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Attention whiny complainers: Why you STILL aren’t saving money

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Earlier this week, I announced that 2010 is the year where I want to help you earn more money. This is the “E” part of my CEO Model: Cutting costs, Earning more, and Optimizing spending.

I was really surprised with how much this struck a chord. You’ll notice 150+ comments asking for specific areas you want me to cover. Read closely: It’s not just tactics you want. Lots of you asked for help crushing your own psychological barriers.

I know you want me to jump right into the ways to earn extra money — how to turn your idea into extra income, negotiate higher rates, and scale your earnings — but I’m not going to yet. That’s because it’s critically important to understand your implicit barriers before you start tackling action steps.

And that’s what I want to cover today: Whiny people who don’t think they can save (and make more money).

Let’s start by examining what happened about 1 year ago.

* * *

“I’m offended you’re showing me how to save money”

In late 2008, when the market was crashing, people stopped caring about investing and negotiation and just wanted to hunker down and save money. As a result, I launched something called the “Save $1,000 in 30 Days Challenge,” where I showed people tactical ways to save money using fresh psychological techniques. Thousands of people joined in and worked to save thousands and thousands of dollars.

Except a few people.

While most people were supportive, I was surprised by how many people were actually offended by the very concept of a “Save $1,000 in 30 days challenge” because they didn’t even earn that much each month, or they found my recommendations to be “too obvious” — even though I defined “saving” as cutting costs, earning more, and optimize spending.

Here are some examples of their complaints, which I’ve categorized for easy reading:

Whiny complaint #1: “I don’t make enough money”:



Whiny complaint #2: “This is so obvious”




Whiny complaint #3: “You’re just doing this to make money”


Analysis: Stop the whining

These whiners miss the point.

  • Saving $1,000 in a month was eminently reasonable, but it was also an aspirational goal. If you couldn’t save $1,000, what about $500? $200?
  • More likely, the whiners expected personalized information to be spoon-fed to them.
  • The people who complained a year ago are probably still complaining about money, while many of the people who took the challenge saved hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

No more excuses, please. We all know friends who complain and complain about money, but do nothing to change their situations. Yes, of course luck and other factors are involved in saving money, but 90% of people could easily save — cut costs, earn more, and optimize their spending — with some effort. Maybe not $1,000, but certainly $100, $200, or maybe even $800.

Even worse, these commenters chose to complain about the tips not being specifically relevant to their own situations instead of saying, “Hey, how can I apply these to my life and save more money?”

Let’s break down the complaints because they happen over and over again when it comes to doing something entrepreneurial — whether saving money or earning more money.

Myth #1: “I don’t earn enough to save $1,000”
With the Save $1,000 Challenge, the goal was clear, but you could just as easily decide to save a different amount. $100, $200, $500 — it doesn’t matter. In fact, even if you just saved $100, you’d be better off than doing nothing. And remember, you can save even if you don’t earn a lot. They could “save” by cutting costs, earning more, or optimizing the spending they’re already doing. But it’s easier to complain, isn’t it?

What’s also likely is that these readers were not regular iwillteachyoutoberich readers with above-average incomes and a propensity for taking action. In fact, I had a huge influx of traffic from sites like MSN Money and Lifehacker, which have very different audiences.

Myth #2: “These tips are obvious”

This is the oldest complaint in the book from useless people looking for novel tips instead of actually doing something.

Yes, most personal-finance tips are obvious (just like losing weight is simple: Eat less and exercise more). The magic comes in getting you to actually take action. But we love to debate minutiae and complain about the economy, even though saving money fundamentally involves earning more and spending less. These commenters were looking for “secret” tips and silver bullets, custom-written for their situation. That’s ridiculous. If the tip on hedging your fuel costs doesn’t apply to your situation because you don’t have a car, a smart person would say, “Hmm, how can I apply that general technique to the rest of my life?”

