The Best Money Advice, in Ten Words or Less

About a week ago, I challenged my followers on Twitter to give me their best single piece of money advice in ten words or less.

I was flooded with responses.

After spending quite a bit of time sifting through them, here are the fifty best pieces of advice that came my way (out of well over a hundred – I actually used a spreadsheet to help me figure out the best ones to include). All of these are stellar money tips – and all of them come in with ten words or less. Enjoy.

writealvaro: Don’t invest in what you don’t understand.
mmmeg: I only need one word! ASK!
The_Weakonomist: index emergency fund to unemployment. 9% = 9 months.
MichaelBRubin: Spend more time, less money.
fiscalgeek: The secret to money management is learning to be content.
pearbudget: Know what really matters. Don’t spend money on other stuff.
creditgoddess: Don’t borrow more than you can repay.
dgstinner: A fool and his money are soon parted
jacobmlee: Be mindful of how you spend money.
JoeTaxpayerBlog: Don’t walk away from 401(k) match, regardless of debt situation.
EdenJaeger: Live below your means and save all you can.
tonyblacknyc: Better to sell a little early than a little late.
Kplavcan13: Pay yourself first, you can’t give yourself a bill.
dweliver: Be content with what’s yours and you’ll always have plenty.
centsiblelife: Spend less than you earn. Earn more.
MoneyEnergy: Don’t save at 2% when you’ve got debt at 10%.
thefinancialqb: If you try to get rich quickly, you will go broke fast.
ObliviousInvest: Diversify. Minimize costs. Stay the course.
Matt_SF: Borrowing money for a depreciating asset is a fool’s errand.
benburleson: If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.
mapgirlsfc: Save regularly and spend less than you earn.
jj_observations: Learn to love left-overs!
tusharm: Don’t spend money that you don’t have.
danielckoontz: Never reach for yield.
randypeterman: “Where will you & your stuff be in 100 years?”
Cat8040: Don’t take on debt.
KasyAllen: Don’t be afraid to ask for the savings!
nhldigest: Best money advice “Don’t Spend More Than You Earn”.
Green_Panda: My advice: Change one money habit at a time.
MoneyEnergy: Don’t count all your chickens before they’ve hatched.
fcn: Save and invest for the long term.
MyLifeROI: If it depreciates, don’t pay interest on it!
jessw61: Save/invest as much as you can.
Lisa_S_47: working hard doesn’t mean you deserve anything you can’t afford.
mtswartz: I’ll do it in two: Spend Less!
GlennLucas: Prevent your government from bankrupting your nation.
myfindependence: Be thrifty but don’t forget to enjoy yourself
spendingsmart: You can’t outearn dumb spending.
randallkirsch: A penny saved is more than a penny earned.
Grumpicus: Use credit cards, NOT debit cards.
flexo: The only one who cares about your money is you.
ceetastic: Before purchasing, I ask myself, “Can you justify the expense?”
moneyhighway: Money comes and goes the memories stay
robertsm85: If you don’t have the money then don’t spend it.
roryboy: if you need to use plastic, you can’t afford it!
msimonkey: Keeping up with the Jones’s is plain stupid.
maverickstruth: Know what comes in, and what goes out.
crazy_eddy: Let your assets buy your toys.
sfordinarygirl: Buy generics/private label because it’s way cheaper
jasonbob7: One word: leftovers!

Now, how about you? What’s the best money advice you can give in ten words or less? Leave yours in the comments!

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  1. NYC reader says:

    If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

  2. Johanna says:

    Don’t spend money on things you don’t want.

    (I’d elaborate, but it would take more than ten words.)

  3. Michael says:

    The classic: “Pay yourself first.”

  4. et says:

    Start funding retirement early; don’t touch the money until retirement.

  5. Michelle says:

    Help the less fortunate, it could be you someday.

  6. Studenomist says:

    Work hard when young, relax when old.

  7. MKL says:

    Use up, wear out, make do, or do without.

  8. SteveJ says:

    He who gains a victory over himself is all-powerful

  9. Sonja says:

    When told “you must buy this now,” say no!

  10. Mike says:

    The love of money is the root of all evil.

  11. Jaybob74 says:

    Inflation-Adjusted Passive Income – Reasonable Expenses + Saving for Future = Financial Freedom

  12. ksonic says:

    Those who understand interest earn it, the others pay it.

  13. a conscience life says:

    Keep track of all income and expenditures to the penny.

    (ALL other financial wisdom stems from the knowledge gained form careful record keeping.)

  14. Trent Trent says:

    Great stuff, guys! I really like these money tips!

  15. FrugalCubicle says:

    Never say “no” to free money.

    And yes credit cards can work to your advantage.

