A Doctor Tells: How to Save More of Your Money

Gregory A. Hood, MD

Disclosures

November 30, 2017

In This Article

Bringing Frugality Into Your Life

Step 1: Be Proactive

With the holidays upon us, now's the time to start thinking about your spending before it becomes overly indulgent and out of hand. The 4 Laws of Financial Prosperity: Get Control of Your Money Now! by Blaine Harris and Charles Coonradt[1] is an excellent, brief paperback that you can easily read in an evening.

As the authors state, only you can take responsibility for your life and your spending, by being proactive about controlling it. Some of the suggestions that I've taken to heart in my own life include maintaining a detailed monthly family budget on Microsoft Excel, having regular financial meetings with my spouse, avoiding impulse purchases of items that do not fulfill a specific purpose, and maintaining no illusions about what purchases actually constitute "assets," as opposed to those that will not hold their utility and value.

Step 2: Analyze Your Spending

An airplane can't fly on course and on time to its destination unless the pilot monitors the instruments and makes periodic corrections and adjustments. The same thinking applies to money: You won't be able to maintain and control your finances without taking a detailed account of your income and expenses.

Start with the small stuff, the minutiae, and build from there. For instance, if you spend $10 a day for lunch each weekday, that totals $2600 a year. Likewise, $2.75 each morning for a cup of coffee is another $715 annually. I could go on, but you get the point.

Some of the things I do to cut back on these daily expenses is to avoid eating out, especially at lunchtime, when the practice of medicine doesn't really allow a break anymore anyway. In my office, I have prepositioned protein bars and nuts, along with a small fridge. My lovely wife gives me a small bag of sliced fruit and vegetables that I can use as snacks. I keep berries from our garden frozen in the mini-fridge's freezer. Frozen, they keep forever, and the added crunch makes a fun snack.

As a family, we also keep the thermostat a little lower in the winter and a little higher in the summer. We have time-controlled thermostats that allow a much wider change in temperature while we're at work. It saves significant money, and the dogs don't seem to mind. (If you'd like to compare your spending with that of the average American family, read the recent article posted on Creditloan.com.[2])

Many of the different approaches to saving money and becoming wealthy are explained in another great book, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy, first published in 1996 and written by Thomas Stanley and William Danko.[3] Reading this book, which includes some physicians as examples, will put you well on your way to a new perception of financial realities.

Some of the authors' conclusions may still shock readers, more than 20 years after they were first published. But they're as true now, if not more so, than they were then:

  • A frugal lifestyle is the number-one reason people become millionaires.

  • Despite the popular caricature, most millionaires don't buy new cars, fancy homes, expensive clothes, or luxury goods.

  • Most millionaires are self-made (80%) versus having inherited their wealth.

  • Most are self-employed businesspeople or professionals.

  • Most save more of what they make than most others do.

  • Most are married and consider their spouse to be even more frugal than they are.

  • A minority attended private schools growing up.

  • They value work-life balance and aren't "slaves" to their businesses.

  • A full two thirds work less than 55 hours per week.

Have these points captured your attention? If so, then I suggest you read Drs Stanley and Danko's book.

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