Financial Lessons From Winnie the Pooh

by Tara Struyk on 15 May 2012 3 comments
Photo: Loren Javier

Remember Winnie the Pooh? I do — and not just for his honey-fuelled adventures with his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. Even very small children seem to sense the substance behind A.A. Milne’s “stuffed-with-fluff” cast of characters. In fact, A.A. Milne once famously said that although the characters were based on his young son Christopher Robin’s favorite stuffed toys, he didn’t write Winnie the Pooh for children at all. And maybe that’s why a tubby, honey-loving little bear has continued to resonate with adults and children alike since he was first introduced in the 1920s.

Winnie the Pooh has a certain way about him that is both endearing and enlightening; what he learns in his adventures extends far beyond the confines of the cozy Hundred Acre Wood, creating a philosophy that applies to, well, just about everything. Here are some of his key lessons — and how they apply to Wise Bread’s major topic of interest, money. (See also: 21 Personal Finance Lessons From Harry Potter)

Be Thoughtful

Pooh may be a bear of “very little brain,” but that doesn’t stop him from sitting down and having a good a think, whether it’s about how to help a friend or scrounge up some extra honey. If there’s any lesson you can apply to your financial life, it’s to take the time to think things through. “Think it over, think it under,” Pooh would say. Whether you’re struggling with debt or doing some soul searching about how to spend your money, eventually, the answer will come to you.

Greed Doesn’t Get You Anywhere

Money is something we often pursue singularly — and at a cost. For Winnie the Pooh, honey is money, and Pooh often gets into trouble when his hankering for the sweet stuff clouds his judgment. Whether that means tumbling out of a tree, falling in a hole, or getting his head stuck in the honey pot, Pooh’s impatience often gets the best of him. In real life, the consequences of being too focused on getting what we want are often more painful than Pooh’s many tumbles. Plus, the adventure is often in pursuing the prize, not in actually getting it.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Sometimes when we’re in financial hot water, the problem seems so big that our tendency is to say “why bother?” Sound like someone you remember? In the Winnie the Pooh stories, a downtrodden donkey named Eeyore does little more than complain. His friends don’t seem to notice, but it’s clear that the donkey’s low spirits mean he’s often left behind to mope. Today may not be a good day, but if you spend it feeling sorry yourself, tomorrow won’t be any better. It’s tough to be a Winnie the Pooh in an Eeyore world, but it has its rewards. Focus on how to make things better, rather than on what’s going wrong.

Save for Later

Winnie the Pooh is always polishing off the honey (or “hunny”) that’s before him and looking around for more. Unfortunately, although he’s always hungry, this often means his cupboards are bare, and he’s left to go to great lengths to get his paws on more sweet stuff. We often do the same when it comes to our money by spending like there’s no tomorrow on payday, then suffering through the rest of the month. So next time you get your paycheck, tuck some into the honey pot for later. You know you’re going to need it.

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Enjoy the Simple Things in Life

There’s nothing that makes Pooh so happy as “a little something,” such as some tea, some honey, a bit of condensed milk, or “a simple meal of marmalade, spread lightly over a honeycomb or two.” Pooh takes pleasure in food and his friends, so that every day is his favorite day. In real life, things are a lot more complicated. That said, most us know (way deep down) that money can’t really buy the things that make life worth living. That’s what makes them so sweet.

Ask for Help

If it wasn’t for his friends — Piglet, Rabbit, Eeyore, Tigger, and Owl — this tubby, bumbling yellow bear might not get much farther than the next honey pot. But each little character has his strengths, and together, they’re able to set up a trap for a “Heffalump,” take an “Expotition” to the South Pole, and rescue Piglet from a flood by floating by in an upturned umbrella. Chances are that when it comes to challenges in your financial life, there are more solutions than you can even imagine. Ask your friends for help — you’ll be glad in more ways than one.

Be Grateful

“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” Gratitude plays a big role in Winnie the Pooh, and it isn’t just the wise old bear who feels it — even “ Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” According to Pooh, you can “only do what you ought” when you “know what you’ve got.” There’s nothing wrong with striving for greater in things in life — just don’t forget to appreciate what you already have.

You might be surprised that so many of the lessons that flow through A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories relate to our finances. The reason is simple — money is a major part of life, and it’s tied in to our philosophy and the way we think about things. So “have a think” (as Pooh would say) about how you view your money and your life. You may be surprised at what you discover. And, if you decide to tackle some of your financial challenges, you may just enjoy a few adventures along the way.

'When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,' said Piglet at last, 'what’s the first thing you say to yourself?'

'What’s for breakfast,' said Pooh. 'What do you say, Piglet?'

'I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?'

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

'It’s the same thing,' he said.

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Carl Lassegue

It's interesting how a child's cartoon can have so many lessons for adults. The one that resonates with me the most is "Save for Later". I'm making a more conscious effort to start saving. Thanks for the encouragement Winnie the Pooh.

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Margaret

As an avid Winnie the Pooh fan I truly appreciate you giving a "Pooh-esque" view on finance.

Tara Struyk's picture

Awww, shucks.