    Rules for buying “new” technology:

    1. Wait 6 months before you purchase.
    2. Repeat rule 1.

  16. That weakonomist guy sure is smart…

    I’m glad to see more in the comments, I think Trent will have to do another with them!

  17. Evangeline says:

    “Use what you’ve got, do what you know.”

  18. Betsy says:

    “If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will beyour downfall.”

  19. Papa Charley says:

    Hmm, lots of good ones already. How about, “Try to have multiple streams of income.”

  20. BirdDog says:

    Drive it until the wheels fall off.

  21. Ken says:

    Take care of your teeth.

  22. Brian S says:

    Live well, within your means. (The comma here is very important – it separates cheap judgements from the value judgements.)

  23. Little Cubicle Gal says:

    Credit cards are not an emergency fund.

  24. Kate in Canada says:

    Don’t spend money you don’t have yet.

  25. russds says:

    Great list. My addition:

    Spend less then you earn, invest the difference.

  26. Tina says:

    Always remember that orgasms are free.

  27. Milehimama says:

    #1: Never finance a luxury.

    #2: Use it up, wear it out, make do, do without.

  28. Des says:

    Can anyone elaborate on this entry: “Grumpicus: Use credit cards, NOT debit cards.”

    Is this just for the rewards? Surely earning credit card rewards isn’t one of the top 50 best pieces of money advice. Am I missing something?

  29. Sandy E. says:

    Learn to control your spending and everything else will fall into place.

  30. Chrissy says:

    @#22 I was wondering about that one also. Maybe use debit cards, NOT credit cards???

  31. Nanc says:

    Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have. –Rabbi Hyman Judah Schachtel

  32. Whitney says:

    Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This applies to more things in life than your money!

  33. Anthony says:

    1) Take time to optimize your expenses, cut what you don’t need.

    2) Don’t finance a deal, interest cost more than full price

  34. Prasanth says:

    Learn more, earn more and spend less.

  35. Bill says:

    A healthy life style is cheaper than hospitals.

  36. Adam Bavier says:

    @#22 From what I have read credit cards offer the card-holder certain protections, required by law, if the card is lost or stolen. Debit cards do not.

  37. Marie says:

    Pay yourself first last and always!

    or

    Live well below your means.

  38. Tony says:

    Care to explain how this one is good advice?

    “Use credit cards, NOT debit cards.”

    Using credit cards is using money you don’t have. Using debit cards is the same as cash essentially. Isn’t this one backwards? If not, it’s pretty awful advice.

  39. jc says:

    wrong, tony. trent just wrote an article on this. as long as you pay a credit card off each month within the grace period, credit cards offer many more protections, especially with respect to fraud.

  40. Doug says:

    Forget the Stock Market – Invest in FAMILY!

  41. rellim says:

    “wrong, tony. trent just wrote an article on this. as long as you pay a credit card off each month within the grace period, credit cards offer many more protections, especially with respect to fraud.”

    Until you miss a payment, then the debt spiral begins……..

  42. liv says:

    it’s not retirement if you’re still paying off debt.

  43. Bill says:

    The debit card carries the exact same liability as a credit card when it’s used like a visa. When they ask credit or debit if you say “Credit” the transaction is run through visa network and they take thier percentage. If you say debit and type in your code it goes over a different processing network and typicaly is cheaper for the store as the percentage is lower. Both offer zero liability if your account is used fraudulently. If you are concerned about the added consumer protection such as disputing later just say “credit”.

  44. lily says:

    Categorize your spending, into WANTS and NEEDS.

  45. Get over your phobia of saying “I can’t afford it”, to other people and especially to yourself. It’s a MUCH less expensive way to live.

    That’s more than 10 words, but sometimes less isn’t more.

    Michelle(#5)–it takes a truly deep mind/heart to think of what you wrote. Not many people can do that.

  46. SteveJ says:

    @Doug – My first idea was going to be:

    “The only way to win is not to play”

    I thought it might be too ambiguous.

  47. MoneyEnergy says:

    Great post. I think my faves looking over the list again now are those by MoneyHighway and Centsible Life (they’re kind of poetic, too:)):

    Money comes and goes, the memories stay.
    Spend less than you earn. Earn more.

  48. Skeemer118 says:

    Is this product really worth being in debt?

  49. Johanna says:

    @Kevin(#35), Michelle(#5): I agree that we should all help the less fortunate. But we should do it because it’s the right thing to do. Not because we’re expecting anything in return, or to ensure that others will help us if we fall on hard times someday. The world’s poorest people endure hardships every day that we in the rich world will very likely never see for ourselves – if we help them, it’s vanishingly unlikely that they’ll ever have the chance to repay the favor. Still, we should help – because their lives are more important to them than our new iPods (or whatever) are to us. This isn’t money advice, though – it’s moral advice.

  50. Anne says:

    The best things in life aren’t things.

