Baby steps for future millionaires

baby steps 1

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step.

For those that are new to the concept of financial independence, here are 10 baby steps on The Path to becoming a millionaire.

Re-programming our habits eventually creates incredible results. The magic is in the aggregation of marginal gains.

1. Go one day without spending

For thousands of years, our ancestors lived without money. But these days most of us have fallen into the habit of almost continual spending.

So break the habit just for one day by not spending anything. Not a single penny.

The purpose is to experience a day when your financial blood stays in your veins, rather than spurting out of your neck like a sword wound on Game of Thrones.

It turns out that it’s possible to live without spending money every day. And yes, you are allowed to enjoy yourself. You can have friends over for drinks or food at your house…or go to the park. You are allowed to have sex (but not to pay someone for it).  You are even allowed to eat at a restaurant…but only if you pay by washing up.

2. Cycle to work

Cycle to work for just one day.

“My work is too far away! There are no bike-sheds! My co-workers might think I’m too fit. Its too dangerous because my Bee Gees style white flares might get caught in the chain. I can’t because the dog ate my bike etc etc”

Be aware that your current definition of “too far” may be miscalibrated. If your work is less than 10 miles away, then its easy. If its less than 5 miles away, you could crawl it with a broken leg if you were really trying.

If you work at home, use your bike for a trip you would otherwise have used the car for. If your work is too far away to cycle just once, you may want to reconsider either 1) your mindset 2) where you live or 3) your job.

3. Ask for a discount

I got this from Noah Kagan who calls it The Coffee Challenge. Go to a coffee shop and ask for a 10% discount on your coffee. If you don’t drink coffee, no problem, you can try it at any other retail establishment.  Not asking is an automatic no.

Different people will learn different things from this. You may learn that you have a fear of asking for what you want. You may learn that you worry what other people think of you. You may learn that some people are stuck in soul sucking jobs with no discretion. You may learn that everything in life is potentially negotiable.

The point is that not that saving 20p on your coffees is going to get you rich by itself. Its not even that you are going to save huge amounts over your lifetime if you negotiate a discount every time you buy a house, car or holiday.

The point is learning the confidence to ask for what you want. How can the world know what you want if you don’t ask for it?

4. Buy your first share

Many people have a deep-seated mistrust of stocks / shares, based on misconceptions inherited from parents / the media / others. For example, people on the left may feel guilt at owning shares, worried they might turn into The Man. Some people on the right may be terrified of tax and communism. Others are just overwhelmed with information.

Whatever the reasons, lots of people get stuck sitting on surplus cash. These people should worry less about whether they have the perfect platform, fund choice, asset allocation etc and instead just get used to the feeling of “pulling the trigger”.

You can open a low cost broker account online in minutes. The Share Centre have a free practice account where you can “buy” shares without using real money.  This exercise is even more powerful using real money…but it only has to be a token amount.

You are allowed to buy a Vanguard ETF or a blue chip share that Granny has heard of. But no exciting Bolivian platinum miners or tech concept stocks please.

5. Come up with 10 ideas a day

I stole this idea from James Altucher, who I’m sure wouldn’t mind me paying it forward. If you commute, this is a great way to spend the journey. Funnily enough, I found this worked best when combined with a break from alcohol.

Get a sheet of A4 paper and a pen.   Split your life into broad categories and divide the paper accordingly. For example I might split it into, say, 4 quadrants such as 1) Family 2) Health & Fitness 3) Cutting spending 4) Boosting Income. Do whatever makes sense for you.

Then come up with 10 new ideas and write each one in the appropriate quadrant.

You don’t have to follow through on all these ideas (although if they are good, you should). The important thing is to exercise your creativity muscle and get used to the habit of generating new ideas. When brainstorming, there are no bad ideas. Sifting the good from the bad comes later.

To illustrate, here are some ideas I had just now:

  • Take Karate lessons with son #2
  • Buy second hand bench press and weights on Ebay using Goofbid
  • Research local wine tastings
  • Improve my French by lessons or watching House with the subtitles on
  • Run a marathon without training
  • Overcome fear via a parachute jump
  • Insert Paypal button on webpage for my financial coaching
  • Fix date to bike to see my friend Paul
  • Go to Ibiza

Like I said, they don’t have to all be good ideas.  As you can see, the examples above range from perfectly sensible to irresponsible.

