Pay Yourself First

March 20, 2020

As Gary Keller noted in a recent live-stream address, “The first dollar you earn is the first dollar you don’t spend.” This is especially true during a market shift, when agents must supplement their income with practical cost-saving measures. Below are some key strategies for continuing to pay yourself by cutting costs, courtesy of one of Keller Williams’ top 50 producers, Brian Gubernick.

1. Pull Your Statements: Gubernick recommends starting with your profit & loss (P&L) statement. If you don’t have one of those at the ready, bank statements, credit card bills, and any receipts you’ve collected over the year should be able to provide a clear picture of where your money is flowing.

2. Gather Your Team: Once Gubernick pulls all of his financial documents, he establishes a team of administrative professionals and other key decision-makers to sit by his side as he goes through each line item. Having outside perspectives helps him differentiate needs from wants, while giving his team members a voice in the process. “I want to see my team fight for expenses,” he admits. “When nobody fights for an expense, it means there’s no need for it.” For independent agents or those with smaller teams who don’t have administrative staff, Gubernick recommends enlisting your spouse or a trusted friend. If you want to be honest with yourself, you can’t do it by yourself.

3. Categorize Expenses: Gubernick places all of his expenses into four buckets: Absolute Essentials; I REALLY Want This; We Have It, but I Bet We Could Do Without It; I Didn’t Even Realize We Were Paying for This. Anything that’s not an Absolute Essential is up for debate, and no item is too small to be cut from the I Didn’t Even Realize We Were Paying for This category. A $1.99 subscription you didn’t realize you were paying may sound insignificant, but those little expenses add up over time. In times of a shift, every penny counts.

4. Focus on Fixed Expenses: Turning a fixed expense into a variable expense during periods of financial uncertainty can give agents the flexibility to shift their budget toward their most pressing needs. Gubernick did this by looking at the base pay of his employees and seeing if some of them would be willing to take a higher commission rate in exchange for a lower fixed salary. The goal is to come up with arrangements that will help the company in the short term while benefiting the employee in the long run. Or as Gary would call it, a win-win.

5. Lose Your Credit Cards: “I’m a huge fan of losing my credit card,” says Gubernick. “You’re hitting reset on all of your automatic payments.” Even before the recent market shift, Gubernick made a practice of losing his credit cards every several months in order to audit all of the services he had set up on auto-pay. Once vendors start reaching out to him to let him know the card number they have on file is no longer valid, he gets to decide whether he wants to keep the services, cancel them, or in some cases, renegotiate terms.

6. Negotiate: Piggybacking off the previous strategy, market shifts present a great time to renegotiate all sorts of terms, especially with landlords. If your home office is currently operating out of a rental space, give the property manager a call and see if they’d be willing to reduce or postpone your lease for several months. The truth is, it would be a lot harder for them to find a new tenant right now than it would be to negotiate with the ones they already have. The same is true for utilities, credit card companies, car dealerships, and any other good or service that can’t afford to lose customers at the moment. 

7. Find Other Forms of Enrichment: While cutting costs will immediately put money back in your pocket, there are other ways agents can pay themselves during an economic downturn. One way to do this is by doubling down on education. Enhancing your knowledge or skills is a great way to ensure you’ll be ready to seize the opportunities that will present themselves once the market begins to stabilize.

Pivot: Shift Ahead

Keller Williams is currently in the process of implementing several valuable initiatives to help agents navigate this new business landscape. Announced today, they have pledged $20 million to reduce coaching costs for agents for the next two months and on March 23, will begin their Pivot: Shift Ahead program. The series will include online classes open to all Keller Williams agents and a book club around SHIFT: How Top Real Estate Agents Tackle Tough Times

To access livestreams, on-demand video, and other helpful resources that will help you navigate the changing business landscape, visit (and bookmark) the Pivot: Shift Ahead homepage.

Let’s Pivot

For the latest developments surrounding all of the Keller Williams initiatives and a concentrated collection of stories that will equip you to thrive in any market, subscribe to Outfront

Share This: