8 Pieces of Old-School Money Advice That Still Work Today

Technology has made our lives easier in a myriad of ways, but there are frugal lessons to learn from the past.

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Updated July 18, 2024
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Spending money is easy, especially with all the technology at our fingertips. Saving money can feel like anything but easy, considering the amount of pressure many Americans are feeling on their bank accounts.

According to a recent study, about half the country lives paycheck to paycheck, and half have less than $500 in savings. But there’s old-school money advice that’s still relevant today — and it can help you stop living paycheck to paycheck

Here are eight old-school pieces of money advice you shouldn’t ignore.

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Take advantage of compound interest

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Albert Einstein allegedly claimed that compound interest was "the most powerful force in the universe.” While it’s unproven if he said that, compound interest is indeed powerful and can have a tremendous impact on your savings.

Compound interest is "interest on interest," calculated on both the initial principal and accumulated interest, which can grow your savings exponentially. By adding interest to the principal, the added interest also earns interest.

Time is a critical factor in compound interest — the earlier you invest, the greater your earnings may be.

Pay off your credit card every month

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Compound interest works both ways and credit cards have some of the highest interest rates. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the average APR is 22.8%. That’s the highest rate in history. Any balance left on your card means you pay more.

Even though credit cards can be a convenient way to make fast purchases — and potentially overspend — try to pay off the balance every month. That way, you can avoid the interest rates and reap any rewards the credit card issuer offers.

Use cash instead of a credit card

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As mentioned, credit cards can make it easy to pay — perhaps too easy. Using only cold, hard cash can drastically change your perspective on your spending habits.

Try withdrawing a set amount and budgeting it over the week. This wouldn’t be used for major purchases but for daily expenses such as coffee. You’ll get a chance to see how fast you’re spending money and, if needed, adjust your budget accordingly.

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Try it

Live below your means

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Living below your means is easier said than done. Ultimately, it's not just about how much you earn — it's about how much you keep.

Consider how many streaming services you’re subscribed to. Are you watching enough to justify the monthly cost? Is there one you could trim? The same could be said of your cell phone plan. Is there a cheaper option that would still fit your needs?

Think of it as economic dieting, except instead of cutting calories, you’re cutting costs. Spend less than you make to ensure you have money left over for investing.

Cook at home and bring your own lunch

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Eating out or getting takeout can be pricey. Home cooking, on the other hand, can offer a healthier, more satisfying, and economical alternative. It’s easy to master a few budget-friendly recipes using inexpensive ingredients like soups, stews, and casseroles to stretch your food dollars.

Cook from scratch, avoid exotic and costly ingredients, and try meal planning and bulk cooking to save time and money. This approach simplifies your culinary life, allows for experimentation, and ensures you always have a quick, affordable meal ready — including leftovers for lunch.

Stay on top of your expenses

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If you’re a member of an older generation, you probably remember balancing your checkbook to track expenses. While fewer checks are written today, tracking your spending is still critical for saving.

Many people overlook this simple task, but regularly doing so helps identify problem areas and cut costs. Seeing the numbers can motivate you to balance your budget and set savings goals. There are plenty of budget apps that can help.

Think before you buy

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Before buying something, ask yourself if you can afford it now. If not, hold off on the purchase. Waiting a week or more helps determine if the item is truly necessary, ensuring you have cash to pay instead of racking up credit card debt.

Sure, it can be annoying to force yourself to wait, but buying within your means saves money, reducing both spending and interest charges.

Try buying secondhand

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Opting for used goods can save you money on pretty much any non-food items you need — that includes appliances, cars, and clothes.

Thrift stores, consignment shops, and a host of online platforms offer affordable, quality purchases at a fraction of new-bought prices. Learn to spot deals and don’t be afraid to negotiate, especially on big-ticket items like appliances or cars. With patience, you can find incredible bargains.

Bottom line

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Saving money often feels like a challenge. Credit card rates are at an all-time high. Americans have, on average, over $103,000 in debt. And rents have been skyrocketing.

But there are ways to improve your savings — timeless financial advice remains relevant and can help you effectively today.

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Author Details

Will Vitka

Will Vitka is a D.C. area reporter and writer. He previously worked for WTOP, The New York Post, Stuff Magazine, and CBS News.