Great Savings Tip #98 – Sweat The Small Stuff


A roll of the die.

Are you leaving everything to chance?

This tip is number 98 out of 100 in our Great Savings Tip Series—designed to help find ways to spend less and save more. For more ways to save money see our Great Savings Tips page with a complete list of all our tips.


A Little Sweat Is A Good Thing


Tip #98) Sweat The Small Stuff. Richard Carlson is an author who became famous after writing a book series called “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff.”  Carlson promoted looking at life from an optimistic perspective—through good humor and positive thinking. And while we agree that life can rapidly become too serious without balance and laughter, there’s also a certain degree of risk in living with a “never a care” attitude.


The trouble with money is that having it or having too little of it impacts just about every choice we make in life.  And while some people consciously choose to give up all their possessions and worldly goods, most prefer to have a roof over their heads as they try to scrape by from one day to the next. It’s not that we wouldn’t like to be more carefree about spending, either—far from it.  After all, who wouldn’t want the chance to go shopping without the worry and stress over where the money comes from?


The issue of money is therefore one where sweating the small stuff is really our only option if we plan to get ahead.


When it comes to money matters, here are 6 tips for sweating the small stuff:


JB sweating the details.

Use a fine-tooth comb when it comes to money matters.

(1)  Sweat over the details. Everything we do with our money matters, but the less income we have the more important it is to be firmly in control of our finances.  Knowing when bills are due allows for planning ahead, but actually paying them on time eliminates extra fees and penalties, especially on credit card accounts.  Buying a car or a house can mean taking on a huge obligation, so it’s important to pay attention to the detail in any contract we sign.  Also, it never pays to assume the details we ignore won’t come back  to haunt us.  For example, a co-signer can be held liable if the loan they sign for a friend or loved one goes bad (see Great Savings Tip #70 – Avoid Co-signing A Loan).


When dealing with a money issue that seems beyond understanding getting help with it is critical.  If affording an attorney is out of the question, get advice from people you respect for the way they handle their money.  Bottom line: It’s important to read the fine print, stay on top of finances and understand the risks.


(2) Sweat over following through. Making a commitment to spend, to spend less, or to save is only as good as our intention to follow through with it.  We can talk all we want about saving money or reducing debt, but until we start putting money aside on a regular basis our words are little more than empty promises.  Yet promises of all kind matter in the bigger scheme of life.  When we make promises to people and fail to follow through it eats away at basic trust.  The problem with that is waking up to discover the people we’ve burned in the past are the same ones we need to help us out of a jam in the present. Take away: Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep, and make sure to follow through on the promises and commitments you’ve already made. And for more ideas on saving see our post “How Much Should I Save Every Month”.


JB going for the low hanging fruit.

Sweating money matters is a little like eating more healthy: It’s just the right thing to do.

(3) Sweat over those first gains. There are any number of ways to improve a given financial situation.  Our Great Savings Tip Series is designed to give all kinds of ideas for ways to get started.  However, to get off to a good start, it helps to tackle the easiest items on your list first.  For example, if you’re regularly short $100 by the last week of the month and have been using your credit cards to finance the shortfall, the solution is not going to come by going deeper into debt.  Instead, pick three of four ideas that you think sound easy enough to stick to and see if they can help with your cash flow.  Once you have a few wins under your belt it will be easier to make bigger commitments, like tackling that debt.


(4) Sweat over taking charge. If your financial situation feels completely overwhelming, you can take charge by getting organized.  Let’s say you’ve got a pile of bills just sitting on the desk—some you think are overdue.  Instead of feeling out of control or depressed about them, try making some order out of the chaos.  What do we mean?  Take a closer look at your desk.  Is it piled high with all sorts of paper and odds and ends besides the bills?  Or how about the condition of the room?  When was the last time you cleaned the desk, the floor, or the surrounding space?


Sometimes, when one activity (like bill paying) feels overwhelming its best to go at it by taking on something you feel you still have control over.  In this case, that might look like throwing away junk mail, tossing trash, sorting odds and ends, dusting, and vacuuming first.  Now, once you have a clean workspace, you can start going through the bills to prioritize them.  For example, if you just can’t pay them all, it’s probably more important to pay the rent then the cable bill.  For more help with prioritization see our “Great Savings Tip #90 – Prioritize Spending“.  For additional help with your monthly cash flow, especially if you’re on an extremely tight budget see our post, “The Running Cash Flow: First Aid For You Wallet”.


(5) There’s equity in sweat. Have you ever heard the phrase, “sweat equity”?  Sweat equity refers to the value of an item or possession that is created out of your own hard work.  In other words, even though the labor you do for yourself is unpaid, it still holds a certain value.  It’s just that the value becomes attached to something else—like your house.



For example, if you want to improve your house and your living room needs painting you could call up a painter and have them come and do it for you. However, the painter will want to be compensated for his labor.  When you do the job yourself, you may not get paid for the labor unless you immediately turn around and sell the house, but your labor still has a value.  This is because the improvement ultimately makes your house more desirable—either to live in, or if you decide to sell down the road. Sweat equity (or doing it yourself) can save a person thousands over the long haul.


It should go without saying, but if you have money and don’t like a job like painting, gardening, home repair or cleaning toilets, you may want to hire a pro, instead. However, doing the work yourself can add real dollars back into a budget in need of a boost. For some good guidelines on what home repairs to try or not try see our “Great Savings Tip #91 – Make Repairs Yourself Unless…


(6) Sweat to maintain perspective. Fortunately, life isn’t only about money.  That means each of us will have particular items or habits we’ll splurge on—things that add to the quality of our lives.  It’s important to keep perspective, though.  If you have had money in the past, but recently lost a job, it’s probably better to cut expenses wherever you can until you can get back up on your feet.  Conversely, if come into an unexpected sum and start buying up the luxuries you’ve always wanted, don’t be surprised if the money doesn’t last.  Temptation is a difficult beast to overcome, but you can overcome it by making more conscious spending decisions.


JB borrowed heavily to buy his yacht.

Some pretend to be rich, but it’s what they own, not what they owe that makes a better measure of wealth.


Wealth Comes From Real Deeds


The key to getting rich isn’t acting rich.  Very few people ever build a fortune or even a nest egg for retirement by splurging on luxuries like expensive homes or jewelry.  Most drive sensible cars, save for a rainy day, watch what they spend and try to plan ahead.  If you find it hard to resist temptation read our “Great Savings Tip #72   Purge The Urge To Splurge”.


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For a complete list of all our Great Savings Tips click here.


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