10 Money Tips You Shouldn't Ignore

Erin Baehr

With all the personal finance advice out there, it can get pretty overwhelming. But there are some fundamental principles that you shouldn’t overlook.  If you adopt these good habits, you’ll be better prepared for financial emergencies, and for retirement down the road. Let’s take a look at them:

1. There are no shortcuts.

If someone tells you they can double your money in no time with no risk, tell them you already know how.  Then fold your money in half and put it back in your pocket. Risk and reward are correlated. Doubling your money in a short period of time equates to a high return on your investment; that corresponds to taking more risk, not zero risk. There’s nothing wrong with taking appropriate risk, but buying into an investment with those kinds of unrealistic promises is sure to disappoint.

2. Beware of shiny objects.

We are bombarded with new and better gadgets, toys, and opportunities for fun every day, all day. Madison Avenue survives by sowing seeds of discontent with our lives.  Sure, we all know that’s what they’re doing, but they’re really good at it!  We no longer have to look down the street to see what the Joneses are up to, we have Facebook to constantly remind us that our friends have better, newer stuff.  If we’re not careful, those seeds of discontent can take root and before we know it, we’re spending money on things to fill a need we didn’t even know we had. Listen to your mom — don’t pay attention to what everyone else is doing, just worry about yourself and your goals.

3. Watch your waste.

Shiny objects aren’t the only source of needless spending. It’s painful to look at my own life sometimes and realize what I’ve frittered away. Forgotten rebates, fruit that goes bad before we eat it, buying doubles of things because I can’t remember where I put them in the first time. I suspect I’m not alone in this!

4. Save money, and do it intentionally.

Saving regularly through your 401K at work and toward your emergency fund are fundamentals of good financial health. But you should also stash money that you would have spent but decided not to. Like on those shiny objects. Were you going to buy a new tablet but thought better of it? Pat yourself on the back for your frugality, and then take that chunk of change and put it in the bank instead.  Did you decide as a family to skip a dinner out this month to tighten your belts? Put that money away; don’t let it sit in your checking account. That serves two purposes: It keeps the money from evaporating, and it gives you a psychological boost by seeing your savings grow.

5. Don’t wait until your debt is paid off to save.

It may seem more prudent to skip the savings when you’re paying off credit cards, but it’s important to continue to save anyway. It takes time to form a habit, and training yourself to save is a great habit to form. So start now. Aside from that, what will you do when your car breaks down and there is nothing in the bank to pay for the repair? Out comes the credit card, and there goes your progress. It’s better to have some money put away to pay for those expenses, and change the mindset of funding your living expenses with plastic.

6. Don’t deprive yourself.

While you’re doing all these great, disciplined things with your money, don’t forget to let loose and have a little fun with it sometimes. Being too strict with your spending can lead to feelings of deprivation, which in turn can lead to spending binges. Starvation budgets are much like starvation diets.  When you cheat, you tend to cheat big.

7. Automate your finances. 

Life is busy and the days fly by.  Before you know it the month is almost over, and oops, that bill was due last week.  Schedule at least the minimum payments on your bills, so if you forget, you won’t be penalized with a late fee.  Plan out your monthly bills in advance, and take advantage of free bill pay if your bank offers it.  Automate your savings so you don’t have the opportunity to weigh whether or not you really can save that amount this month.

8. Don’t automate your finances.

Automate what you can, but don’t go on auto-pilot. It’s easy to stop paying attention to what is being charged monthly on your credit card or automatically paid from your bank account. That can make you numb to your spending, and easy for it to get out of control. Even though you have payments automatically scheduled, be sure to review your accounts regularly.

9. Life insurance.

Buy enough life insurance to protect your family.  It’s an extra bill, to cover something that probably won’t happen, but a small price to pay to provide for your loved ones if it does. Group policies at work are usually the easiest to get, and that’s fine, but you should also have coverage you own personally, outside of work. You never know when you will develop a health problem that will affect your insurability, and if you don’t already own a policy when that happens, you could be out of luck. Or rather, your family will be.

10. Decide how much is enough.

Did you ever dream about a raise, and how that would make things more comfortable for you financially?  Then it comes, and things end up just as tight as before, and soon you are dreaming of the next one.  The increases in costs of living play a part no doubt, and our income doesn’t go as far as it used to.  But it is also human nature for us to expand our lifestyle to fit our income. Carefully consider what kind of lifestyle you would like to have, and when you get there, stop. Don’t let it continue to expand. Enjoy the “margin,” or extra, that brings, by saving more or giving to folks or organizations that are dear to your heart.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its affiliates.

