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How to cut back on spending like a billionaire

Even the richest people in the world maintain some financially cautious habits.

For example, Warren Buffett (who, by our math, is worth more than all of the NFL's teams combined) famously still lives in the same Omaha house he bought for $31,500 in 1958. Many of the world's wealthiest don't indulge in extravagance, even with billions at their disposal (and when they do, it's not always a happy ending.)

While this ranges in degrees of neuroticism from simply wanting to give most of the fortune to charity to an Indian tech mogul monitoring employees to track toilet paper usage and make sure they shut off the office lights, wealth is not accumulated by throwing money away.


Warren Buffett
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Warren Buffett

While most people, of course, don't have $51 billion like Mark Zuckerberg, there are undoubtedly some lessons to extract from the financial behavior of the wealthy. All of them have certain habits where they save money.

Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen packs a brown-bag lunch from home every day and Zuckerberg reportedly drives a Volkswagen hatchback (although this could just be a Peter Gregory-style "Silicon Valley" mannerism).

At the same time, neither of these routines are specific requisites for financial success. But they do indicate the importance of planning expenditures and saving where possible. That's where a financial advisor can be of help.

"A good financial planner shouldn't act like a strict parent who never lets their kid eat dessert or play outside."

We don't believe in telling you to lose your favorite habits. If you enjoy a latte from Starbucks every morning, then by all means you should keep getting that latte. But good financial planning includes understanding trade-offs between keeping things you enjoy and cutting down on things you can live without.

Planning cash flows goes a long way toward reaching this goal. It is impossible to know how much you need to trim (or have room to grow) without first taking stock of what's coming in and what's going out. If your different bank and credit card accounts are the canvas, the actual cash flows are the paint that makes up the picture of overall financial health.

A good financial planner shouldn't act like a strict parent who never lets their kid eat dessert or play outside.

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Their goal should be to work with you to understand your financial situation, both in broad strokes and the details of monthly spending. That way, they can help you make decisions about where best to deploy your spending money. This isn't always easy — sometimes trade-offs have to be made.

However, when even billionaires are bringing lunch from home, we all owe it to ourselves to thoroughly examine our spending habits.

(Editor's note: This guest column originally appeared on Investopedia.)

— By Brad Sherman, president of Sherman Wealth Management