I’m really excited to welcome Clark Howard, who doesn’t need much by way of introduction — you probably know him as host of the syndicated Clark Howard Show on radio and co-host of Evening Express on HLN. He’s here to share lessons from his new book, Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul, and we’re giving away three copies on Twitter!
To win, simply tweet @JeanChatzky and @ClarkHoward with your best money tip by Sunday at midnight EST. We’ll randomly pick the winners on Monday, August 12.
My new book Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul features 50 stories of Americans who live below their means while living life to the fullest and includes 200 practical tips to pack a punch in your wallet.
Again and again, a few common themes emerge from the telling those 50 stories and all those money-saving tips:
1) You have to save money. It’s tempting to want to spend everything you earn, but that’s not the way to build a sound future. The earlier you start, the better, but it’s never too late. The money you set aside will give you more freedom to make choices, like taking a lesser-paying job because you love the work or starting a business.
2) Invest for the long haul. Sometimes people are afraid to buy stocks because they see them as too risky, but you need your money to grow faster than inflation to build your buying power. If you buy regularly, such as through a 401(k) plan, and keep doing so whether the market is up or down, you’ll build wealth over time. The markets might have a bad year or two, but they invariably rise over the decades.
3) Keep debt to a minimum. When you owe money on your credit cards or an expensive car loan, you’re a financial prisoner, giving your hard-earned money to a lender every month to pay interest.
4) Buy a house. Despite the post-recession housing crash, buying a house remains an excellent way to build wealth over time. In fact, with house prices still down and interest rates still low, housing is incredibly affordable.
5) Keep your cars for a long time. Cars are expensive, and they lose value over time. So they are a depreciating obligation, not an investment. If you buy or lease a new car every few years, you’ll never stop making payments.
6) Keep a good credit rating. Nothing good comes from having a bad credit rating. It will be harder to get a mortgage or a car loan, and you’ll have to pay a higher interest rate if you do. Pay your bills on time and don’t use too much of your available credit, and check your credit report for free at least once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com.
7) Spend your money wisely. Shop for good prices on the things you have to buy and don’t waste your money on things you don’t—from $6 cups of coffee to cutting-edge electronics—and you’ll be way ahead of the game.
8) Travel smartly. Traveling is one of the great joys of life, and you can do it without going to the poorhouse. Look for airfare, hotel, and car rental specials, and try to be as flexible as possible in your travel dates and where you choose to go. Buy what’s on sale and save, just like at the supermarket.
9) Don’t let companies take advantage of you. Persistence is the key when you have a consumer problem. People who are persistent usually win. People who give up in frustration generally miss the chance to have the problem resolved to their satisfaction.
10) You don’t have to change your financial habits all at once. Each year, make more good decisions and fewer bad ones, and over the years you can steer your finances into calmer, warmer waters.
About Clark: Clark Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer expert who advises consumers how to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off. His radio show is heard every day on more than 200 radio stations throughout North America. He is also co-host of HLN’s nightly news program Evening Express with CNN’s Ryan Smith. Clark has published ten books in total. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.