More from Credit.com

  • Self-made millionaire: Don't put money in your 401(k)

    Self-made millionaire: Don't put money in your 401(k)

    The self-made millionaire refuses to play by anyone else's rules, particularly when it comes to saving money. "I would never, ever invest money in a 401(k)," Cardone tells CNBC. The popular retirement plans are "traps that prevent people from ever having enough," Cardone writes on his website.

  • Former Wells Fargo banker shares her story of the crushing stress from having to open so many needless customer accounts
    Business Insider

    Former Wells Fargo banker shares her story of the crushing stress from having to open so many needless customer accounts

    When news of the Wells Fargo scandal broke in September, the crushing anxiety that Angie Payden experienced as a banker there three years ago came rushing back. As a Wells Fargo banker, Payden told Business Insider she had "impossible" sales goals to reach. Richele Messick, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, told Business Insider that if this were the case, it would have to be determined on an individual basis.

  • Business
    Real Money

    Market Has Already Decided Election's Outcome

    I'm growing so tired of the recent trading-range action that I was hoping a bit too much that the negative reaction to Apple (AAPL) earnings and the weak action in small-caps might trigger some downside momentum. What happened instead is that the indices bounced right back and are barely unchanged. (Apple is part of TheStreet's Action Alerts PLUS portfolio.)  Breadth is still dicey at 2,600 gainers to 3,900 decliners and the small-caps indices are hanging on by their fingertips to support, but the S&P 500 is showing just a minor loss. It still isn't a very good setup for buying, but the story of this market has been -- and still is -- a lack of momentum in either direction. One question we were

  • Everyone's Dream Boss, Joanna Gaines, Is Hiring
    Country Living

    Everyone's Dream Boss, Joanna Gaines, Is Hiring

    Looking for a career change that might involve farmhouse furniture, Christmas decorations, and plenty of bakery goodies? Magnolia Market, Joanna Gaines' furniture retailer and bakery located at the Silos in Waco, is hiring more staffers to join their teams for the holiday season, the brand announced on Instagram. If you have a knack for preparing tasty treats, for example, Magnolia Flour is looking for bakery sales associates and a baker.

  • Politics
    Bloomberg Video

    Donald Trump Calls Out ‘Mr. Tough Guy’ Joe Biden

    Oct. 25 -- At a rally in Tallahassee, Florida, Donald Trump responds to Vice President Biden’s remark that he’d like to take the GOP nominee “behind the gym.”

  • Exclusive: WHO cancer agency asked experts to withhold weedkiller documents

    Exclusive: WHO cancer agency asked experts to withhold weedkiller documents

    By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - The World Health Organization's cancer agency - which is facing criticism over how it classifies carcinogens - advised academic experts on one of its review panels not to disclose documents they were asked to release under United States freedom of information laws. In a letter and an email seen by Reuters, officials from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) cautioned scientists who worked on a review in 2015 of the weedkiller glyphosate against releasing requested material. The review, published in March 2015, concluded glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic," putting IARC at odds with regulators around the world.

  • Internal emails show McDonald’s turnaround is in trouble
    Business Insider

    Internal emails show McDonald’s turnaround is in trouble

    McDonald's turnaround is facing a major roadblock. The email was summarizing a September meeting between McDonald's executives and franchise leaders. McDonald's did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment on the documents.

  • 10 Worst States for Taxes on Your Retirement Nest Egg

    10 Worst States for Taxes on Your Retirement Nest Egg

    Retirees have special concerns when evaluating state tax policies. For instance, the mortgage might be paid off, but how bad are the property taxes—and how generous are the property-tax breaks for seniors? Are Social Security benefits taxed? What about other forms of retirement income—including IRAs and pensions? Does the state impose its own estate tax that might subtract from your legacy? The answers might just determine which side of the state border you’ll settle on in retirement. These 10 states impose the highest taxes on retirees, according to Kiplinger’s exclusive 2016 analysis of state taxes. Three of them treat Social Security benefits just like Uncle Sam does—taxing as much as 85%

  • Tesla shares soar after posting second quarterly profit ever

    Tesla shares soar after posting second quarterly profit ever

    Tesla (TSLA) shares soared Wednesday after the company posted its second profitable quarter ever and beat analyst expectations for the third quarter by a wide margin. In a conference call Wednesday night, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company currently believes the fourth quarter will be profitable excluding non-cash stock-based expenses, and added there is a "chance" Tesla will be profitable even taking those things into account. Tesla said it earned 71 cents a share on an adjusted basis in the third quarter on $2.3 billion in revenue.