  51. Deb says:

    “Repeat after me, stockbrokers are salespeople!”

  52. onaclov says:

    I would have to say:
    “Never give up, only then are you poor”

  53. Success leaves clues. Follow successful people. Open your mind, ask.

  54. Wendy says:

    Understand the difference between ‘NEED’ and ‘WANT’.

  55. Aaron says:

    “Don’t walk away from 401(k) match, regardless of debt situation.”

    I just found out today that my company matches $200 in contributions… for the whole year.

  56. Saganist says:

    Plan ahead and pay attention.

  57. MLR says:

    Thanks for the include! Glad you liked my tip!

  58. Borealis says:

    No one has proposed the SNL advice? Let me do it: “Don’t buy things you can’t afford.”

  59. Mary says:

    Everything (and everyone) in your life requires attention. Pay attention.

  60. Todd says:

    Unfortunately, my grandfather’s advice was “You can’t make big money without borrowing money.” He was always taking out enormous loans to expand his business, always taking huge risks. Luckily for him, his business kept expanding and he died with quite a bit of money and property.

    His son, my father, wasn’t quite so lucky. Following the same advice, he always borrowed to make the business bigger and better, and he died having just declared bankruptcy. His heart was broken because he had to sell off everything his father had built and left to his children.

    My advice: “Don’t risk anything you can’t afford to lose.”

  61. Jenzer says:

    “Replace mediocre pleasures with better ones.”

    Perhaps not strictly financial advice, but it has a host of financial implications.

  62. Live on less than you earn.

  63. eli says:

    “Stay single and your pockets will jingle!”

  64. JerryB says:

    “Stop buying crap!”

  65. Sierra says:

    Wait before buying.

  66. M says:

    “It’s not how much money you make – it’s how you spend it.”

  67. vern says:

    Pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible.

  68. Justin Philips says:

    Time in the market is better than timing the market.

  69. Oskar says:

    Remember not even the Jonses keep up!

  70. Jacinta says:

    Read, learn, practice, experiment, improve. Never stop learning, loving, living.

  71. Roy Becerra says:

    Recycle, Donate, Trade Everything! even Food! Read and Laugh LOTS!

  72. Abu Saleh says:

    Lend money to god, and wait for unlimited interest

  73. Tony says:

    I don’t buy into the reasoning with credit cards over debit cards. It’s still encouraging people to spend money they don’t have, hence terrible advice. The advice doesn’t account for human behavior. Most people aren’t disciplined enough to pay off the balance every month, as evidenced by the average level of consumer debt in this country. What you are doing is making people who aren’t disciplined enough with their credit card behavior feel okay and justified with their credit card abuse.

  74. Pattie says:

    B-U-D-G-E-T is not a four letter word.

  75. Josh Moore says:

    Be honest, set goals, spend less, earn more, work well.

  76. Rebecca says:

    PLAN your spending. Much more freedom!

  77. OHStephanie says:

    Never pay full price for anything.

    Know the difference between needs and wants.

    If you watch the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.

  78. suz says:

    1. why buy retail?
    2. choose things that hold their value.

  79. Margie says:

    If you don’t have a credit card, don’t get one!

  80. OHStephanie says:

    Don’t buy junk, buy the very best quality you can afford (for appliances, kitchen equipment, tools, etc.)

    Of course you will have to do your research and see who has the best warranties, customer services, replacement parts etc. But it always pays in the end. Far better to pay upfront for quality than to pay over and over again for junk!!

  81. David says:

    Spend less than you earn; remember, God owns it all.

  82. Beth says:

    I’m confused about one of the top fifty. Why advise somebody to use a credit as opposed to a debit card? I use my debit card all the time; it’s similar to writing a check, and no interest.
    B.

  83. Lisa Owens says:

    Learn how to make a budget and STICK TO IT.

  84. Beth says:

    Oops — found it. Run a debit card like a “credit,” and get the protections.
    B.

  85. Jared says:

    Budget and practice provident living.

  86. j.harvey says:

    Get a part time job too and save that money.

  87. Carrie says:

    If your wallet is ever stolen credit cards offer more protection than debit cards (where your entire balance can be wiped out).

  88. Brian S. says:

    Protect your wealth by spending on your health.

  89. Golfing Girl says:

    The Jones’ are in debt–don’t keep up with them!

  90. Mella says:

    There’s no such thing as a one-time good deal.

    (Meaning – don’t be rushed into a purchase for fear of missing a bargain.)

  91. Debbie says:

    Pay as you go, and you’ll never owe!

  92. Don’t buy cheap junk.

    (Having recently quit a company that sells cheap, foreign-made computer parts, this one is very important to me!)

    Plant a garden.

    (gives you a hobby and food to spare.)