I’ve written about the Manifest Destiny Fallacy before:

“Have you noticed how lots of people always want more and more information, but rarely implement what they already have? A couple years ago, I started realizing how lots of personal-finance readers were constantly asking for more and more information — more blog posts, more book reviews, more financial magazines — but would often just READ, not take action.

To put it bluntly, I have lots of friends who read blog post after blog post, but have STILL not automated their money, started investing, or even put together an aggressive plan to pay off debt.”

Action is more important than reading tip after tip.

Myth #3: You’re just doing this to earn money

I always laugh when I hear people say, “Hey, I have a good way to save $10…just don’t buy his book! Ha Ha Ha!!” Yes, good one.

Many people hate the idea of other people making money, even if it helps them make more money. I find this totally absurd. Last year, I paid thousands and thousands of dollars on personal development materials (books, courses, travel to meet people) and made a lot more. Yesterday alone, I bought a $197 marketing course because it had one piece of training that I wanted.

So notice when people talk about investing in training, books, courses, or anything that could potentially improve their careers or lifestyles. You’ll notice this funny phenomenon of ‘nobody better take my money,’ which is the typical complaint of friends who adopt the fixed-pie mentality. They think that there’s a fixed amount of money in the world and “Nobody else better make money because if they do, somehow I’m losing it.”

You know friends like this: They’re fiercely combative about their money, they generally don’t believe in spending money to make money (e.g., they would never spend $20 to take someone out and get their advice) because the other person would be “winning” and they would be losing money. They invest conservatively, if at all, and if they lose money over any time period, they blame someone else.

Pay for value. You can’t out-frugal your way to being rich.

See people who TOOK ACTION

Compare the above negative comments to these readers below, who decided to make a change with their personal finances.

Jenni at Astronaut-In-Training breaks down exactly how much she saved from each tip. The conclusion?

“Final savings through the 30 Day Challenge is ……….


I seriously didn’t add this up until I was done writing everything. Wow. Granted, many of this tips are things I already do, but some of them I just recently implemented, and will continue to save me money if I continue to do them. Most importantly, I view my money in a different light. In college, if money came my way, I just spent it.

That’s what it was there for, right? I didn’t have a real budget, and didn’t track anything. Now I have a monthly budget, I track every penny, I have an emergency fund, I’m paying off my debt faster, and this year I plan to start investing. I only wish I had developed this drive to protect and cherish my money sooner.”

From Tip #5: Optimize your cellphone bill, Rachel writes:

“I just did this, and the fifteen minute conversation with AT&T has just saved me $20.00/month, or $240.00 per YEAR. That is huge.”

From Tip #10: Use the free rewards from your credit card, car insurance, and workplace, Jenni says:

“I JUST did this over the weekend: my BoA Visa gets reward points ($1 = 1 point), which I haven’t used since I got the credit card. I purchased my Christmas travel home through the rewards website, and instead of a $555 flight on Southwest, I paid $175.75 plus all my accumlated points for a similar US Air flight!

Savings this tip: $379.25″

Let’s be aware of one thing: Some people insist that everyone can simply earn more and save more money, regardless of their life situations. I’m not one of those people (read Nickel and Dimed to see why it’s not as easy as saying, “just try to earn more”). But if you’re reading a blog and leaving comments in the middle of the day, I start to get the sense that it’s not your situation — it’s just a negative attitude and a sense of entitlement that any tips should be specifically geared towards you.

Underlying every single tip, tactic, and strategy I recommend is the need to take action. Without action, you sit in your room, leaving negative blog posts and convincing yourself that you can’t save $1,000, or make an extra $500 or $5,000 per month. You can. But you need to get started.

* * *

How this relates to earning more money in 2010

I’m about to unveil a 3-week series on earning money, and then more material afterwards. There will inevitably be people who complain that earning more money is impossible. I’m guessing the excuses will be things like:

  • “I don’t have enough time”
  • “That might work if you have an Ivy League education but I’m just a humble [occupation]…”
  • “Maybe if you live in SF or NYC…”
  • “Maybe if you’re a single guy, but I have a family…”

All of those are reasonable excuses. And some might be legitimate. But if those are going to hold you back, just go away. In the next few weeks I have case studies of people who earn thousands in extra income as parents who live in podunkville. I have a case study of a person who started a side job while working at one of the most prestigious/time-consuming jobs in the world. And people who earn  a great side income with ordinary jobs and incomes…all because they took the initiative to do it.

