16 Money Rules You Need to Follow if You Want to Get Ahead

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If you want to get ahead financially, these 15 steps will put you on the right path.
Updated April 11, 2024
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Most people want to get ahead financially, but knowing what to do, how to invest, and what pitfalls to avoid can be challenging. Maybe you're looking for easy ways to boost your bank account or tips for spending less money overall.

There’s no foolproof way of building your wealth, but these are some of the most commonly accepted and proven methods for getting ahead.

Start saving early for retirement

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Retirement may seem like it is far in the distance, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less important to plan for now. Saving now allows you to put smaller amounts aside to help you pay for your retirement years.

If you start saving at 25, you’ll probably have enough to retire early. If you start saving now and use the wide range of tax-advantaged plans, you may have enough for retirement by age 50. 

Be sure you invest wisely, keep your expenses in check, and maximize the tax advantages available to you.

Track your spending

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Where is your money going each month? You may have a good handle on how much you spend on your mortgage or rent, but what about coffee, eating out, and trips to your favorite boutique?

The best way to see where your money is going is to track your spending on a routine basis. You can write down what you’re spending in a notebook or use an app on your phone. 

Be sure to include all purchases. Then, review this information to see where you may be able to save more money.

Spend less than you earn

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While this advice is a no-brainer, it’s not simple to do. One way to get started is to move to an all-cash budget. If you only buy what you have cash for, you will have to forgo stuff that you’d put on a credit card.

A cash-only budget forces you to decide whether any purchase you make during the month is worth the investment. If you can’t pay off your credit card, those purchases will cost you much more than the original price after you’ve added 15% or more in interest.

Never carry credit card balances

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Consider the cost of credit. If you put money into a bank savings account, you will probably earn less than a 1% return on that money. However, if you borrow money from a bank, such as when using a credit card, you'll be charged 15% or more.

Credit is costly. The best way to avoid debt buildup is to avoid using it or to pay off the entire balance in full each month.

Shop for car insurance every year

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There’s no downside to shopping for car insurance each year. You may save money by finding a policy that still fits your financial needs but is a fraction of the cost.

Some insurance companies may offer a significant discount if you become a new customer. Or if you’re armed with a quote from a new insurance carrier, you may be able to negotiate with your existing company to get a better rate.

Check out these other creative ways to help you save money on car insurance

Make money while you sleep

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That may sound like a dream, but there are ways to do so. It’s called building passive income, which means you do not have to actually work to earn money.

There are various ways to do this. Create a product and sell it online based on your knowledge or experience in a field. If you have a specific skill, create a course and sell it online. You may also be able to earn passive income by owning real estate or investing wisely.

Put away at least 15% for retirement

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As you work to manage your budget and increase your income, you should also try to increase your retirement savings to 15% or more of each paycheck. 

Putting aside at least that much for retirement may allow you to see a significant increase over time thanks to compound interest.

As your income increases, be sure you increase your retirement contributions.

Ask for raises the right way

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Many people assume their employer will offer a fair raise, but you could influence the value of a raise if you’re prepared. Do some research to show your employer that you should be paid more and by how much. 

Using information from job listings for a similar position, show your boss what a competitive salary is in your field with your experience. Be sure to outline your accomplishments over the previous six months.

It’s also a good idea to create a formal, written request for a raise so you can make your case clearly. This is the perfect time to roll up your sleeves, be confident, and use those research skills you developed in college.

Don’t be afraid to change jobs when needed

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There may be times when you should ask for a raise and other times when it’s best to seek out a new employer. If the market shows you’re not paid at a fair rate and your employer isn’t willing to budge (perhaps the company can’t afford it), it’s time to stretch your legs.

Or you may want to consider changing jobs to keep growing and improving your skills. New positions may provide greater challenges, more opportunities for advancement, or more interesting tasks. View changing jobs as a good thing and a way to reach your career goals.

Budget using the 50/30/20 rule

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When creating a budget for yourself, focus on this rule. Put 50% of your income into your needs, spend 30% of your income on the things you want, and save 20%.

It sounds simple, but when you follow this path, you are creating a way to save a significant amount of money, pay your bills, and not feel deprived of the things you really want to buy or enjoy.

Don’t spend that entire bonus

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Getting a raise or bonus means you’re getting some extra money that’s not built into your current budget. If you're already living comfortably, think about how to use the new money in a way that will benefit you the most.

Sure, a vacation or buying a giant flat-screen TV sounds great, but putting some of that money aside could help you with other goals, such as building your emergency fund or saving for a down payment on a home. 

Use the new money to pay off some debt or put more money into retirement savings.

Start investing

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Investing is an excellent way to make your money go further for you. It may allow you to grow your nest egg and create a bit of financial wealth for yourself. 

One way to do this is through a financial advisor who can assess your level of risk tolerance and suggest investment vehicles. You could also use a robo-advisor or online brokerage to help you begin investing.

Create an emergency fund

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Using credit can be a big, costly mistake, but in an emergency, you may have no alternative. One way around this is to have an emergency fund. 

Dedicate three to six months of your wages to a savings account or money market account to help you cover your costs if you lose your job, become ill, or just need to get the car repaired.

Make savings automatic

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Manually moving money into your savings account or retirement fund may be a good intention, but maybe you forget or find another use for the money. 

Instead, automate this process by authorizing your bank to move funds into specific accounts on a regular basis. By automating the process, there’s less risk that those funds won’t make it where they need to go.

Put down at least 20% when buying a home

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There are lots of loan programs where you don’t have to put down 20%, but if you can, you’ll save money over time. 

First, if you put down less than 20% of the purchase price, you'll have to buy private mortgage insurance. Second, you risk having your home be “underwater” for a few years, meaning you owe more than the house is worth. A larger down payment also means you will lower your debt load.

Buy a used car

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Buying a used car means you’re paying much less than purchasing a new vehicle off the lot. New vehicles lose 20% of their value in the first year.

If you just have to own a new car, plan to drive it for at least 10 years to get the full value out of that investment.

Bottom line

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There’s plenty you can do to save money on daily expenses, too. When you go grocery shopping, have a weekly menu plan based on what’s on sale, and always make a list, so you’re not tempted to overbuy.

While some of these money rules are easier to practice than others, being conscious of the money you earn, save, and spend will help you get ahead.

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Author Details

Sandy Baker Sandy Baker is a has over 17 years of experience in the financial sector. Her experience includes website content, blogs, and social media. She’s worked with companies such as Realtor.com, Bankrate, TransUnion, Equifax, and Consumer Affairs.

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