  93. Dave says:

    Remember, it’s not our stuff. Be a good steward.

  94. Kim says:

    Never loan what you can’t afford to give. Even better, don’t loan; give.

    Don’t admire wealth or despise poverty. Admire courage, generosity, work ethic; despise stinginess, laziness, and the refusal to take a stand for things that are important.

  95. Turn off your TV! (They make their money selling you things you wouldn’t buy otherwise)

    Johanna (#38)–Agreed, we shouldn’t give expecting to get something in return. However, I think that when we give, we do get. Not from the people we give to, but from others and from circumstances. The important thing is that we help those in need, and when we’re in need, hopefully someone will be there for us.

    A complicated way of saying “what goes around, comes around”, and I think it does “pay” in the difficult moments of life.

  96. Grad No Job says:

    Anything that doesn’t make you money is a liability (including a house).

  97. Before buying, ask, “Where are you going to put it?”

    I have put so many things back on the shelf by using this phrase. Really thinking about where you are going to put a new choch-kie makes you realize you don’t need it just because it’s pretty/cool/nifty.

  98. Todd says:

    Kim (#69)–Great comment.

  99. Beth says:

    Its never what you make, its how much you save!!

  100. Lisa says:

    Get rich quick…want less.

  101. Louise says:

    Appreciate the simple things. You DON’T need more stuff!

  102. Tom says:

    Invest in yourself, family and close friends — in… that… order.

  103. Jenna says:

    Mind the present, focus on future, learn from the past.

  104. honestb says:

    Time is money.

  105. Leila says:

    Don’t waste any amount of money even if it is small because it all ads up.

  106. Gustavo says:

    Pay yourself first automatically, max out retirement accounts, avoid debt.

  107. Kara says:

    The less cluttered your life is, the happier you’ll be.

  108. ros says:

    don’t hang your hat where your hand cant reach

    cut your coat according to your cloth

    learn to cut and contrive

    all these sayings reminds one to live within your means

  109. Lynne says:

    The best things in life are still free!

  110. It’s hard to add to this list. My favorite money advice is “Save First, Save Often”.

  111. Scott says:

    Here are a few of mine:

    A part of all you earn is yours to keep. (From grandpa/dad.)

    If they get all your money, THEY WIN, YOU LOSE.

    Consider every salesman on commission your ADVERSARY, not your friend.

    READ to become financially literate and informed.

    Stay skeptical of ALL marketing claims.

  112. Alex says:

    Consider price, durability, utility, storage, and time to be spent.

  113. Magsqoti says:

    Ultimate test if a purchase is a need or want: Determine your hourly pay and quickly calculate how many hours you have to work to pay for the desired item.

  114. Lee says:

    “Be honest with yourself.”

    Which is to say, “How often are you REALLY going to use it?”

  115. NearlyValkyrie says:

    Can’t quite get this down to just 10 words:

    Yes, you deserve it, but if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.

    longer version:
    Yes, you’re a worthy person, and you work so hard, and you completely deserve X (fill in: Wii nicer clothes, fancy car, trip to Cancun). But worthiness and warm fuzzies are NOT the same as cash. If you don’t have the $$, don’t get it, no matter how worthy you are and how much you believe you deserve it. Mother Teresa might be the most worthy person in the world, and she never wasted money on a had a Wii!

  116. Dinker says:

    Three words: Do. Not. Procreate. Dual Income + No Kids = Early Retirement. And yes, that happened for us.

  117. Angela says:

    Stop buying new stuff.

  118. Katie says:

    Save before you spend.

    Sales don’t save money, people save money.

    If you don’t buy it, you’ll save more than it’s on sale.

    Find satisfaction in savings, not in stuff.

  119. Ashley says:

    #115 Dinker

    I really appreciated your contribution to this thread.

    For a host of reasons (not just financial), my husband and I made a conscious choice not to have children. We adore kids, and have active roles in the lives of our nieces and nephews. Still, neither of us felt a need to procreate ourselves.

    Okay…that was more than 10 words, but I just wanted to give a high-five to your post!

  120. Rosa Rugosa says:

    Dinker & Ashley: And some of don’t even particularly like kids, and of course don’t have any. The savings are just the icing on the cake. In reference to another thread on this site, I would opt to sell any children to the coin dealer, and spend my free time landscaping the doctor’s wife’s garden. But that’s just me – we all have differing talents, wants, needs, and tolerance levels.

  121. Lynda McCrimmon says:

    Go yard saling every possible Saturday morning and be there early. You’ll never pay retail price for anything again.

  122. sjweiland says:

    “there is ALWAYS a cheaper way” and “FREE; my favorite price”

  123. Cole says:

    Don’t borrow more than you can repay. Best Advice Ever

  124. Wait 3 weeks to buy anything over $50.

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