10 Financial Proverbs that are Still True Today

man holding a book in a library

There are quite a few old proverbs and adages that we’ve all been saying and hearing for years (if not centuries). After a while we stop really hearing them, though, and start to take their meaning for granted. But most wisdom is timeless – and smart money advice is worth hearing in any century. So here are a few great financial proverbs that are just as true today as when they were first uttered:

Never spend money before you have it.

Unknown

Spending money you don’t have is the first step on the slippery slope of debt. Of course, it’s pretty impossible to buy everything you need with cash these days, so some debt (mortgage, car loan, student loans, etc.) is a given. It’s the non-essentials that will get you, so when it comes to credit purchases be careful.

Spending is quick; earning is slow.

Russian

Spending is quick, alright. Thanks to modern technology, the “convenience” of buying has never been greater – we can spend hundreds of dollars in the swipe of a card, the click of a mouse and the tap of a smartphone.

Just remember, no matter how easy it is to spend your money, it’s not getting any easier to make that money.

A fool and his money are soon parted.

Dr. John Bridges

Don’t take this one the wrong way. Smart people and money are parted all the time, too. It just means that all money decisions are important and you can’t take it for granted that your money will always be there. The more you do to educate yourself about finances, the better equipped you’ll be to make positive choices with your money.

Creditors have better memories than debtors.

Ben Franklin

As much as we’d like to be able to forget our bad money decisions and let our old debts drift away into obscurity, that just isn’t happening.

And just because you can’t remember who you owe and how much, trust me – they know. So keep good records and don’t lose track of your debts.

Rather go to bed supperless than rise in debt.

Ben Franklin

Don’t take Franklin too literally here. If using credit is your only option, that’s far better than starving.

The real point here is that some wants may feel like needs, but you should never forget that borrowed money is still borrowed money and in the (figurative) morning it will be due.

If you buy what you don’t need, you steal from yourself.

Swedish

This is a great saying that you don’t hear enough, because it’s absolutely true. When you buy something you don’t need today, it’s the future you that will suffer. Or, to put it another way, spending money on today’s wants means you might not be able to afford tomorrow’s needs.

Even if you feel financially secure right now, that might not last forever, so you should still be cautious with your money.

Save for a rainy day.

Aesop

Never take the value of savings for granted, because (to use another popular old adage) when it rains, it pours.

We’re hardly ever as prepared as we need to be for major financial setbacks, so it’s important to remember that disaster can strike at any time. The more you save today, the faster your recovery will be.

A penny saved is a penny earned.

George Herbert (original)

This saying used to make no sense to me. In my mind, a penny saved is a penny saved and a penny earned is a penny earned. They’re two totally different things! (Unless you’ve got a savings account with 100% interest, which would be awesome.)

However, it turns out I was misinterpreting the proverb. It really means that the money you save is just as valuable as the money you earn – so don’t discount the importance of saving. And that I totally agree with.

Interest on debt grows without rain.

Yiddish

Crops, trees, flowers, grass – all organic plant life needs the right conditions to grow and thrive. Debt, on the other hand, can grow in a vacuum. So just remember that it doesn’t matter what happens to the house you buy, or the degree you finance, or the new business you invest in – the interest on your debt will accumulate no matter what.

Lend your money and lose your friend.

William Caxton

Borrow money from the bank. Seriously. You’re very unlikely to have a super tense, passive aggressive Thanksgiving meal with the bank.

In all seriousness, it's possible to lend to or borrow money from friends or family, but it’s difficult and, more often than not, it puts an unnecessary strain on your most important relationships. So stick with the bank. The bank doesn’t care if you say nasty things behind its back. It’s probably used to it.

Need a personalized sort of financial advice? MMI offers free debt and budget counseling, 24/7

Tagged in Advice for families, Expert insights

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

  • Better Business Bureau A+ rating Better Business Bureau
    MMI is proud to have achieved an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and improving marketplace trust. The BBB investigates charges of fraud against both consumers and businesses, sets standards for truthfulness in advertising, and evaluates the trustworthiness of businesses and charities, providing a score from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
  • Trustpilot Trustpilot
    MMI is rated as “Excellent” (4.8/5) by reviewers on Trustpilot, a global, online consumer review platform dedicated to openness and transparency. Since 2007, Trustpilot has received over 116 million customer reviews for nearly 500,000 different websites and businesses. See what others are saying about the work we do.
  • Consumer Federation of America Consumer Federation of America
    MMI is a member of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development Department of Housing and Urban Development
    MMI is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide consumer housing counseling. The mission of HUD is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD provides support services directly and through approved, local agencies like MMI.
  • Council on Accreditation Council On Accreditation
    MMI is proudly accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA’s thorough, peer-reviewed accreditation process is designed to ensure that organizations like MMI are providing the highest standard of service and support for clients and employees alike.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling National Foundation for Credit Counseling
    MMI is a longstanding member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), the nation’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organization. Founded in 1951, the NFCC’s mission is to promote financially responsible behavior and help member organizations like MMI deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.