25 Secrets Millionaires Won’t Tell You About Their Everyday Habits
It's not all champagne and caviar. Here’s how rich people maximize their money—and how you can too.
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
How rich people hold on to their money
If you’ve ever wondered how rich people live, you might be surprised to learn that fancy cars and designer duds aren’t necessarily par for the course. Sure, there are some people who have lucked into their fortunes and spend like there’s no tomorrow, but it turns out that many millionaires focus more on saving money than spending it.
“People who have a large amount of wealth tend to think differently than those with debt,” says Leslie Tayne, a New York–based debt attorney, noting that she often sees people with less spend well beyond their means. On the other hand, those with substantial wealth are good at leveraging their money to generate more money. “They are less concerned with amassing luxury items just for the sake of image and obtaining things than they are with money management and making their money work for them,” she explains.
So just how do rich people make their money work for them? We talked to “ordinary” millionaires to learn more about how they protect their wealth, and it turns out that their money-saving tips aren’t out of your reach. In fact, many of them live on a budget, buy things cheap and practice an abundance mindset. By following their easy, everyday habits, you just may be able to get a jump-start on your own millionaire status and even retire early.
Get Reader’s Digest’s Read Up newsletter for more money tips, humor, cleaning, travel, tech and fun facts all week long.
They are very frugal
“I’m a multimillionaire, and I am extremely frugal. I budget and save money by eating out only twice a month. We also don’t overspend on gifts and have only one car. Granted it’s a Porsche, but my husband and I share it.” —Cynthia Wylie, author and founder of the Bloomers Island series
They pay themselves first
“Since I started babysitting at 12 years old, my mom always told me to pay myself first, just like it was a bill. It didn’t matter if it was $5, $10 or $100, so long as there was always something for a rainy day. I’m now in my 60s, and I still follow this advice. It’s come in handy over the years.” —Lauren Martinez-Lopez, senior account manager at an employee benefits company
Here are more habits of debt-free people.
They don’t drive flashy cars
“I’d rather drive a Ford or Subaru over a luxury car. I find they have the best overall value for the intended use. And instead of replacing them every couple of years with the newer model, I drive them until they become unreliable or start requiring costly repairs.” —Joe Lopez, program manager at a high-tech manufacturing company
An eco-friendly car with excellent fuel economy can help you save even more.
They don’t book expensive airline seats
“I like to travel six to seven months out of the year, but I always fly coach. For me, first-class tickets are a waste of money because you only get to enjoy the benefit for a few hours. The way I look at it is we are all going to the same place in a big metal tube, and we will all get there at the same time. I do like splurging on nice things—I will splurge on a nice five-star hotel or clothing that I’ll keep for five or six years—but wasting money on a first-class plane ticket drives me up a wall.” —Bryan Clayton, founder and CEO of GreenPal
Rich people—and smart travelers—also know when to book plane tickets for the cheapest prices.
They think long-term
“I have learned from millionaires that investing my money now can give me benefits in the future. My strategy is to invest 20% to 25% of my yearly income in a broad portfolio that includes equities, bonds, real estate and high-yield savings accounts.” —Shakzod Khabibov, co-founder of Natura Market
They distinguish between wealth and income
“People confuse wealth and income. You can make a million dollars a year and be broke. We call them HENRY (high earners, not rich yet). Alternatively, you can have someone who takes almost no monthly income but has lots and lots of money. They’re two very different things.” —Dave U., business owner
Using the best budget apps can help you be more realistic about your finances—and how much money you actually have to play around with.
They make the most of their money
“I tell people all the time that wealth isn’t what you make but what you do with what you make. I always take advantage of discounts, bonuses and perks. For instance, my haircuts are $30. During the holidays, I buy $500 in gift cards (for myself) at the salon because they give you 20% off and a free coffee mug!” —Matt Harris, pearl jewelry designer and historian
They don’t always buy expensive bottles of wine
“I own several bottles of $1,000 wine that I open maybe once a year, as well as $250 to $500 bottles that I’ll open maybe every few months. However, I also take pride in searching for, buying and drinking really delicious, well-made $35 bottles.” —Harris
If you buy in bulk at some of the best wineries, you might also be able to score an excellent deal.
They don’t spend big on name brands
“I’m an avid guitar player, but I don’t spend a fortune on expensive brand-name guitars. I buy one or two originals, but for most of my collection, I prefer to buy quality electric-guitar copies. I find that they offer great value for the money, and they sound just as good as their high-end counterparts.
