“Don’t.” That was Mark Cuban’s surprising answer when we asked him on the set of Shark Tank last week for his number-one tip for making money in investing. “Don’t invest.”
Next, unprompted, the fast-talking entertainment tech mogul and Dallas Mavericks owner launched into a rapid-fire list of “smart money moves” he says “everyone should make.”
Clocking in at an estimated net worth of $3.2 billion, Cuban’s clearly doing something right when it comes to money. It also doesn’t hurt that he earned a bachelor’s degree in management and administration from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, where 25 courses are offered on the topic of accounting alone. (Interesting fact: Cuban chose to attend the school “sight-unseen” because it was the least expensive on the list of universities he applied to. “I could barely afford IU,” he told Business Insider.)
Here are three basic steps Cuban, whose starving student days as a “fightin’ Hoosier” are long behind him, says you can take to improve your financial situation right now (that is, of course, “if you’re in a position to do so,” he points out):
1. Buy in bulk.
“Do a budget and look at the things you buy repetitively and then go and buy those things in bulk,” Cuban says. “Stuff you’ll need all year, like toothpaste, shampoo and soap” are among the non-perishable personal care items he suggests stocking up on to save money.
“As long as you’ve got a little room under your bed,” he says, “if you buy a year’s worth or even two years’ worth of toothpaste, you’re going to get a 50 percent discount. If you save $1,000 a year doing that, that’s more than you’re going to earn on $10,000 in investing.”
Despite his billions, Cuban puts his money where his mouth is here, still buying his own toothpaste and razors in bulk. We doubt he stashes them under any of the many beds at his sprawling 10-bedroom, 24,000-square-foot Dallas mansion, though. (His palatial Big D digs are a far cry from the small apartment the former nightclub bartender crashed on the floor of with “six guys” when he moved to the metropolis in 1982, a rough patch he addresses in his book How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It. “I used to drive around, look at the big houses, and imagine what it would be like to live there and use that as motivation.”)
2. Stash six months of income in the bank.
For most people, Cuban admits, six months’ worth of “income in cash in the bank might not be that much,” not compared to his envy-worthy nest egg at least, but he feels that just knowing it’s there “for a rainy day” can provide some peace of mind. “I know it doesn’t earn much in the bank,” he says, “but you’ll sleep a lot better.”
Cuban has long said that the stock market is a risky game “ for suckers.” “The market could go up for years, and you could think you’re well off,” he tells Entrepreneur, “and then, in a millisecond with high-frequency trading, a flash crash can take it all away. That’s why you want to have that money in the mattress, that savings, so you’re protected in case something goes wrong.”
3. Pay off your debt.
Cuban says the single best thing you can do for your bottom line is to pay off your credit card debt. Better yet, never rack up a penny of it in the first place. “Credit cards are the worst investment,” he says, “unless you pay them off every 30 days. Even then, don’t do it.” Like the rest of us, he wishes someone would have told him that when he was in his 20s.
Debt, whether stemming from using and abusing credit cards or otherwise, all too often leads to financial apathy and overall unhappiness, Cuban says in his book.
“I’m also a big believer that financial debt is the ultimate dream killer,” he writes. “Your first house, car, whatever you might want to buy, is going to be the primary reason you stop looking for whatever makes you the happiest.”
To see Cuban in action, check out Shark Tank’s Season Eight premiere on your local ABC station. It airs on Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. ET.