  • Apple 'leaks its own Macbook Pro laptop revamp'
    BBC News

    Apple 'leaks its own Macbook Pro laptop revamp'

    Apple appears to have leaked images of its next-generation laptop ahead of a press conference on Thursday. The photos support claims that the Macbook Pro will include a panel above its keyboard that replaces physical function keys with a thin display showing touch-sensitive text and graphics, and a fingerprint sensor. The images were discovered in an update to the MacOS operating system and first appeared on the MacRumors news site. Such "accidents" are not uncommon. In September, Apple tweeted and then deleted a video showing off the iPhone 7's new features ahead of its launch. Earlier in April, it referred to MacOS on its website two months before officially revealing it was rebranding the

  • Cashing in small pensions 'more popular'
    BBC News

    Cashing in small pensions 'more popular'

    A rising number of retirees are cashing in their pension pots but the amount they typically withdraw has fallen, figures show. Savers can now cash in their pension pot from the age of 55. When the access was permitted for the first time last year, people were taking out sums averaging close to £20,000. The latest tax authority figures show typical withdrawals have fallen to about £10,000. This is evidence of retirees using the pension reforms to cash in smaller pension pots or taking part of their savings in cash while leaving the rest invested in a scheme. Previous research has suggested that the most popular use of the cash is for home improvements. Pension changes People aged 55 and over can

  • Business

    Oil Prices Plunge After API Reports Significant Build To U.S. Crude Stocks

    American crude oil supplies surged upwards by 4.8 million barrels this week, almost completely offsetting last week’s 5.2-million-barrel draw, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API) report released on Tuesday. This week’s inventory build will likely press further down on oil prices, which were already trading down on the market’s increasing uneasiness over the OPEC drama, including Iraq’s OPEC rebellion, Russia’s vague and vacillating comments as to whether they’ll join in a freeze or a cut, and Venezuela’s pleas to get non-OPEC members to cut in proportion to the bloc’s to-be-determined limits. The West Texas Intermediate (WTI) price settled to three-week lows once the report went public Tuesday afternoon.

  • New Wells Fargo CEO to employees: 'We're sorry'
    Associated Press

    New Wells Fargo CEO to employees: 'We're sorry'

    Newly appointed Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan told employees Tuesday that he is "sorry for the pain" that the bank's employees have suffered as a result of the company's sales practices scandal. In the speech, Sloan acknowledged that the bank did not respond to the problems in its branches soon enough and that upper management dodged responsibility for the bad behavior and wrongly placed blame on branch employees. Wells Fargo is enveloped in the biggest scandal in its 164-year history, which earlier this month forced the abrupt retirement this month of its CEO, John Stumpf .

  • News
    Business Insider

    Here’s everything Microsoft just showed off — in under 3 minutes

    Everything you need to know about Microsoft's event today.

  • Anger still flares after judge OKs Volkswagen emissions deal
    Associated Press

    Anger still flares after judge OKs Volkswagen emissions deal

    A federal judge approved the largest auto-scandal settlement in U.S. history Tuesday, giving nearly a half-million Volkswagen owners and leaseholders the choice between selling their cars back or having them repaired so they don't cheat on emissions tests and spew excess pollution. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said the nearly $15 billion deal "adequately and fairly" compensates consumers and gets the polluting vehicles off the road as soon as possible. Under the agreement, owners can choose to have Volkswagen buy back their vehicle regardless of its condition for the full trade-in price on Sept. 18, 2015, when the scandal broke, or pay for repairs.

  • Caterpillar digs deeper into the abyss
    The Street

    Caterpillar digs deeper into the abyss

    Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar ( CAT) took the wrecking ball to its 2016 results, bringing down sentiment about the health of the world economy in the process. Caterpillar reported Tuesday a third-quarter profit of $283 million on sales of $9.2 billion, down from a revised $559 million profit on $11 billion in sales in the same quarter a year prior. For the full year, Caterpillar said it now expects sales of $39 billion compared to previous guidance of between $40 billion and $40.5 billion. The results continue a bad run for Caterpillar, which has attempted to weather weakness in the commodity and energy markets that has led to more than three years of flat to down month-over-month sales by slashing 20% of its global workforce and restructuring its operations.

  • Target plays up value for the holiday season
    Associated Press

    Target plays up value for the holiday season

    From a Broadway-style marketing campaign to more exclusive toys, Target wants to lure shoppers during the final critical months of the year. Since becoming CEO two years ago, Brian Cornell has been trying to reinvigorate Target's cheap-chic status and focusing on categories like fashion, home furnishings and wellness items. Despite the contentious presidential race, Cornell believes shoppers are more upbeat about their financial situation, given low unemployment, less-expensive foods and cheaper gas.