“I also avoid buying brand-name clothing whenever possible. I even sometimes shop at thrift stores and secondhand shops, for stage and video clothes. Not only does this help me to save money, but it also allows me to find unique pieces that I wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. When it comes to work attire, I wait until there is a buy-one-get-one-free [sale].” —Kenneth Kilpatrick, CEO of Sylvia Marketing & Public Relations
They don’t waste money on the small stuff
“I’m conscious of how I spend money and have adopted certain habits to ensure budgeting remains a priority. I intentionally don’t spend money on small items like coffee or snacks. Adopting these shifts in spending habits has allowed me to save money for bigger expenses and experiences that bring me joy, such as day trips or travel.” —Robin Brown, CEO of Vivipins
They live beneath their means
“My wife and I have been married 30 years, and we started with nothing. Our grandmothers both lived through the Great Depression, and they taught us frugality when we were growing up, so saving was ingrained in us early. We clip coupons every week and strategize how to save money in the grocery store. A buy-one-get-one-free that we have a coupon for in a store that doubles coupons gives us a feeling of accomplishment, even though it might amount to a dollar or two in savings. We grow our own vegetables, cook at home and rarely spend money on clothes.” —John K. McLaughlin, author of Lifeline to a Soul
They invest in themselves
“I don’t believe in spending money on extravagant things simply for the sake of showing off. I prefer investing in experiences, knowledge and personal development instead. As [founder of] a language learning platform, it’s important for me to experience different cultures and languages firsthand. This is why I prioritize traveling frequently and immersing myself in new cultures. By doing so, I can continually learn and evolve, both personally and professionally.” —Simon Bacher, CEO and co-founder of the Ling app
They prefer eating at home
“Even though I have the means to eat at fancy restaurants, I mostly make my own meals using easy-to-find, locally grown ingredients. This choice saves my finances, backs our nearby farmers and promotes a healthier way of living. Plus, I find that cooking at home gives me a feeling of achievement and helps me feel more connected to the food I eat.” —Julie Del Cueto, owner of the internet marketing company WebMoves.net
They value experiences over stuff
“There’s always an internal battle between savings and splurges, but I prefer experiences to possessions. I prefer to live modestly, so I have ample funds for the things I love to do. And telling stories about my world travels is more interesting than driving to the party in a Ferrari.” —Deb Purvin, founder and CEO of Business Owner’s MBA (BOMBA) and former member of the U.S. Ski Team
They invest on whims
“During the spring of 2012, I read the Wall Street Journal and learned that Talbots was supposed to be acquired, but after the deal fell through, its stock fell nearly 50% in one day. That’s when I purchased $5,000 worth of Talbots stock. Its value increased by 50% that day, and I made the decision to sell it right then.” —A partner at a prestigious law firm in Washington, D.C.
They’re gutsy with their jobs
“When negotiating a new salary and remembering to act your wage, always end the negotiations with a request for a nine-month review, instead of the usual 12-month review. It always gets approved, and it gives you a three-month head start on a potential salary raise or bonus.” —Alan Corey, author of A Million Bucks by 30
They find investment ideas in everyday life
“After my wife got excited about the fact that Hanes sold its L’eggs pantyhose in grocery stores, I figured that the company was on to something. I bought Hanes’s stock and watched it rise sixfold.” —A manager of the Fidelity Magellan fund
They don’t quit until they get the deal
“I once went all the way to the head of customer support at Dell over a problematic computer that was out of warranty, and I was shipped a new one the next day. If you are willing to go up the chain, you will very likely reach someone who is willing to bend the rules to rectify a complaint and fix the problem.” —August Turak, founder of two successful software companies and author of Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks
They accept risk to achieve success
“I was working at AOL in the 1990s when the company let go of 300 people. I was one of them. The movie Titanic was coming out, so I took my rent money and had 500 T-shirts printed that read, ‘It sank. Get over it.’ If I didn’t sell those shirts, I was homeless. I sold 500 shirts in six hours and made five grand. Then I called USA Today and gave a reporter the story. I sold 10,000 shirts on the Web over the next two months and ultimately racked up $100,000. That was my very first company.” —Peter Shankman, entrepreneur and angel investor
Looking for easy ways to make extra cash quickly? We have some ideas!
They do their own taxes
“And the rich don’t all have teams of high-priced lawyers and accountants to do the paperwork. Many of them do their own with TurboTax, just like the rest of the world.” —A partner at a prestigious law firm in Washington, D.C.
They come up with clever ways to deal with requests for money
“Anytime the newspaper lists my name among the 100 top-paid executives in the area, I get a ton of requests from people asking for money. It happened so much that I had to come up with a strategy to deal with it. Now I say, ‘I’m happy to give. I’ll match however much you raise yourself.'” —A retired California tech executive and multimillionaire
They put people to work
“After I made a bit of extra cash as an app developer, I decided to give some to my old friends and family members who were living paycheck to paycheck during the recession. But I knew that most of them wouldn’t accept it. So instead, I asked them for app ideas, which I’d code and sell. They weren’t great ideas, and the apps barely make any money, but that wasn’t the point. I’d pay my contributors thousands of dollars anyway.” —Allen Wong, app developer and author of Lifehacked
If that bit about living paycheck to paycheck hits a little too close to home, try this other trick from rich people: creating a sinking fund.
They give a hand in unexpected ways
“One time, my hairstylist told me she had been fined for passing through a tollbooth without paying the fee. She didn’t have enough change and figured she’d pay the toll later by mail. She didn’t realize that the fine for passing a tollbooth would be a hefty $125. So I decided to tip her $125.” —Wong
They’re not flashy
“The really wealthy are usually not the ones who wear the most expensive clothes, have the latest handbags or drive flashy cars. In Martha’s Vineyard, you see a lot of people who live in houses that sell for $10 million driving 10-year-old Toyotas.” —A successful Boston plastic surgeon
They don’t waste anything
“I still collect all the tiny pieces of soap and put them together into one bar. I still squeeze the toothpaste tube dry. And I grow a lot of my own vegetables.” —Turak
Rich people also know some supermarket tricks that can help you save a small fortune—and you’ll wish you knew them sooner!
Additional reporting by Taylor Shea.