The Millionaire Next Door

Making Lists; Building Wealth

New York Times article yesterday about consumer use of discount coupons jogged my memory. Shortly after making my presentation, the president and CEO of the sponsoring corporation approached me.  He told me that he had a case for my next book.  And he was right.  The case was ideally suited to be included in The Millionaire Next Door

How did the wife of this multi millionaire respond when her husband gave her $8 million worth of stock in the company he recently took public?  According to her husband of 31 years, she said, “I appreciate this, I really do.”  Then she smiled, never changing her position at the kitchen table, where she continued to cut out 25 and 50 “cents-off” food coupons from the week’s supply of newspapers.  Nothing is so important as to interrupt her Saturday morning chores.  “She just does today like she always has done, even when all we owned was a kitchen table . . . . It’s how come we’re well-off today.  Made a lot of trade-offs. . . sacrifices early in our marriage.” (p. 37)

This case is somewhat unusual.  Not all millionaires clip coupons.  About 6 in 10 (59%) who have a net worth under $2 million do clip coupons.   But this proportion declines as wealth increases.  As an example, only about 4 in 10 (38%) of those in the $5 million and over net worth category are clippers.  And most of those who clip do so out of habit and/or because possibly they enjoy it!  They have no illusions about adding millions of dollars to their balance sheets via redeeming coupons. 

However, a much more pervasive habit among millionaires is the preparation and use of shopping lists.  Most millionaires (70%) are list oriented.  And this percentage changes very little with the level of wealth accummulated.  Why?  Because by listing one can save a considerable amount of time while shopping. 

 More than 2/3 of grocery store shoppers in America today are impulse buyers.  They show up at a supermarket without a list or with an incomplete one.  They wander around the store without a game plan and, therefore, are likely to spend more time just searching.  The more time one spends, the more money one spends.  Without a list, people often buy things they may not need until later in the week or at all. 

Here is what one millionaire couple does in preparation for food shopping.  They make  computer generated maps of the interiors of the two food stores they patronize complete with the names and location of each category/brand of product.  During the week when they run out of a grocery item they circle the item on the map.  They also plan their menu purchases this way. 

This sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really not when you consider the savings in time over an adult’s lifetime.  Saving just 30 minutes a week when grocery shopping can save you over 1,000 hours over a lifetime which could be allocated to planning investments, exercising, making your business more productive, spending more time with family etc. 

2 thoughts on “Making Lists; Building Wealth”

  1. Doing these practices also keeps your mind sharp. The mental discipline in detail and research that finds the best value on a roughly $50 item, saved me thousands when applied to bigger items (both home and work).

    My natural attention to detail on my personal budget (using Quicken, etc.) made it almost easy to step up to managing multi-million dollar budgets. The concepts and discipline were the same, only the scope changed (and the number of the digits in each item).


  2. I remember this story from the book and it has always stuck with me. That’s the kind of millionaire I would like to be someday.

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