  • Business
    U.S.News & World Report

    How to Save for Retirement When You're Self-Employed

    One of the first things to do when you become self-employed is to start up a retirement account. For many people who are self-employed, an individual retirement account is the simplest option. Instead, you should start out your self-employment with a plan in place to save more for retirement.

  • News
    ABC News

    Ask Brianna: How Can I Get Help Paying for Graduate School?

    "Ask Brianna" is a Q&A column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I'm here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to askbrianna@nerdwallet.com. Q: I want to get an advanced degree, but I'm not sure how to pay for it. How can I get financial aid as a graduate student? A: When I was unhappy at my job in my mid-20s, I daydreamed about going back to school the way some people long for a vacation to Costa Rica. I wanted to spar intellectually with professors instead of eating sad, solo lunches at my desk. I know this makes me a big nerd,

  • Strategist Tom Lee makes case for double-digit S&P 500 return by the end of 2016

    Strategist Tom Lee makes case for double-digit S&P 500 return by the end of 2016

    Stocks look poised to breakout and mount a traditional rally into the end of the year, longtime market bull Tom Lee told CNBC on Wednesday. Lee, co-founder of boutique research firm Fundstrat Global Advisors, put what he calls a "highly probable" 2016 price target on the S&P 500 (^GSPC) of 2,325. In 2015, the S&P 500 ended lower for the year, its worst year since 2008.

  • UA
    Fox Business

    Under Armour Investors Punish CEO Kevin Plank

    Under Armour (NYSE:UA) CEO Kevin Plank is starting to sound like a broken record and investors are losing patience. The stock is seeing its biggest single-day loss in eight years, amid heavy volume, even as Plank downplayed concerns about the company’s declining growth rate on Tuesday. This doesn’t mean the demand for the Under Armour brand has disappeared, but it certainly hasn’t reappeared dollar-for-dollar in our distribution,” a seemingly-frustrated Plank said during post-earnings conference call.

  • 3 No-Brainer Stocks to Buy for Retirement

    3 No-Brainer Stocks to Buy for Retirement

    Retirement investing is not what it used to be. In the old days, one could just invest in the “safe” stocks to buy, in “blue chips,” in a nice ladder of bonds, and do just fine. Alas, the market has significantly changed. Much of this is due to the historically low interest rates we’ve had. The problem with the Federal Reserve’s attempt to goose the economy is that it killed bond yields, forcing retired investors further out onto the risk curve, making it difficult to find safe stocks to buy. That has pushed stock prices far higher than they should be, if one subscribes (as I do) to the Peter Lynch theory that a stock’s price should reflect its net income growth rate to be added to a list of

  • Apple falls, Chipotle gets chomped, Boeing takes off
    Yahoo Finance

    Apple falls, Chipotle gets chomped, Boeing takes off

    Apple (AAPL) share were lower in early trading. Investors clearly not impressed that the company beat earnings expectations by a penny or that revenues basically matched estimates. The focus instead seems to be that Apple’s forecast of profit margins in the current quarter fell short of some expectations.

  • Media companies want U.S. to force AT&T-Time Warner to share customer data

    Media companies want U.S. to force AT&T-Time Warner to share customer data

    NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Media companies plan to ask U.S. regulators to force AT&T Inc (T.N) and Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) to share their trove of customer data if the telecom and content companies merge, fearing the combined behemoth would have an unfair advantage selling targeted mobile advertising, a handful of media executives told Reuters this week. Customer data has become a key to the media industry's future as TV networks strive to provide the same kind of advertising as digital companies like Alphabet's (GOOGL.O) Google and Facebook Inc (FB.O), which tailor pitches according to what they know about their customers. AT&T's proposed $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner would give the media company's networks, such as HBO, Cinemax and Turner, potentially unprecedented data about viewers who have AT&T cell phones and DirecTV accounts.

  • Oil down 1 percent on OPEC worry, offsetting U.S. inventory fall

    Oil down 1 percent on OPEC worry, offsetting U.S. inventory fall

    Oil settled down more than 1 percent on Wednesday even after a surprise drawdown in U.S. crude inventories, as traders remained cautious that OPEC would be able to cut production come late November. U.S. crude stockpiles fell 553,000 barrels last week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said, compared with the 1.7 million-barrel build analysts polled by Reuters forecast. Crude inventories in the world's largest oil producer have fallen unexpectedly in seven of the past eight weeks, bucking the usual autumn trend in which stockpiles rise as refineries go into maintenance season.