The Art of Money Getting by P. T. Barnum

The Art of Money Getting by P. T. Barnum
The Art of Money Getting by P. T. Barnum | ©

The Art of Money Gettingor or Golden Rules of Making Money by P. T. Barnum outlines a set of brilliant actions that can elevate your financial standing with a particular propensity towards career choices. According to the author, a successful person is one who goes into a vocation designed by nature or innate and best suited to his natural capabilities. Other essential elements discussed by the book, and have a direct impact on one’s finances include avoiding debt, sticking to one business area and perseverance. Written by an incredible showman and promoter, the book oozes nuggets of wisdom on how not to blunder in choosing a vocation.


The advent of the Internet may make one think that there are shortcuts to wealth. However, that is far from the truth. Having a good character, vocation, and perseverance, the author insists, are some of the virtues to uphold towards a successful getting-money path. Phineas Taylor Barnum also hints on the need to advertise one’s product. He is a significant historical entrepreneur, having founded the famous traveling circus. Ranked as the greatest showman, his knowledge of business and lessons in making money are worth following.

There are some bad habits or mistakes that are made deliberately or inadvertently in the process of starting or running a business. For instance, failure to secure abundant patronage and avoid debt can cost you dearly. The business world is complicated and so needs a spirited fight for any ambitious businessperson. Remember that being successful does not just revolve around, making thousands of dollars. It might mean achieving what you have always wanted while at the same time, making sure you preserve your integrity.

Barnum has a colorful autobiography, but it is The Art of Money Getting or Golden Rules of Making Money that puts him on the limelight. Created by a great marketer, the title might make you think you will be a millionaire by the time you are done with the book. That would be a lazy prescription. This classic book might not have lived for generations if such an approach had been taken. The brilliant concentration on the 20 rules for personal success is what makes this personal development classic a peculiar one. Since success first resides in the mind, it goes without saying that when you put in mind the things he shares in the book, you are bound to re-rail towards elevating your finances.

Judicious spending

We all want to feel important, and so the pressures to impress others with our lifestyle are unimaginable. Most of us always want to be seen as the well-placed of the society. We want to earn respect even if it means creating an untrue reflection of our real selves. To do that, we end up going for expensive vacations, buying expensive clothing, and even living in residences that are way past our ability to maintain. In the long run, the financial strain throws us off the road, and we get into significant debts.

The business guru argues that if you want to build wealth, then you must be prepared to spend less than what you make. If at the end of each pay period you are not left with any money, it is about time to get a notebook and record your expenditures. Be sure to highlight each place that the money goes to. Based on Barnum’s recommendations, the notebook should have at least three columns showing: Necessities, Comfort, and Luxuries. From his personal experience, the circus legend says that you will notice the luxuries are the biggest consumer of your income. They could be taking away as much as ten times the amount of money generated within the specified pay period. Do we not all stand guilty of this; we always struggle with keeping our finances in control, even in our insatiable quest towards wealth.

We are pushed to buy things just because others have them. Because your neighbor or colleague has a car, you might pressure yourself into getting one. Such a decision is made, forgetting expenses associated with each new purchase. You would have to fuel it, meet maintenance costs, and even spend more money looking for spare parts. By the time you evaluate your financial standing, your expenditure will have gone up while income remains unmoved. Avoid trying to live beyond your means. Just focus on what you can handle comfortably. At all times, try as much as possible to spend less than half your income.

Career Choices

The author extends his tips to getting money to career selection. He emphasizes that in countries like the United States, which has more land than people, you have a high chance of making money as long as you make the right choices. The vocation intended provides room for good people. However, you have to be sure that you’ve chosen the right one.

Through his insistence on career choices, one might argue that Barnum must have been ahead of his time. He even goes ahead and explains that when you choose a profession suitable to your tastes, you stand a better chance to excel.

Take such an explanation and compare it with what happens after you finish high school. If you manage to secure your place in college, this is the time when most parents want to control the professions selected by their kids. Much of this selection is not based on how good one is at a particular subject, but on how much money a given career will make per year. Often, you will hear parents, and even the kids themselves, going for professions that pay the most while focusing less on one’s skills and capabilities.

The truth of the matter is that we are all born for specific purposes. The unique differences in each one of us is a clear indication that we are all meant to do certain things. If your friend makes millions from computer science, it doesn’t mean you should follow along. Maybe you are well-suited to make billions as a businessperson. Not every person can meet all the demands in the same occupation. Therefore, choose the one you feel is right for you, even if you are told it is crowded. That choice will help you not fail to secure abundant opportunities the world has to offer.

Become the master of your business

Not everybody can pursue a particular career. Some are meant to get into the business industry. Barnum explains that when you decide to become a businessperson, you should not try to be Jack of all trades. Most people make the mistake of scattering their powers when dedication to a specific task would have seen them become successful. You could liken this to hammering a single nail constantly. Continuously doing so will eventually drive it home. The importance of specialization is that it gives you more experience within the chosen field. You get to learn all its tricks and how to overcome specific challenges. Therefore, you have the edge over other players in the industry who also have their attention elsewhere.