6. Eat like a caveman for 2 weeks

This is not a silly or complicated diet. You just eat natural food…nothing made in a factory. If The Flintstones could have eaten it, then it’s in. If not, then it’s out.

You don’t have to make fire with a stick and a piece of twine, you are allowed to use the cooker. You are also allowed cutlery, plates and folded swan napkins if you want.

If you need more guidance, then read this and this.

7. Track your spending for a month

Have you ever wondered: where does it all go?

Well now its time to find out! Pay for everything using a debit card from one bank account. Then download all the transactions for a month into a spreadsheet and group every purchase under a heading (food, utilities, transport etc) to see where it all goes.

This should start to change your behaviour. As any CEO knows, what gets measured gets managed.

8. Go a week without complaining

You may not have realised it (especially given all the shite in The News) but we’re living through the greatest period in history.

The world is full of good things (see above) but it can also seem unfair. Especially in the Prison Camp.

It is what it is. The trick is to focus on what you can control. Every unit of energy we spend complaining is energy that we’re not spending on taking action. Unfortunately the cavalry are not coming, so it’s down to us to improve our lives.

So go a week without complaining.

Imagine there is no “they”…as in what will they come up with next? To hold yourself accountable, tell your partner / family / BFF what you are doing and get them to hide your favourite treat for a week. If they catch you complaining, the clock starts again for another week.

9. Calculate your investing costs

If you are paying into a pension, do you know what funds you are investing in and what the total charges are? As an actual number of £s / $s / €s?

People who use a financial adviser or wealth manager are often clueless as to how much they are paying in total investment costs. For example, I have asked people this question who guessed less than £200 a year. When we then dug into it, the actual amount was closer to £20,000 a year. Doh!

Although financial advisers have to disclose their own fees, the investor is not provided with a total figure for fees that includes the expenses charged by the underlying funds, dealing commissions, stamp duty, the bid-offer spread, price disturbance etc etc.

A good rule of thumb is that clients of financial advisers invested in active funds are usually bearing costs of 2 to 3% per year all in. Given that the income yield on a portfolio may only be 3%, this means that the customer may be paying ALL their income away in fees.

Would you go into a car showroom and tell the salesman you’d like the red one but you don’t want to know how much it costs? Would you then allow them to deduct whatever they like from your bank account? Fuck no.

10. Walk!

Instead of taking the children to Megabowl, Alton Terrors or Dismalland, why not go for a walk in nature?  Its free and you are even allowed to do this if you don’t have children.

Yesterday the 5 of us went for a four mile walk in the nearby countryside. It was raining and the children moaned beforehand about being torn away from their Nintendos and other assorted electronic crack cocaine.

But the countryside was beautiful. The children came back calm and grounded. We got time to talk as a family. I find walking in woods particularly therapeutic. If you are in the UK, you can find your local woods by clicking here.

Our bodies are incredibly complex systems. Taleb suggests that walking has hidden benefits for health and creativity that we don’t understand fully. Walking may be as important to our health as sleep.

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  1. fibrarian · · Reply

    Fantastic insights. Perhaps sometimes we all become a bit focused on how much the market has moved today or how much we’ve spent on food this week and forget the other things in life that can make a big difference like exercise and diet.

    I’ve been umming and ahhing about taking the plunge and trying to bike to work and so far have just been coming up with reasons not to. No longer! Time to get off my backside, buy a new helmet and get cracking.

    1. Yes….the diet and exercise stuff is great for health etc but I included them in this list for the long term financial benefits you will get from them….please let us know when you’ve achieved the bike mission!

  2. I try & combine #1 & #2 on each of my 3 working days a week. I probably manage it at least 5 times out of each fortnight. The fail on the others is usually buying lunch at work or jumping on public transport if the weather is a total wash out in the morning… it’s just under 11 miles to work & whilst i don’t mind getting soaked on the way home I struggle to start my day that wet.

    #7 is also done forensically every month 😉

    like the list of ideas… will give that a go soon i think.

  3. cathybird · · Reply

    Hi Escape Artist. Thanks for the post. You’ve persuaded me to give the De Vany diet a go. I’ve bought the book.

    I’ve done all the others and keep doing them regularly or semi-regularly, except asking for discounts – haven’t tried that one! But then I don’t buy coffee in coffee shops either, or much of anything in any shop. 🙂

    1. Yes! I’d love to hear how the diet works for you…please let us know…all the best!

  4. enancejividen · · Reply

    I especially love number 8, even though it’s definitely not my default mode. It’s so easy to get mired in negativity, and forget that life is still pretty darn easy.
    If you ask my husband how he’s doing, he always gives the Zig Ziglar answer “Super Fantastic, but getting better!” Keeping positive people in your life can help you adjust your own attitude.

  5. These are great! I am a huge believer in learning your way around the markets – even if that is simply investing in a Vanguard fund. Having the confidence to buy that first share will open doors. You’ll feel empowered that you are taking steps towards bettering your future. Tracking your spending is huge, too. So many people are blind about their monthly expenses and are afraid to really take a hard look at them. It’s a great first step!


  6. Variously love, like, and am wary about some of these. Love: spendless day, 10 ideas, track spending, stop complaining. Like: cycle, discount, investing costs walk. Wary: share buying, Flintstones diet. I admire your initiative, but is it okay if I choose substitutions for some on your list? 🙂

    On share buying: nothing wrong with stock investing, once you clearly understand modern day equity investing risks. You won’t get that information from the financial services industry, and that’s the problem.

    1. Why be wary of the diet before you’ve tried it?…there is no sign up fee, no 5 year contract, you eat natural food and are allowed to stop anytime…what’s the worst that could happen?

  7. There are some interesting ideas here, but I would recommend that instead of “Eat like a caveman” that people try to “Eat like you care” (i.e., a vegan diet).

    Quite simply, eating animals (or their products like milk and eggs) is cruel, environmentally wasteful, not great for your health and costly. Although a few items in the vegan grocery basket tend to be more expensive than their animal-based alternatives, overall a vegan diet is cheaper than one that includes meat, fish, milk and eggs. Moreover, I’ve found that following a vegan diet and lifestyle has made it significantly easier to keep my weight down (no more giving in to cravings for ice cream) and say no to expensive shopping, restaurant and takeout impulses. (Not that there aren’t excellent vegan products and restaurants out there – they’re just a little harder to find, so I’m less inclined to indulge myself.) So it’s good for my (vegan) wallet, too.

    Here’s just one example of a list of frugal, vegan grocery staples:

    Frugal is great. Being healthy is essential to a frugal life. But more importantly, what’s the point of being financially independent if I’ve got the blood of thousands of animals on my conscience?

    1. The Weasel · · Reply

      Oh come on!. We are omnivores and that’s that. Don’t try to put animal blood at the same level as human blood. I’m all against cruelty, but cows are so tasty… just kill then softly… *sigh*

  8. […] Baby Steps for Future Millionaires [The Escape Artist]: Yep. One has to start somewhere and the ten steps presented here are as good a place as any. […]

  9. […] Escape Artist shared 10 Baby Steps For Future Millionaires. Great […]

  10. Great post. My wife started eating vegetarian about 4 months ago and I was surprised at how much we saved on groceries (see Great tips, thank you!

  11. Love the links in #8 – great stuff!

    I’m with you on the 10 ideas comment about alcohol. My mind is so much more productive when I’ve been off the booze for a week or two! Never heard of Goofbid either so will check that out on my next eBay purchase.


    1. Thanks TFS…I followed through on that idea and now have the bench press and weights on my patio courtesy of Ebay!

  12. Thanks for sharing!
    This is the second time this week I’ve heard of becoming an idea machine, it’s something I’d love to try but I’m scared I’d challenge myself to try them all and lose focus of my overall goals.
    I’m now subscribed and looking forward to reading more.

    1. Welcome to the site!

      Pushing through fear is all part of the process TMM. The idea machine exercise offers minimal downside with high potential upside…

  13. Hey i like to add on an important point:If u want to be rich try to earn more 😉 along with saving

  14. […] And of course I’ve written around 1400 words on the essentially fairly trite and dull situation of having a job while looking for another one. But still, trite or otherwise, this reminds me of the value of optionality. Perhaps even more so, it reminds me of the value of the other party in a negotiation being able to see that you have optionality. And as a bonus lesson, the fact that “not asking is an automatic no“. […]

  15. If you ever want a perfect example of how easy we have it, go to Edinburgh and visit the real St Mary’s Kings close. It is tourist attraction but extremely interesting and worth the entrance fee. As its something you can see, hear, smell, touch (within reason), it delivers a punch to gut in terms of highlighting how absolutely easy we have it.

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