Updated on 07.09.07

One Thing You Can Do Today That Will Put You In Better Financial Shape Tomorrow

Trent Hamm

I’m about to reveal a very key technique that anyone can use to ensure that their financial shape tomorrow is better than their financial shape today. Even better, you can apply this technique every single day and, if successful, you will end up in substantially better financial shape than if you didn’t do it. It’s incredibly simple, almost magically so, and yet virtually no one in the world actually does it.

Here’s why this technique is so amazing:

(Nearly) every single person can do this. Almost any adult in the world can apply this technique. I can apply it in my Midwestern life. Maggie in New York can apply it. A teenager in Romania can do the same thing. So can a villager in the middle of India.

It consistently results in cash in your pocket. Every time you accomplish this technique, you’ll magically find that there is more money in your pocket than there would have been had you not bothered with the technique. Since the technique is really simple, the appearance of this money can almost feel magical.

It’s not illegal or unethical. You’re not taking money that rightfully belongs to anyone else. There’s nothing at all unethical about it – in fact, doing it regularly can sometimes inspire others to match your successes. They’ll see you as ethical and level headed.

When you go to bed at night, having followed through on this secret will leave you feeling better about your place in the world. Trust me, I feel happy every time I do it. I do it many days, and every day I accomplish this one simple little thing, I go to bed at night feeling very good about the day that passed.

So what’s this great secret? What is this great technique that everyone can do to ensure a brighter financial future for themselves?

Here it is.

Don’t spend money today.

Simply go through a day without spending a dime. Don’t stop for coffee or a bagel. Don’t hit the vending machine. Don’t stop by the village market for some goodie. Don’t download some songs from iTunes. Don’t buy a new book or movie or CD or piece of clothing. Just don’t.

Tomorrow, go back to normal living if you wish, but remember that every day that you follow that very simple rule, you are improving your financial state for the future. You’ll have money to pay down your debts or to invest. Maybe you can finally max out your 401(k) contributions if you have a few money-free days each month, or perhaps you can finally start that 529 for your child.

It’s so simple, and you can do it any day.

Why not try it out tomorrow?

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  1. Javi0084 says:

    A little late now, I will try it tomorrow.

  2. margo says:

    *spits out cookie, wraps it back up, places it back on the counter, leaves the line*

  3. William Profet from OneJobTwoSalaries.com says:

    This is a great advice!!! I needed it! It is simple and powerful… but very hard to do :(((

    Spending too much is one of my biggest problems. I am happy that one of my biggest successes is that I earn much enough. But cutting the expenses and growing earnings is the only simple and reality-proof way for healthy finances. :))


  4. slc says:

    the advice is good as long as you don’t approach it the same as the “don’t fill up on gas today” chain mail. If not buyng something today is just putting it off until tomorrow, it’s really not doing much of anything.

    And you’d be hard pressed to find someone that can “not spend any money” every day for a month ;). At least not without landlords, utility companies, and mortage lenders coming after you.

    Maybe just call Sunday “money spending day” or something. If you don’t spend it on Sunday (that would then become shopping and grocery day), you don’t get to spend it. It would at least rule out (most) impulse purchases. And force you to “eat in” 6 days a week.

  5. Susan says:

    Haha, I just did that at Wal-mart, I went with a few friends who needed things and I was so happy because I didn’t spend any money. Even better – I made money. I found 32 cents and a first class stamp – don’t worry I won’t lick it. ;)

  6. Brip Blap says:

    @slc – I don’t think it was meant to last for a month. Maybe just a “spending holiday” once a week/month/whatever. Personally, I’d be doing well if I could do it once a quarter.

    I think the general principle would be not to take cash or a credit card out for a day. Of course everyone is spending money every minute of every day – rent is effectively being paid, utilities, etc.

    Good idea, and surprisingly hard. I try to do it once in a while and almost always fail because I really need a bottle of spring water or have to pick up dry cleaning or something…

  7. Mark A says:

    Work more, spend less, that is how you spell success. :D

  8. I agree with SLC.
    However, you will probably don’t buy 2 coffees the next day. But what if that coffee makes your morning brighter and you are more productive? Being happy is definitely a key to get more money…
    Anyway, every day, you are spending money. You owe rent or interest on your mortgage that cumulates until the end of the months…

  9. Geoff Ruddock says:

    I agree with one of the first commenters.

