(The Joneses’ things are still just things)

Life Tip #11: When I was first married, I was literally in a waiting period “between jobs,” meaning I had no income for about three months. We survived by paying for our groceries and just about anything else with credit cards. That was a painful way to go about getting our new life started.

Don’t you do that!

Perhaps the oldest advice in the book, but which I, and perhaps you, are proof that it works, is: Don’t spend beyond your means! And here are some bonus tidbits of financial advice: Never have more than three credit cards at a time, and only really use one of those as your main credit card. And don’t let the total balance of all your cards get above what you can pay off in about two months. (Reminder: I am NOT a licensed financial advisor, but just a guy who sometimes follows his own advice.)

Don’t be like the lady I once had the misfortune of standing behind at Starbucks. She could not pay for her coffee because she simply could not find her Starbucks card among about 20 other cards in her wallet. She giggled as she held up the line. I choked back laughter.

Life Tip #12: Whenever possible, buy your kids experiences instead of things. The things will be broken or lost within a year, but the memories of those experiences will last a lifetime. We’ve done a million different things with our kids, and have taken them all over the United States. They not only have the memories now, but also the courage and independent spirit to go and do whatever they want in life as they enter adulthood.

Life Tip #13: Don’t ever get married for money. Yes, you heard me.

Well, I guess the more useful, general tip would be: Don’t be so desperate for money that you find yourself committing potentially life-altering mistakes just to earn some instant cash.

While in the military at the naïve age of 20, I nearly let a “friend”—who was currently married to a Filipino woman that he met while stationed there—talk me into marrying her sister for $10,000 (that was a ton of dough in the mid-1980s). The goal was just to help this sister gain citizenship.

My young skull full of mush thought, “What could possibly go wrong? I’ll make 10K and never even have to see this girl.” I did, however, go as far as to meet this girl and her relatives in San Francisco from nearby Travis Air Force Base. It was a bizarre encounter that felt like some kind of arranged Asian marriage…oh wait, that’s exactly what it was.

Luckily, my slightly older and wiser friend Mark shook some sense into me. He pointed out the many, many things that could go wrong with this plan. Not the least of which was, “What if she gets pregnant from another guy, and YOU as the husband have to support all that?” (This was before DNA testing was common.)

Who knew?

P.S. – Oddly, that is not the only arranged marriage situation that has happened to me. Stay tuned!

Life Tip #14: Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can sure make a lot of problems go away. Get out there and fight for a job that will support yourself and your family. Yes, go for your dreams, but don’t do so at the expense of yourself or society. Have enough money for basic needs means you don’t have to stress about fighting bill collectors.

And don’t be a burden on society by claiming welfare if you are an able-bodied adult. You were not brought into this world so that society should take care of you.

Life Tip #15: Avoid the temptation to keep up with the Joneses. If you can train your children to avoid this, they can avoid years if not decades of being a slave to that temptation, and then a slave to debt. There never was a truer saying than this:

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have in order to impress people we don’t like.” Dave Ramsey

And while you’re at it, pick up a book for yourself, and your children, by Dave Ramsey. That man oozes wisdom when it comes to making smart personal finance decisions. That’s a bonus tip.


“And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him…our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them.” ~ Henry David Thoreau


“Ne te quaesiveris extra.” (Do not seek for things outside yourself.) – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“He looked blurrily out at the yard. It delighted him, as always; it was the neat yard of a successful business man of Zenith, that is, it was perfection, and made him also perfect. He regarded the corrugated iron garage. For the three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth time in a year he reflected, ‘No class to that tin shack. Have to build me a frame garage. But by golly it’s the only thing on the place that isn’t up-to-date.’” ~ Babbitt – Sinclair Lewis

“He was a lucky fox that left his tail in the trap.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“In actuality, it was like the homes of all people who are not really rich but who want to look rich, and therefore end up looking like one another: it had damasks, ebony, plants, carpets, and bronzes, everything dark and gleaming—all the effects of a certain class of people produce so as to look like people of a certain class. And his place looked so much like the others that it would never have been noticed.” ~ Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich

“Figure it out. Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there’s nobody to live in it.” ~ Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

“You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” ~ Haggai 1:6