be ahead of the game. But millions of people are not in good health, and they have to deal with pricey, medical issues.
    Insurance does not cover everything. Many people cannot live below their means because their funds are either stretched because of their own health issues, or they’re helping other family members with their medical problems or other emergencies.

  26. Hey! I just got a raise myself and just last night I figured out how much to bump up my husband’s 401k contribution to match it! (I know, I know. I feel guilty for not having it maxed out already but we do have other investments goin’ on.) No inflated living for us, just inflated saving, yahoooo!

  27. Greg Baker


    I love this post, my wife and I have been running a to-the-penny budget while tracking every purchase for the last couple years since we decided it was time to have a child. As you may, or may not know, childcare alone can be a solid $1,000 a month, imagine how many bags of kitty litter that is! It’s been hard, dare I say ridiculously hard, to break patterns of behavior that I was raised with, and continued into my own adulthood. I’m proud to say we’ve come a very long way and are living the same as we did before a significant wage increase at work and thus are saving a fair amount of money on a monthly basis.

    After a few days of reflection, here’s where I struggle…

    Over the last year, I’ve seen two cases of unexpected health cases that scare the crap out of me. An employee in our school district in her 40’s was unexpectedly diagnosed with a brain tumor and has since passed away. A teacher retired last June in great health, great spirit in both mind and body, he was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer last summer and has been on chemo/radiation since with a not very hopeful prognosis.

    Secondly, I do not want to always live frugally. I want to move from our starter home to a larger home with land, we want to travel, I want to order a beer at dinner rather than a water, my wife wants a weekly cleaner, I want a lawn mowing service, hell, I want a Porsche 911 rather than a Prius.

    How do you allow yourself some “liabilities” while not sliding down the slippery slope? I think the best conclusion I’ve come to at this point is identify a % to save no matter the salary increase. So, maybe we insist on 25% savings of our monthly net income no matter how much our salaries increase. This savings is invested in investments, and we continue to roll that cash flow into investments. Eventually either the 75% that goes towards monthly expenses and minor splurges slowly starts accounting for the “wants” listed above, or the cash flow from savings snowball becomes so significant that it covers the “wants.”

    There are significant flaws in this, ex. if my salary doubles and we’ve already been living on 75% of my previous salary, it’s wasteful to just continue the 75%/25% with larger numbers.

    I’m rambling and I give up for now, but I guess my conundrum is how can I enjoy life knowing it can end at any second while also living responsibly. My extremist personality does not compromise well without some type of rules to hold myself to!

    • Janet Reindl

      Hi Greg — I’m just reading this post and the comments for the first time, but I wanted to respond to your comment.

      One simple way to adjust savings as your income increases is to adjust the percentages. For example: You make $2000/month, save 25% ($500) and live on 75% ($1500). Two years later you’re a money-making machine and have increased the monthly take to $6000. Instead of inflating your lifestyle to accommodate $4500 (the new 75% figure) which is way more than you really need, adjust the percentages to, say, 50/50 ($3000 to save, $3000 to live on) or 60/40 ($3600 to savings still leaves you with $2400 to cover your existing expenses plus a few of those “wants”).

      Remember that Hedonic treadmill, though — as you add more bright, shiny objects to your life you will quickly adjust to that level of consumption and will be just about as happy as you were before you added them. Keep an eye on what truly makes you happy and, if given a choice, go for experiences over things. Good Luck!

  28. Jerred Morris

    Great post Brandon. However, I am of the belief that you can’t save your way to financial freedom. There are to many unexpected expenses that come up and we really haven’t seen wages rise over the last 8 years but we have seen cost of living go way up.

    At some point you have to change the way you see money. You have to find ways to make your money work for you. This expands your earning ability and builds equity.

    I’ve never met anyone that saved their way to wealth.

  29. Hey Brandon,
    Thanks a bunch for your articles and recommendations, particularly with the books.
    I read your article: ‘The Simple Action No One Does That Will Make You A Millionaire,’ and have a couple of questions to ask if I may:

    You wrote:
    “…come up with your savings goal and save that money first, before you pay another other bill.  Then, with the remainder, pay your bills.”

    The remainder of what, from where?

    You wrote:
    “Saving that $500 per month will get you $6,000 after a year. After 3 years you’ll have $18,000. That’s enough for a down payment on a single family house in the midwest. Now you are making $500 from the job and another $300 in cash flow from the house. “

    Where did the $300 cash flow come from?

    Look forward to your reply,
    Kim Sturdy

  30. Minh Le

    “Saving that $500 per month will get you $6,000 after a year. After 3 years you’ll have $18,000. That’s enough for a down payment on a single family house in the midwest.”

    OMG, you’re helping to make the turnkey companies rich at someone else’s expense. Haven’t you heard what Jay Hinrichs has to say about investing in the Midwest? LOL!!!

  31. Vincent Crane

    Living cheaply and saving up to buy that first house that cashflows, or by househacking, and then reinvesting all that into more and more rentals, soon enough you’re retired in your 40’s instead of your 60’s. Great post and it is absolutely the one simple rule to getting rich. Also another part of it, spending your excess cash on assets that make you money (stocks, real estate) instead of liabilities (clothes, cars, apartment rent, huge trips, costly hobbies).

  32. fabio Martinez

    When I was a full time employee and even as self employed, I always took that raise and divided it in half, took one have and saved it or invested it and the other half I lived with! Life is also an investment! Like travels, food and entertainment!

  33. Anthony Okpara on

    I love this article …am looking forward to become an online client that buy financial instruments and invest in asset to forward my goals in life …I hope you too are part on the forex n binary options company , in 30 minutes your life can change but be devoted. Thanks .

  34. Isaac Rothermel

    Self-control is so hard to build…it helps to decide upon a set percentage from each paycheck to set aside. I completed college online to save money, but still had to borrow money from my parents/grandparents to pay for it, so I paid them a good chunk from each check. Still owe about 4k to them, but once I start my next job I’m going to be raising that percentage I set aside (I think it was at 60% — gonna push it up to at least 75% after tithing), and split the money set aside — half goes to college debt, half goes to my investment fund. I like what Cory said — money sitting around gets in trouble. I know a problem for me will be the temptation to spend that money while I’m saving enough for a down payment.

    Thanks for the great article, Brandon!

  35. Paul MacInnis

    Reading this is so much better than the crap I used to waste my time reading!!!
    Great stuff, Brandon!! I’ve been pleased to be able to put your advice to work and I’ve slowly built up to 17 units investing in real estate!

  36. Brian Garrett

    I had to laugh when I read the “spend less than you make” comment. Reminds me of when I went and saw Biggest Looser’s Jillian Michaels speak and she promised to share her weight loss secret… “Eat less, move more”.

    Totally spot on. 🙂

  37. This is a very good article and the books cited, specifically “The Millionaire Next Door” are full of wisdom. The lessons, however, were presaged in a wonderful book from the 1920s, “The Richest Man in Babylon”. The Wikipedia entry on that book is very complete and recommended if you don’t have time to read the original. Personally, I bought several copies; one for my library and one for each of my children. It’s not at all technical and the principles are very well explained.

    Sadly, it is true that medical conditions that affect our ability to work and create unsustainable expenses change everything. That doesn’t change the fact that for most of us, living below our means is a primary strategy to building wealth when combined with common sense investment practices.

  38. Ted Carter

    As some one who is older, 66 and comfortably retired. When I retired we had no debt – large house – land in the country – all rentals paid for – IRA that wasn’t touched for 32 years.
    All because of spending less than we made. ALWAYS seeking value – no new cars – new cars what a waste of money – in whatever we had to buy – my grown children do the same thing. People do not take the time to seek value. They just find a way to pay for it – CC debt – and move on to the next thing to buy. I see it in friends, family and especially my tenants. It isn’t what you make it is what you do with what you do make.

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