    Instead of not buying gas, try car-pooling or taking public transit. It will truely save money, because you won’t have a gas deficit the next day.

  10. MVP says:

    I do this all the time. It’s called “Sticking to a budget”. I only have a set amount of mad money per month I can use on those things you mentioned. That means I can’t (if I’m determined to stick to the budget) buy stuff every day. But I CAN buy it once a week, if I want; OR I can save up and buy one big thing. It just takes a little discipline and allowing yourself a small amount of leeway in the form of fun money. For me, it takes a whole lot more than one day of avoiding the little temptations.

  11. Stephanie says:

    It feels good to be able to go a day without actively spending money (I say “actively” because, as many pointed out, we are effectively paying for rent, interest, etc. every day). I’ve found that the goal of going a day without spending money makes it easier to do. If I’ve already not spent money today on breakfast, lunch, snacks, etc. I might as well go for a perfect game and not spend money on dinner (and continue the trend of eating what you already have). You of course shouldn’t go crazy if you do spend on any certain day and just spend extra since you’ve already “ruined” the day. Just keep trying!
    I’ve started actively tracking my expenses (instead of just looking at my bank accounts every few days) and it really feels good to see all that blank space on my spreadsheet where I didn’t spend anything for the day.

  12. Lauretta says:

    This really does work, in tandem with “Sticking to the budget.” One day out of the week, I have a “quiet” day. I stay at home cleaning, doing laundry, meditating, reading, praying, listening to music, playing with my cats, and appreciating what I have. During that day, my car stays in the garage, no money is spent, tasks are done, and I feel calmed and settled. Maybe one reason we spend money in silly ways is because we don’t have a quiet time in which to think and find out what we really need. And a lot of times, what we really need is a bit of solitude. And that is not for sale.

  13. Eric says:

    It’s also like weight loss and “fat free” foods. It’s only good if you apply it in moderation and apply it to exercise (saving).

  14. I’m actually able to go a week without spending a dime – that’s when my budget was really tight because I had to make the trip home twice and the train tickets were expensive. So I didn’t buy any groceries for the week and ate what was in the fridge.

    It’s a powerful feeling to go a day without spending a dime.

  15. I couldn’t agree more. It’s the one simple thing you can do to have the most impact on your finances. I view it as a daily challenge.

    I posted about this on my blog exactly the same day as you however not quite so eloquently!

  16. debtkid says:

    Ha! I was expecting this really insightful, very meaningful money hack!

    And that’s what I got! Sometimes things just are this simple, huh?


  17. Cheryl says:

    A small idea can make a big difference! I do this a lot, and try to make a game of seeing how long I can make the last few dollars in my wallet last!

  18. G Pendergast says:

    Great idea. When my wife and I were building a business and broke we carried notebooks and wrote each and every expense down. At the end of the week we (seperately) toted up our spending. I dropped 10% the second week and more the third and after. The act of writing the expense down causes you to think before you splurge.

  19. vh says:

    Out of necessity, I’ve occasionally done this. And as several readers have observed, the result is you race out the next day and buy all the things you skipped on the “fasting” day plus everything you need on the new day plus a little something to make yourself feel better.

    However, it CAN work if instead of budgeting by the month, you take your month’s spendable income and break it into four “chunks” (three 8-day chunks and one 7-day chunk will cover 31 days).

    Let’s say that after setting aside something for savings, debt, insurance, and utilities, you budget $1500 to cover all your other expenses for the month. In each approximately week-long chunk you’d have $375 a week, or $47 to $53 a day. This allows you to see that if you stay out of the grocery store for a day or two, you have more in your pocket to buy food and household goods or maybe to go out to eat. If you don’t spend on Monday, then on Tuesday you have $94 to $106 of spending money. Each spending-free day in a given 7- or 8-day “miniycle” ratchets up the amount you can spend in the other days and ratchets up the chance that you’ll stay within your monthly budget–because even if you overspend in one or two minicycles, you have a good shot at making it up in the other two, very brief cycles.

    Also, if you’re out of money on the sixth or seventh day, it now makes sense to abstain from all purchasing for a day or two, until a new budget minicycle starts. In that context, an occasional spending-free day definitely will keep you in your budget and might even leave you with something extra for your savings at the end of the month.

    The other beauty of this system is that it shows you, in sterling clarity, whether & when you can afford Starbucks….

