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Act Your Wage: The Meaning Behind the Viral Saying

Why is it that so many people feel that they are entitled to a new car, a big fancy house, and a lavish lifestyle? What is it that has caused all of us to be so selfish and act as if we should all be living the lifestyle of a millionaire? For one, the media certainly isn’t helping things – showing us the lifestyles of the rich and famous with their designer handbags, diamond studded shoes, and their big smiles that make us believe that their life is amazing and full of happiness. Second, the marketers are doing everything in their power to make us believe that their product will make our life easier, more rewarding, and will make us happier than ever. Based on my experiences, happiness cannot be bought and it is time for you to act your wage.

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What is Your Wage? Are You Acting Appropriately?

So what does it really mean to act your wage? Many people brush off this statement as if they know what they are doing financially, but in reality they are just as bad (if not worse) as the average American and should be checking themselves financially.

act your wageThe most recent example I have heard of someone failing to act their wage was a fry cook that earned $10 an hour. He was sick of driving a car that was 14 years old that was starting to rust. He figured that by this point in his life he should be driving something nicer. After all, he had been driving this rust bucket for almost 6 years of this life. So, he went to the local auto dealer to see what he could afford. To his surprise, they approved him for a $25,000 car, but he would need to agree to the payments of $350 per month for the next 7 years. In his excitement, he quickly signs for the loan papers and drives away in his brand new car. This fry cook earns only $20,000 per year, but thinks he can afford a $25,000. He is clearly not acting his wage.

The last example is pretty obvious, but what if we look into our own lives? Have you agreed to debts in the past that you are still making payments for? There are many people that I work with that have credit card debt, boat payments, car payments, and of course, large house payments. They are living the lifestyle of the average American, but they are not acting their wage.

Finding out if you are acting your wage is actually fairly simple. If you have debts other than your student loans and a house payment, then you are not acting your wage. After hearing this, you might take a step back in disgust thinking, “But I need a dependable car so a car loan is a necessity. And, I needed furniture, so that was a necessary loan too!” Nope. I’m not buying it.

I have spent many years buying $3,000 cars and plenty of them did an amazing job for me. There is no need to spend more than $10,000 on a vehicle. Start acting your wage.

And, as for furniture, if you don’t have the money for it, then it’s pretty simple, don’t buy it. At one point in my life, I owed many debts and needed to pay them off quickly. Instead of taking on more debt and buying furniture, I did without living room furniture and bedroom furniture for 6 months. I had a mattress in my bedroom to sleep on and a dining room table with chairs if I wanted to sit down. It wasn’t fun, but it was responsible. I was acting my wage.

Because I was able to act my wage for that time period, I was later able to buy a very nice bedroom suite (that I found on Craigslist) and a sofa and baby grand piano for my living room. I needed no debt to purchase these items and the rooms looks amazing! It was definitely worth the wait.

Do you know of anyone that isn’t acting their wage? Maybe it’s you and you didn’t realize it until now!



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Very good article you have written, my friend. I think more people should be reading this. If more people have this kind of thinking, they will be able to save up more and spend less from things that they don’t really need. The media nowadays have a massive impact on people, and the reality is, their objective is for their own benefit – not the people’s.

    • Thanks Alexis! It really is amazing how much our financial culture has changed over the last 40 years. Debt is pretty common for any type of purchase and now the cash purchasers are the strange ones! Truly though, it just makes it that much easier for the financially wise to get ahead. We just have to act our wage.

  2. You hit the head on the nail. ‘Back in the day’ (as we refer to it) you didn’t buy it until you had the cash. I had an at home mother, my dad was a mechanic; he would take on extra jobs to get the cash to pay for those things that were beyond the necessities, and we never really did without. We weren’t rich, but we never felt we were poor because everybody around us was the same way! Today it seems like everybody’s trying to keep up with the Jones’es so to speak. Now that I’m on a path for retirement, major mental changes have happened; I’m weeding out things I haven’t used for years (selling some, donating others), and money comes out of the wallet for necessities only.

    • Those were the good ol days weren’t they Nancy? I would much rather have lived during a time when cash spending was the norm vs. today where everyone looks at me like I am crazy. However, they will soon realize (in 20 years or so) that they should have saved their money for their future. I can only try to continue to warn them today.

  3. So many are caught up in appearing like they have money when in reality they are broke. Be proud that you have a job, have savings and your financial life is healthy. That is what should be admired and not having the biggest house, the shiniest car, etc.

    • Yup, and honestly, no one really cares if you have a big house or a nice car, they only care about themselves. So pretty much, everyone is out there trying to acquire assets to impress all of those people that don’t truly care. Sounds a little ridiculous to me.

  4. I completely agree, HOWEVER, there’s nothing in this article telling people how to GET to a level where they’re able to buy the nicer things in life. This is an article about frugality and how to stay in that realm. People have champagne tastes and beer money, but what do they need to do in order to get to that level?

    I get it, “act your wage”, but how do we grow?

    • The first step is acting your wage. The next step is investing your savings. Start a small business, invest in the market, buy some rental properties. You need to acquire assets that yield more assets (specifically, and income). Then you can start to drink up that champagne. Great question Estevan.

  5. I would say that when I first left university I fell into this trap. After years of denying myself purchases and living on a tight budget I finally felt I’d “earned” nice things so I went out spending.

    It took years to clear those credit cards. However over the years I’ve seen my wants/needs drop while my income has increased and it’s fun to look back at the “crossover” point when I became debt free, started to put money away and yet was still perfectly happy with my lot in life. I suppose you could call that point “growing up” 😉

    • I have a few friends that did the same thing Rich. It’s pretty common actually. People live the frugal college life and when they get out they think that they immediately deserve all the nice things in life. Since they really don’t have any money yet, the only way to get there is by taking on debt. And this starts the downward spiral for many years to come. Hopefully some of these people wake up (and grow up as you put it) earlier rather than later so they still have a chance at wealth.

  6. Derek,
    Nice article. I laughed when you said you did without bedroom furniture and just had a mattress on the floor. Been there and done that only we didn’t actually have a mattress – we had 2 box springs ’cause we got them for free. Nothing like sleeping on a box spring to motivate you to go earn some money for a mattress – good times – ha!

    • Sleeping on a box spring huh? That sounds terrible! But, it would be a pretty good motivator I suppose! Glad you like the article Jim – I always enjoy hearing from you.

  7. Man, you’re so weird. But you’re in the company of an ever-increasing host of people who hate debt and love being weird. I just got a large raise recently and the only budget items that really changed significantly were our giving and our investing, which we budget as a percentage of our wages. Oh, and we’re saving for some home improvements that we plan to pay cash for.

    • Lol. I’ll take that as a compliment Matt! Let it be known that I now do use furniture and have even purchased a brand new bicycle recently. I have acted my wage back when I was broke and now I continue to act my wage even as my income has increased. Thanks for the comment Matt!

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