www.ethanwiner.com - since 1997

Be Smart With Your Money


I really like Dave Ramsey's Financial Freedom radio show because he helps people become debt free. I've never been in debt, though I came close when I was much younger! Below are my own guidelines for financial wisdom, and hopefully you'll find them interesting and useful. I've been self-employed for most of my adult life, and self-made and mostly self-taught, and some of my advice applies there too.

* Gambling never pays off in the long run. This includes lottery tickets and most stocks. Put whatever money you'd spend weekly on lottery tickets into safe investments that are unlikely to ever lose principle.

* Save money by buying insurance having a high deductible, and cover whatever deductible you can safely manage yourself. Everyone needs an emergency fund (bank savings account), and that can handle the higher deductible when needed. Likewise, use that fund instead of buying extended warranties for your cars or appliances - just deposit whatever the purchased warranties would have cost.

* A car is not a status symbol - it's a way to get where you need to go. Don't worry if your neighbor drives a nicer car than you. There are many nice cars that are comfortable and reliable, and also affordable. Then keep it until it's no longer worth repairing. At the time of this writing my 1993 Toyota Camry LE has 240,000 miles on it, and it still rides like the day I bought it. More important, my last property tax bill was only $45.

* Be a smart consumerist. Product prices can vary 10-to-1 for the same quality, so a few minutes spent researching can pay off big. And avoid snake oil which is everywhere, especially health and weight loss and "well-being" products which are almost always a rip-off.

* Don't have children until you can comfortably afford them.

* Learn enough about technology and "how stuff works" to do your own minor repairs around the house. The same skill-set helps avoid being ripped off by car and computer repair people. Even if you don't consider yourself handy with tools, the basics are not complicated.

* Owning your own small business can be highly satisfying and financially rewarding. I've started three successful small businesses, and all were "vertical" serving a narrow market. Vertical businesses are less expensive to advertise because ads in small-market magazines cost 1/1000th as much as ads in national magazines. You can start this type of business for far less money than manufacturing mass-market goods like can openers or breakfast jam. The more technical the business, the easier and less expensive it is to start and become successful.

* A small business can be started with little or no money. In the mid-1980s I started a software company with $6,000 worth of ads in PC Magazine, and grew it to over $1 Million in sales after just three years. In 2003 I started another million dollar business (this time in the field of audio) with a partner for only $12,000. But you don't even need to buy ads. If you're an expert in your field, magazines will pay you to write articles, which helps promote your name and your business. Posting in online forums is another way to advertise your expertise for free.

* A college education is very expensive and is not for everyone, especially someone who will struggle just to squeak by. Trade schools can be useful, but you can learn a lot for free on the job and avoid having to repay student loans.

* It's critically important to be literate and articulate in business, especially with email. Read your emails twice before sending, and be sure that what you're saying is as clear as possible.

* Likewise, be organized in everything you do. If you promise to call someone back, do that when you said you would.

* Buy a membership at a warehouse club such as Costco. The first thing you'll realize is how overpriced most supermarkets are!

* One of the dumbest things people buy is expensive jewelry because it has little intrinsic value. Nobody can tell the difference between a real diamond and a fake anyway - not even most jewelers.

* Pay for everything you buy using a credit car when possible. If something goes wrong later with the purchase, you have a better chance of getting your money back than if you paid by check or with a debit card.

* Never use auto-pay to give a business or utility company access to your checking account. They can take whatever amount they want, whenever they want, and it's difficult to refute the charges or rescind the account access.

* If you own a business, hire good people and pay them well. Employees appreciate profit sharing, and that gives them an incentive to work hard and be loyal to your interests. Then let them do their thing and don't micro-manage.

* Don't sweat the cost of small items, but watch for repeated purchases that add up over a year, like supermarket goods. Generic brands can be just as good as the name brands, and they're often made in the same factories!

* Finally, there's no fast track to becoming rich. Everyone who is successful had to work very hard to get there! And there's no need to be filthy rich anyway. Keeping your goals reasonable increases your chance of success enormously.


Ethan Winer has been an audio pro and skeptic for most of his adult life. He now heads up RealTraps, where he designs acoustic treatment products for recording studios and home listening rooms.

Entire contents of this web site Copyright 1997- by Ethan Winer. All rights reserved.