  20. Kyle says:

    You almost lost me, sounded a little too Tony Robbins for a minute there. What a great Idea! I was expecting… I don’t know what I was expecting. That’s so simple and Duh! why didn’t I think of that

  21. martha in mobile says:

    We have “frugality month” twice a year at our house. Any nonessential purchase we want to make is written down on a list and saved for the following month. If we remember to consult the list, we often find that we don’t really want any of those things. It is a way to avoid spending without feeling deprived, and we end up saving lots of money.

  22. Drew says:

    Many of you seem to have missed the point. Rent, utilities and other such required expenses are not factored in to this theory. I believe Trent is suggesting you put off any unnecessary expenditures. This means don’t buy that cup of coffee; grab a free cup from work (if available), otherwise make it at home. Don’t buy breakfast, lunch and/or dinner; make them at home. This will increase your grocery bill but it is still much cheaper than buying them from shops.

    With that said, feel free to continue spending money and, thusly, supporting the economy (so I don’t have to).

  23. SNL Did It says:

    I can’t find the link but SNL did a skit with Steve Martin called “Don’t Spend Money You Don’t Have” where Steve was basically selling a financial advice package that consisted of that simple phrase.

  24. Erin says:

    There have been days where I realized that I had only $2 in my wallet – and it had been that way for a week or more.

    The kind of spending that Trent is talking about isn’t groceries or rent. It’s those non-essentials – the $1 candy bar that you’ll just have to spend extra time at the gym working off anyway, that $2 trinket at the store that you only bought because you saw it in line.

    It’s about learning to avoid the temptation to buy it because you see it.

  25. Moneymonk says:

    I do this everyday. I buy what I need everyday. The only thing I spend money on is food. I do not have a hobby of spending on trinkets. I do not practice instant gratification. I see something I really want, I wait 2 weeks to make sure I really want it and then I save for it.

  26. Elaine says:

    Great advice, especially on the day I’m dropping $600 on a plane ticket. ha!

  27. Kenny says:

    Yes, but the trick is to not double up on your spending the next day. Not so much “you have more money,” but instead it seems to be “you keep your money longer” or “you spend your money slower.”

    Like Trent’s Nintendo Wii! He delayed that purchase for quite some time before buying it.

  28. m360 says:

    I agree with Drew, the point is to abstain from non-essentials here and there. Why not splurge on a coffee mug and a can of coffee and then brew coffee at home once a week. How much would be saved in the course of a year if someone was to do this? There are always things that will need to be purchased, just use a little discretion. I do this sometimes with cigarettes. I will roll myself a pack here and there. If I did this once a week, I would save at least $260. Or plan ahead for the week, think of how much will be spent on incidentals, take that much out, and put the rest away. Leave the credit cards at home. The temptation to spend is greater when there is money in your pocket. This is really simple but profound. I observe a lot of people who talk about how much they make, and how much they spend on food, shelter, utilities, etc. They say they are broke and I scratch my head, wondering how it can be.

  29. lori says:

    I get paid on Thursdays. I gas up my car, buy groceries for the week, and pay the bills that are due. I then challenge myself to see how long my “cash on hand” can last until the next pay day. Since last Thursday I have had $53 in my wallet for discretionary spending, and I have spent only $1 cash for a newspaper, and that is because I wanted to see the coupons. What is left before next Thursday goes in my bank account.
    I want to ad that just a few months ago, I would have “blown” that $53 before the weekend was up. I would have bought fast food, a lottery ticket, or some trinket to make myself feel better for a minute or two. It is getting harder and harder for me to part with a dollar – and believe me I have been a free wheelin’ spender most of my life! Packing lunches and drinking water during the day are not that hard for me anymore. I used to think that eating out was not that expensive, what with 99 cent value meals, etc. But now I realize they are expensive when I can cook one cheap meal for about a dollar and it lasts for two or more meals. It is better for my health, too!

  30. Elaine says:

    I do this all the time. My boss will often pay for my lunch so as long I recently went grocery shopping I can go for 3 to 4 days without opening my wallet.

  31. Elden says:

    Coffee, cigarettes, alcohol. These are all non-necessities, and unhealthy. Try cutting them out of your diet, and you will truely be happy, healthy, and have more money

  32. JS says:

    I do something similar, but with my family: We have a “spend nothing” weekend one weekend a month, where we find creative ways to have fun without spending a dime.

