Underrated Pieces of Financial Advice That Changed Our Outlook

These lessons have helped us reframe our relationship with money and build sustainable spending habits.

DRAKULA IMAGES/ Getty Images
DRAKULA IMAGES/ Getty Images

Many of us get uncomfortable when talking about our finances, but the truth is, when we share the tips that have helped us feel less stressed and more in control of our money, we help each other build habits that support our well-being in the long run. 

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the underrated and unexpected pieces of advice that changed their perspective around money. Which of these lessons resonates with you?

“It’s not what you make, it’s what you save.”

“The most underrated piece of financial advice I heard came from my hard-working immigrant grandmother. She said, ‘It’s not what you make, it’s what you save.’”

—A. McGovern, writer, San Francisco, CA

“Consider the total cost of ownership.”

“The best money advice I received was from my parents. They encouraged me to think about the ‘total cost of ownership.’ The cost of buying a house isn’t just the mortgage — it’s insurance, maintenance, interests, furnishings, and utilities. The total cost of taking a new job could include more gas for the commute, parking fees, higher clothing expenses, longer and day care hours. To make the smartest decisions, we have to consider the full financial impacts of our decisions.”

—Donna Peters, executive coach and podcast host, Atlanta, GA

“Make a business case for your purchases.”

“When I started my business, I heard another entrepreneur say, ‘You need to make a case for anything you purchase.’ So no matter what I buy, rather it is something that is five dollars or five thousand dollars, I pause and make a business case for it. Taking this pause has stopped me from making some poor money choices, and has elevated other ones.”

—Kristin Meekhof, author and life coach, Royal Oak, MI

“Think of every dollar spent as a trade-off.”

“My ‘eureka’ money moment came during my childhood when my father told me to think of every dollar you spend as a trade-off for something you want. I had wanted to get some food at the mall food court even though I didn’t really need it. He said that I could do that, but since I really didn’t need it, think of it as $7 I could put towards the new sneakers I really wanted. And if I did it a few more times, the sneakers would be mine sooner than I thought. From that day forward, I began to think about the cost of the thing I didn’t need and how much closer it got me to what I wanted.”

—Scott Miller, marketing director, Wilmington, DE

“Material items don’t bring lasting happiness.”

“When I was younger, I learned that we all have a baseline level of happiness, and when we open our wallets and give into wants and desires, we receive a short burst of joy due to the release of dopamine. Then, shortly after the purchase, we are right back where we started. Our life doesn’t change, as our happiness is not dependent on material things. Instead, it’s important that we can express gratitude for the gifts in life such as health, family, and friends.”

—James Petrossi, president of PTNL, Austin, TX

“Put extra money into a savings account right away.”

“When I was working in my first job, my friend gave me a piece of advice that her dad had given to her, and I’ve never forgotten it: ‘Every time you get a pay rise, put that extra money into a savings account as you’ll never have had it, so won’t miss it.’ I followed that advice and was able to buy my first car and first house before most of my peers.”

—LH, consultant, London, England, U.K.

“Money comes and goes.”

“After my beloved husband died, I felt very anxious about money as I had just dropped to part-time status at work. I mentioned my concerns to one of my work colleagues and he said something I’ve always remembered: ‘Money comes and money goes.’ It’s been almost 14 years since he died, and I’ve had both lean and ample times financially. During the lean times, I just recall this phrase and remember that like emotions, the experience of money is impermanent. Money is not a fixed commodity but rather something that fluctuates with seasons in our lives.”

—Sherry Cormier, Ph.D., bereavement trauma specialist, Annapolis, MD

“Find joy in what you choose to spend on.”

“My most impactful financial advice came from my parents and how I saw them live and enjoy money. Although they did not have much, as we migrated from Cuba to the US when I was seven years old, they lived their best life within their means. I never heard them complain about how difficult it was to be an immigrant or wishing they had more money. Being responsible and saving is important to me, but it is essential to enjoy our money on the things that bring us happiness.”

—Belkys Pastor, founder of Distinct Vacations, LLC, Fairfield, N.J.

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