“Take Care of the Pennies and…”

by David Bakke

penniesAs I think about some of the things that have allowed me a fair amount of financial success in my personal life, I look back to a quote I heard a long time ago.  The Americanized version of it would be “Take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.”  Looks like it was originally attributed to a man named William Lowndes back in the 1700s.

I first heard about it many years ago when I worked in corporate restaurant management.  It is pretty self-explanatory.  Applied to one’s personal life, basically it means that if you pay attention to the smaller financial issues in your life, then the larger ones will take café of themselves.

What I also take it to mean is that managing your money is more of a mindset and a frame of mind than anything else.  If you watch how you spend your money during your weekly trip to the grocery store, then the big things in life (lowering your mortgage payment, buying a new car, etc) should be no-brainers.  You simply adopt the same attitude to the former as you do the latter.

It also reminds me of one of the ways that I used to look at money and how it came in and went out of my life.  Back then, I would utter the phrase “It’s only money” all the time.  You know, spend $10 a week on lottery tickets and rarely win?  So what-it’s only money.  Have an area of your life where you could save significantly but are too lazy/busy/whatever to actually implement the change?  No worries-it’s only money.

As I look back now on the financial mess that I emerged from so many years ago, I also realize that it wasn’t until I starting looking at a lot of these so-called “little things” that I started to make some real progress.

Let me give you a few examples.

My lunch. I take my lunch to work with me and have done so for the past five years, give or take a little.  It’s only a few dollars a day, right?  Well, at $5 per lunch for the past five years, it means I would have spent about $6500 on lunch during that time.  The lunch that I have taken with me during that time probably costs about $2 per day, so I have saved myself $680 a year for the past five years for a grand total of $3400.  I could buy a used car for that amount of money.

My garbage.   I have lived in my current home for the last ten years and I have never paid for trash pickup (I recently wrote a post regarding this). At about $50 per quarter, I have saved myself $2000 over that time period.   I believe that works out to a little more than three free mortgage payments.

My home phone.  We got rid of our home phone just about two years ago (I also wrote a post on this topic as well).  At the time, we paid about $40 per month for it.  We switched to Magic Jack, which cost me $40 to purchase and twenty dollars per year for the last two years.  This works out to a savings of $900 over that time span.  That is more than what I paid for water.

Three relatively insignificant examples, that, when looked at in the grand scheme of things, translate into major savings.

That phrase really does mean a lot to me.  Think of some of the pennies that you could manage better in your life, and you’d be surprised at the long-term effect they have on your overall financial picture.

Do you have some other “pennies” examples that you’d l like to share?  My readers would love to hear about it below.


1 Julie Anne Pyle November 30, 2010 at 10:53 am

Hello David,
Great philosophy and information. I grew up with this thinking and it has kept me out of the hole on many occasions. The quotation about watching the pennies brought me here. I was looking for more evidence to promote how my PeopleString homepage piles up the pennies on a daily basis.
Thanks for sharing your little pieces of wisdom with the world.

2 david/your finances101 November 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm


Thanks for joining in the conversation….and, nice looking website!!

Best of luck!

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