    Usually this involves going to the park or the beach, having a picnic, going the library, walking around some cool part of town, maybe even going into neat stores and browsing but not buying.

    We save at least an easy $50 per month this way.

  33. Barb Minton says:

    I need a new bathroom,car insurance, etc. I spend as little as possible of the money that I do make and am back to selling on eBay. Now that my health is improving, I will be having more energy to do more which means save more. Just don’t spend it.

  34. popslashgirl says:

    I love this advice, and I follow it as much as I can. I keep my expenses pretty minimal, so my biggest expense each week is groceries. I wait until the weekend, do all my grocery shopping at once using a list and planning my menus for the week, and then I have no excuses to go out again.

  35. Sandy says:

    I love this advice because it is so simple. I find that staying home, I’m able to save a lot of money, and nearly evrytime I leave the house, I part with money. When I do go out, though, now,with a day or 2 at home, I’m able to reflect on our needs for the week, and target those items, rather than frittering the money away.
    Some retirees that I know, who have downsized their lives and own 1 car, decide that they only leave the house every other day…the other day is home, with time to cook and freeze meals, hang out laundry, go for walks, and save in many other ways that can’t be done easily out and about. as a mostly stay home mom, this works, for the most part in our family life.
    I also love the idea of a frugal month or week..using up all the leftovers, making do with all the things we do have, simple meals, using items already in the pantry,etc…And coffe from home I think is the best idea for those of us who are coffee addicts. If you are spending just $2 a day on a cup of joe…hello…that adds up to $700 per year! That’s a great start on any savings plan that anyone has in mind. My husband, who makes a great salary, still to this day, makes a pot of coffee and puts it in a really fashionable thermos and packs his snacks for the day…better for health, better for wealth! And I think his SUV driving, Starbucks chugging co-workers see him driving his new Civic, purchased with low gas necessity in mind, his coffee and snacks, and probably think he’s crazy! But the bottom line for us is much better every year because of just a few small actions every day.

  36. Raymond says:

    I think the advice should not only be about avoiding to spend, whick might feel depriving, but rather to force yourself to find a way to do without what you would have bought. There sure is a way since at least 95% of the stuff we use today didn’t even exist some decades ago. all of it feels needed for work, status, comfort… just don’t settle for the first solution to the perceived problem. which will likely be the most expensive and won’t prevent the problem from happening again.

    once again, the winner question:
    I know i “need” it, now how could i just “do without” ?

  37. prodgod says:

    We try to do this every day in my family. Monday morning is our grocery time and our general spending money day (only necessities). Every day we DON’T spend money, we put a big star on the calendar in felt pen. It’s rewarding to see all those stars at a glance.

  38. miles says:

    i do this, its called being a “cheap @$$”

  39. Shambolam says:

    I love this post! My biggest effort in this has been to not spend any money on food I didn’t cook. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are homemade meals every day. I take breakfast and lunch to work, and cook bigger than necessary for dinner so that I always have leftovers. The best ‘investment’ I ever made was a vacuum sealer. Portion it out, vacuum it, freeze it, and it’s good to grab in the morning. I always have a variety to grab because I do this with every meal that I can. You can call me ‘cheap’ any time you like!

  40. steve says:

    At work my coworker and I have a joke where I suggest doing something absurdly and patently cheap and we say “The Cheap Bastard Strikes Again!.”

    Seriously, most day to day spending seems to be on unneccessary stuff and is primarily habitual/emotional. I’m talking about the trip to the coffee shop, lunch “out” at work, etc etc.
    I keep tea and coffee supplies at work and bring my own lunch. Sometimes for my lunch break if I’m not hungry I just go outside and walk around outside with a mug of office-made tea in my hand for the change of scenery and the exercise. Or do tai chi in the parking lot (doesn’t that sound hippy dippy? or go to the nearby library and soak in the AC and smell of books.)\

    I keep a notebook in my pocket and any task I want to do or thing I would like to purchase goes in the notebook. Then I look over the notebook once a week to preplan my shopping trip.

    AS for shopping, once a week to get the groceries, put gas in the car, and replace any things that broke or wore out or need replacing, or which are on my shopping list for projects around the house, and that’s enough. it’s also a lot more relaxing and entertaining and novel to shop when you keep it down to like one day a week.

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