It can be done.

Let’s work through it together.

[Updated]: The 3-week course on earning more is finished. If you want to learn more about earning more money — with materials, scripts, tactics, and techniques that you won’t see on the blog, join my private Earn1K insider’s list:

(Can’t see the form? Click here.)

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  1. Glad you responded to some of the naysayers but just so you know… I’m sold I think you present some very relevant info for us younger folks..

  2. Ramit,

    Very much enjoyed this post.

    I appreciate how you are starting with the psychological barriers to earning more. Until recently, I have to sadly say, that I never even considered earning more as a means to financial security. All of my methods have always focused on tedious budgetting (that usually fails), and cutting back on things I enjoy, which again, doesn’t work for long.

    It is weird, but I find there can actually be a fear associated with trying to earn more money.

    I’ll be following closely for the next three weeks.



  3. So true, people have tons of excuses.

    I personally didn’t save 1,000 b/c i don’t even make that much but reading through those posts helped me a lot. I started to reconsider what I spent most of my money on.

    If it wasn’t for your blog, I wouldn’t be taking this much action.

    Thanks Ramit!

  4. Because of this site I made it a goal to pay off my student loan, which I did last year. I was also able to save over 10% this year, and I’m looking to increase that to over 15% next year. I also created my first ‘product’ that’s a unique marketing tool for businesses.

  5. sudhir khanger Link to this comment

    As a student i can save $100 per month. How can i start earning from 100 bucks? WAITING for your future articles.

  6. Sometimes the vocal minority can drown out the silent majority.

    Please, please, don’t hold back. I’ll gladly pay you money if you can set me up to make even the exact same amount back!

    Why? Because I can then turn up the dial. I’ll have the skills, the foundation, the mindset to be able to exponentially gain over time.

    I love article on saving too, though. Especially, permanent skills such as negotiating and outsourcing.

    Funny thing is these skills that allow to to save effectively, also help provide a base for you to earn more too!

    Screw the trolls.

  7. Many people hate the idea of other people making money, even if it helps them make more money.

    Haha, I used to be one of these. Not in the field of making money, but when it came to acquiring certain skillsets that I valued. It was partly an ego issue, and took some time to overcome.

  8. hahahahaa!!!! phew! the title of tht one!!!

  9. I totally agree, especially in regards to the “I don’t even make $1000 a month” excuse. Basically, these people are expecting that you consistently play down to the lowest common denominator. By that logic, you’d have to reduce the tips all the way down the unemployed single mother of three—and then you’d have people at the other end of the spectrum.

    People who bitch and whine that a given tidbit of advice isn’t custom tailored to them clearly never developed a full sense of object constancy and an awareness of the fact that there are other people in the world besides them. These are also the people who most likely would pay or do free work for someone in order to get that personalized advice—but that’s a different story.

    Regarding the fixed pie issue and taking action: I used to get discouraged when I read books like the The Four Hour Workweek because I figured, “Well, this book is a best-seller, therefore everyone is reading it and these tactics are going to be worthless.” It’s important to remember that even if a book is a best-seller, only one percent of the population actually bought it—and not all of them read it. Even then, only a small fraction will take action.

    If you really need to make yourself feel better about your prospects for starting a business, go to the mall and take a look around. There are literally thousands of people who don’t know what you know and have no intention of taking action. If you’re the only person in that mall that takes action toward achieving your goals—even if it fails—you’ll instantly be in the top 0.1% of that group.

  10. I find that once you start focusing on earning more money, you simply keep earning more money. By putting your self in that frame of mind, you uncover opportunities that previously would have overlooked.