You can take P. T. Barnum as a perfect example. He chose to concentrate on the circus industry, something that gave him immense success, wealth, and reputation. According to Barnum, nothing makes you more productive than being a master of your own game. Something you can only achieve when 100% of your focus is on what you do. He maintains that you should never set yourself on the path of losing money just because you have cast yourself too broad and too deep. Rather than attempt to do all things at once, decide on one single kind of business and stick to it.

Above all, remember that integrity undoubtedly cannot be under looked. Never exploit others just because you can. Whether it is your employees or customers, focus on operating with integrity, and all should be fine. Getting money does not mean you have to exploit others and disrupt their lives.

20 golden rules for making money

  1. Don’t mistake your vocation.Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed.”
  2. Select the right location.You might conduct a hotel like clock-work, and provide satisfactorily for five hundred guests… yet, if you should locate your house in a small village where there is no railroad… the location would be your ruin.”
  3. Avoid debt.Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master. When interest is constantly piling up against you, it will keep you down… but let money work for you, and you have the most devoted servant in the world.”
  4. Perseverance is sometimes but another word for self-reliance. Many persons naturally look on the dark side of life, and borrow trouble. Then they ask for advice, and they will be governed by one wind and blown by another, and cannot rely upon themselves. Until you can get so that you can rely upon yourself, you need not expect to succeed.”
  5. Whatever you do, do it with all your might.Work at it, if necessary, early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring for a single hour that which can be done just as well now.”
  6. Stay meaningfully involved in your business.The eye of the employer is often worth more than the hands of a dozen employees… nobody can understand his business thoroughly unless he learns it by personal application and experience.”
  7. Use the best tools.Men in engaging employees should be careful to get the best. Understand, you cannot have too good tools to work with, and there is no tool you should be so particular about as living tools. If you get a good one, it is better to keep him, than keep changing. He learns something every day, and you are benefited by the experience he acquires.”
  8. Don’t get above your business.Money is good for nothing unless you know the value of it by experience. Give a boy twenty thousand dollars and put him in business, and the chances are that he will lose every dollar of it before he is a year older… whoever excels all others in his own line, if his habits are good and his integrity undoubted, cannot fail to secure abundant patronage, and the wealth that naturally follows.”
  9. Learn a useful trade.Every man should make his son or daughter learn some trade or profession, so that in these days of changing fortunes — of being rich today and poor tomorrow — they may have something tangible to fall back upon. This provision might save many persons from misery, who by some unexpected turn of fortune have lost all their means.”
  10. Hope is good, but don’t be too visionary.Many persons are always kept poor, because they are too visionary. Every project looks to them like certain success, and therefore they keep changing from one business to another.”
  11. Stay Focused and don’t scatter your powers.Engage in one kind of business only, and stick to it faithfully until you succeed, or until your experience shows that you should abandon it. When a man’s undivided attention is centred on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied by a dozen different subjects at once.”
  12. Be systematic. “Men should be systematic in their business. A person who does business by rule, having a time and place for everything, doing his work promptly, will accomplish twice as much and with half the trouble of him who does it carelessly and slipshod.”
  13. Read the news.Keep thoroughly posted in regard to the transactions of the world. He who don’t consult the newspapers will soon find himself and his business left out in the cold.”
  14. Beware of outside operations.We sometimes see men who have obtained fortunes, suddenly become poor. Frequently it occurs because a man has been engaged in ‘outside operations,’ of some sort. When he gets rich in his legitimate business, he is told of a grand speculation where he can make a score of thousands. He is constantly flattered by his friends, who tell him that he is born lucky, that everything he touches turns into gold… but before the time comes around to realise, the bubble bursts, (and) he loses all he is possessed of.”
  15. Don’t indorse without security.No man ought ever to indorse a note or become security for any man… to a greater extent than he can afford to lose and care nothing about, without taking good security. Do not lend or invest money that would ruin you if you were to lose it all.”
  16. Advertise your business.Those who deal with the public must be careful that their goods are valuable; that they are genuine, and will give satisfaction. When you get an article which you know is going to please your customers… then let the fact be known that you have got it. Be careful to advertise it in some shape or other, because it is evident that if a man has ever so good an article for sale, and nobody knows it, it will bring him no return.”
  17. Be polite and kind to your customers.Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. The man who gives the greatest amount of goods of a corresponding quality for the least sum (still reserving for himself a profit) will generally succeed best in the long run.”
  18. Be charitable.Of course men should be charitable, because it is a duty and a pleasure. But even as a matter of policy, if you possess no higher incentive, you will find the liberal man will command patronage, while the sordid, uncharitable miser will be avoided. The best kind of charity is to help those who are willing to help themselves.”
  19. Don’t gossip.Some men have a foolish habit of telling their business secrets. If they make money they like to tell their neighbours how it was done. Nothing is gained by this, and ofttimes much is lost.”
  20. Preserve your integrity.It is more precious than diamonds or rubies. The public very properly shun all whose integrity is doubted. Strict honesty, not only lies at the foundation of all success in life (financially), but in every other aspect. Uncompromising integrity of character is invaluable.”


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