Addition and Subtraction – My 2 Cents on Getting Ahead Financially…

When it comes to getting ahead in life there doesn’t seem to be a lack of complicated advice on how to get the job done. Yet despite the abundance of books from well-known and not so well-known authors, TV shows, instructional videos, and a plethora of other resources, people are still struggling to get ahead – particularly financially.

Money Now let’s get one thing straight – I’m no financial guru by anyone’s measure and have little desire to become one. However by sticking to what I often refer to as “addition and subtraction” I’ve managed to avoid the common mounds of debt and terrible credit scores generally plaguing a “gazillion” people. I do realize a gazillion seems like a lot, but you get that impression judging by the number of debt-consolidation and credit improvement agencies fighting for our attention. Before you know it, we’ll be able to pump our gas and consolidate our debts at the same time!

So what do I mean by “addition and subtraction”? Addition and Subtraction is all about keeping things simple and often times using addition and subtraction literally to help make good decisions, reduce debt/expenses, increase income, eliminate false worries, etc.

For example, about once every month or so, I sit down and simply add up the total of my expenses I pay out each month and then compare that to my typical total income per month. If the total expenses exceed my total income I can easily identify that I have situation calling for adjustments. By using addition and subtraction I also easily see how much I may be living beyond my means. Sounds simple right? It is but people have a funny way of making things more complex. A common reaction to this type of situation is to pursue a second source of income – aka a second job. A wealthy Black millionaire always told me he believed two jobs were for two people, and he’s been down the road before. It is often easier and faster to reduce your expenses than increase your income. Think about the price you pay for drinks or dining out each month, cable tv, clothes, club expenses (coat check, cover, parking, tips, drinks, food), and more. They add up in a hurry. If you can cut back on some of those, you can probably significantly change your quality of life. Do the math.

Some Quick & Dirty Tips to Better Your Finances:

  1. Keep only 1-2 major credit cards and always pay on time. Avoid cash advances using your cards at the ATM or even those “convenience” checks too. Review and understand the terms of your cards to ensure they aren’t wack. If you are paying an annual fee your being taken advantage of.
  2. Negotiate a better credit card rate on the major cards you have by calling the card’s customer service and informing them that you are not happy with your current rate and are shopping other cards. They will often offer some kind of improvement in the card to keep you as a customer. The improvement will vary depending on your track record with them and how good your current terms already are.
  3. Keep your credit limits low within reason. Having a credit card with a huge spending limit might be flattering your ego but it’s also considered as part of your potential risk to a creditor and can negatively impact your credit score/rating.
  4. Get a financial advisor and get professional advice. There’s generally no cost to walk in the door to an A.G. Edwards, Edward Jones, or similar type of brokerage firm and get advice. You’ll walk away better educated and perhaps on your way to actually having a plan to retire and somewhere down the line. This is even more important if you are self-employed and don’t have a retirement investment plan set up for yourself.
  5. Don’t Be too Proud to Work. Sometimes life postpones that dream career or job. It never postpones the bills. There’s always somewhere you can find income if your willing to humble yourself and focus on the ‘why’ and not necessarily the ‘how’.
  6. Stop Drinking & Smoking – Two very expensive habits if they are something you indulge in regularly…. Cut those back and you can save money and live a better quality of life with the time you’ve been blessed with. At $10.50 for a pack of 25 cigarettes and 1 pack a day, you’d smoke up $38,325 in 10 years time – $3,832.50 per year. How about quitting or at least scaling back to give yourself an income raise without nagging the boss.
  7. Know how you spend your money. For those of you that don’t drink or smoke, think about what other things you could possibly save money by cutting back on. (i.e. – shopping, fast food) If you can identify where your money goes, you can better understand and adjust your habits. I use my debit card or credit card for most transactions because they provide documentation on how I spend my money. Cash has a funny way of just disappearing.
  8. Consider buying a home rather than renting – If you relatively stable in your employment, this is a great investment tool that you will feel proud of as well. It doesn’t take as much as you think to purchase and it won’t hurt to go visit with a real estate agent and a mortgage advisor. One of the biggest advantages of doing so is that a large portion of what you pay is tax deductible.
  9. Keep your car longer after its paid for – When you own your car free and clear, it can make you money by saving you money. Do you really need a new car or do you want a new car? Be honest with yourself. Your wallet will thank you for it.
  10. Couples – Work together financially towards goals and be on the same page. You’ll be surprised how a healthy financial life works wonders for your love life.

So how does this method of using addition and subtraction apply towards other areas of your life? Simple – just use your imagination and keep it simple. That’s what addition and subtraction is – simple math. Add up the positive things in your life and subtract the negative things. When considering a decision to be made, evaluate which outcome adds up to the greater good for you and those impacted by the decision. You get the idea. Good luck with those numbers…

Do you have more tips or want to share how this helped you. Post a comment to share!

Samuel Pittman

CEO & President of The Pittman Inc. Founder of Minority Speak Magazine @

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Clark07

    First I would like to say great job on minority speak I think a lot of people are going to benifit from this site and good luck!

    great suggestions on how to manage debt, A lot of young adults struggle with this issue due to factors such as college debt, low income or no income at all. Sometimes we do what we need to make it through. I feel it is very important to educate people about the importance of credit, now days its what everything depends on. One thing I would like to stress is the importance of investing. If your working and have a 401k plan you should be contributing to it, and most employers have a match program for you to take advantage of. Also if your a college student like myself getting student loans can be your main source of income, but it does not have to be. Take a look into scholarships and try to keep your loan amounts limited to the actual classes you take. Last I would like to say, think about financial goals you would like to reach or things you would like to do in the future, sometimes a little sacrifice now will be well worth it in the end.


  2. Samuel Pittman

    Thank you and Great Tips Mikki.

    Additional Tip:

    – Pay more than the minimum on your credit card debt each month. An extra $50 or $100 each month could make a huge difference in the time it takes to pay off the debt, saving you money in the long-term in reduced interest costs.

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