7 Money Habits of People Who Have More Money Than We Do

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Making and spending money is something every member of society does, but it's one of the topics we talk to each other about the least. Because money is power, stigma and secrecy tend to keep the topic relegated to whispers with our accountants and confidential negotiations with potential employers, which makes it hard to learn from each other's experiences. The way we are raised, the education we receive and how we are marketed to all play a role in the relationships we develop with money, and often we don't realize how ingrained our earning, spending and saving habits are until we can't seem to break the cycle.

The way the financially successful use money is, of course, very different than the rest of us, and though it's not a mystery, there are some fundamental differences in how these two groups think about money that makes all the difference in how much they have and are capable of earning. Here are seven key financial rules the wealthy practice that the rest of us could apply to our own livelihoods.  

1. Invest

People who have only ever had as much money as they need (or less) tend to think of money as something that comes and goes as their needs dictate. The wealthy tend to understand that with some strategy and management, money can work for them beyond just its actual transactional value. Making small but diverse investments and watching them return rewards is a great way to start retraining your attitude about the value of every dollar you make—and how much bang you could be getting out of it.

2. Develop good relationships with credit

When you don't have good financial literacy, or if you inherited bad money habits from your parents, you likely think of credit cards as "just in case" cash. In this mindset, you may find your definition of "emergency" flexing when it comes to that new iPhone or another round of drinks at the bar. In fact, credit cards are tools to build your credit—period. You use them to keep and earn a credit score that will make the rest of your financial life (including renting or buying a home, car or other life-essential) possible and under the best terms for you. The wealthy understand that credit is not what you can spend beyond what you make, but how you can spend money to earn a great score, miles with airlines and other perks that make the actual value of every dollar you spend much more than the dollar itself.

3. Look for deals and penny pinch

We all have that rich friend who is the biggest cheapskate in the group, always looking for ways to find extra value or pay less than the ticketed price. If that seems ironic, it shouldn't—that's part of the reason that friend enjoys the financial success they do. In everyday life, it's easy to discount the difference between a $10 lunch and a $15 lunch, but the money savvy among us understand how those extra costs (or savings) can accumulate. And with the right budgeting and financial goal setting, you can turn that harmless splurge for bacon on your burger or that daily 4 p.m. green juice into a bonafide savings plan. 

4. Don't routinely indulge bad habits

If you're an adult, you likely partake in an alcoholic beverage from time to time. Maybe you even smoke cigarettes, or if you live in a state where cannabis is legal, maybe an edible here and there. Like everything else, these indulgences in moderation are part of any healthy budget. It's when they become frequent, habitual and out of control that these become problematic in your life and in your financial health. If you binge drink to the point where you're spending money while blackout drunk, if you become addicted to illegal street drugs or find yourself throwing money or maxing out your credit card on splurges you know you don't need and can't afford, you probably need to retake control of your financial life. While there are plenty of wealthy people who overindulge in bad habits, if you're trying to build wealth in your own life or maintain the wealth you have, this is a surefire way to self-sabotage. 

5. Actively set and keep budgets

Those who've never had much money to work with or financial goals to work toward often haven't learned the value in setting, maintaining and sticking to regular budgets. For many of us, we get paid, set our bills on autopay, cross our fingers and hope our money lasts until the next payday. Either we haven't been taught how to budget our income, or we don't think we make enough to climb out of that paycheck-to-paycheck cycle. Wealthy people understand the power of a budget toward building their actual wealth. If you've never used a budget, categorizing your discretionary income (into segments like groceries, dining out, drinking, etc.), estimating how much you actually need to spend in each category, and making sure one of your categories is for savings and/or investments is a great place to start. But the hard part, as with all money matters, is discipline. If you don't stick to the plan, it can't work for you.

6. Treat themselves in moderation

A little "treat yo' self" mentality is a key ingredient in a good self-care regimen. But when those splurges become more the rule than the exception, your bank account will feel the hit first, even if it takes you time to notice. Indulging emotionally by shopping for clothes and shoes, new tech, spa treatments, personal training, even that extra guacamole on your burrito can add up. Those who succeed financially understand that discipline is a muscle that needs to be conditioned, and rewards are best when earned and savored. Set savings goals and establish routines that allow you to have what you want and know you came by it the right way.

7. Live in a "thrive" mentality

There's a big difference between surviving and thriving. When you're young, especially if you don't come from a wealthy upbringing, you may have inherited the "spend what you earn" mindset, which means your only real goal is to survive until the paycheck and repeat the cycle all over again. Those who learn early how to grow and manage money understand the importance of avoiding unnecessary debt (and its incurring interest), investing in retirement and other financial growth opportunities, saving enough to buy real estate so you don't become a lifetime renter, cultivating a financial portfolio that's a world away from paycheck to paycheck. Those stuck in survival mode are likely there because that's the only relationship with money they've ever known, which is largely because most schools don't teach financial literacy and talking about money is still taboo and carries a social stigma. But if that is you, you are by no means alone, and no matter how bleak your financial picture is, you can take steps to improve it.

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