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20 Mini Money Hacks To Save You A Lot

20 Mini Money Hacks To Save You A Lot

Do you like to save money? Dumb question, right – you work hard for your money, so you want to keep as much of it as possible. There are plenty of ways to save money without spending hours to do so. Here are 20 simple mini money saving hacks that can help you save a lot. Let’s get straight to the point and start saving…

1. Put your savings on auto-pilot

You can automate just about everything; and you should. It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders and frees up your time. Saving is easy to automate with online banking – simply set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings each month… Or try Digit! Digit is a free tool that automatically transfers different amounts from your checking account to your savings. It’s an intelligent tool that knows when you can and can’t afford to save; but don’t worry, if for some reason Digit causes you to overdraft by taking too much, they will fully reimburse any fees and charges (though it’s so smart I’ve never even heard of it causing an overdraft).

2. Make a meal plan

When people ask how my wife and I feed our family of six for under $400/month, I have two words: “meal plan”. Planning your meals will save you a ton. It eliminates buying extra food that you don’t need. It also helps you plan ahead for making more affordable meals, rather than buying what looks good when you’re at the grocery store.  I’ll go over how we make our meal plans even cheaper in the next point.

3. Plan meals around sales

You don’t have to spend hours going through sale papers to find the best deals on everything. Just make your meal plan, but leave the specifics open. For example, one of your meals could be a stir-fry, so you need meat, veggies and a grain. When you get to the store, buy the best-priced meat and veggies. Then look for a grain, like rice or quinoa and buy whatever is the most cost-effective, weighing the price and health benefits.

4. Drink more water

This may seem obvious but the statistics show that it isn’t. You’ll save a lot of money if you stop buying the 24 packs of soda and bottles of juice. Bottled water is cheap – tap water is cheaper. There are many great options for filtering if you’re not a fan of the tap taste. Weigh the cost and see whether you prefer bottled or tap. When you’re eating out, a family of six can easily save $12-$20 per meal just by drinking water instead of soft drinks.

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5. Set an automatic budget

There are plenty of free services like Mint and Personal Capital that allow you to link your accounts and automatically track your budget. If you’re not one for spreadsheets and inputting numbers, this is for you. You are able to view it and oversee the budget, but once you set your categories everything is automatically sorted for you. Occasionally something will go into the wrong category, but it’s easy to switch it and change the category for all future transactions.

6. Set a plan to pay off debt

If you want to get out of debt, you need a plan. There are a few options, but the two most common are the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. How do they work? For the debt snowball you simply write down all your debts from the smallest balance to the largest, then you use any extra money to pay off the smallest balance first. Once that’s paid off, take that payment plus any extra money, and put it on the next smallest balance until you’re debt free. With the debt avalanche it’s the same idea, except you sort by interest rate (highest to lowest) instead of by balance.  The debt avalanche will save you more money in interest, but you may prefer the small wins that the debt snowball provides in the beginning.

7. Get a second job

If you’re trying to reach a goal that seems to be taking longer than you’d like, you may want a second a job. It’s not forever; just a temporary job to get past whatever situation you’re in. If you’re in debt a second job is a great way to pay it off faster. If you’re building an emergency fund: get a second job to get it knocked out. The service industry is great for this, such as waiting tables or delivering pizzas. Service jobs are great for maximizing your extra working hours, since you’ll be getting tips and likely making more than you would at a regular hourly job.  If you aren’t able to get a second job then don’t worry!  There are plenty of other ways below to save money without working more.

8. Challenge everything

Challenge every single expense you have. Do you really need cable? What about those magazine subscriptions that you don’t read? Both of them cost money on their own and the ads could possibly persuade you to spend even more. Odds are you can cut something out. Perhaps you’ve been paying for a service so long that it’s second nature? It’s time for a challenge and here’s how to do it:

  1. Write down every single expense you have
  2. Look for expenses you can fully cut out
  3. Find ways to save money on the remaining expenses

9. Compare insurance rates

When was the last time you checked insurance rates? This is something you should be doing annually. The cheapest isn’t always the best, but usually you’ll find that you can get the same coverage for less money if you shop around. Once a year take a look at all your insurance policies. Call around or go online and see if you can find better rates. Most of the time you can!

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10. Use coupons wisely

There are primarily two crowds when it comes to coupons: the first crowd says coupons aren’t worth the time you spend cutting them; the second crowd says coupons are always worth it because they save you money. However, there exists another crowd: the savvy couponers. Be discerning with coupons. It may not be practical for you to spend hours each week cutting them, but you should be on the lookout for coupons that save you a lot of money. Check out popular services like Groupon or Living Social to look for a coupon every time you’re about to spend money. It takes seconds and could save you a lot, especially on services like an oil change or a massage.

11. Review your card statements

Whether you use a credit card or a debit card, review your statements each month. It’s not uncommon for random or bogus charges to appear on your account. It’s easy to overlook these charges when you’re not checking your statement each month. If you have multiple cards, use a service like Personal Capital to link all your accounts. This way you can see all your transactions in one place for an easy review.

12. Start an emergency fund

Emergency funds are something you should set in place to avoid using a credit card in an emergency. When a crisis hits you don’t want to turn to a credit card and pile on the debt.  Debt can turn a crisis into a catastrophe. Dave Ramsey popularized the idea of having an emergency fund instead of a credit card. Dave recommends getting it to $1,000 quickly; however anything is better than nothing. Even if you can just put $50 or $100 in your emergency fund each month, you’re still making progress.

13. Use the 30-day rule

When you’re considering making a large purchase, use the 30-day rule. If you still want it just as much after 30 days, consider making the purchase. Often you’ll find that you no longer care about whatever it is you wanted. This eliminates spontaneous purchases made out of excitement or emotion.

14. Take it down a notch

Set your thermostat one degree cooler or warmer depending on the season you’re in. You will barely notice the difference and a month later you can do it again since you’ll be fully adjusted to the new temperature. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 1% on your yearly heating bill for each degree.

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15. Don’t replace, repaint

If you’re planning to replace an item in your home, such as an appliance, cabinets or bathroom components; consider painting before replacing. If you’re only replacing it because of the appearance, painting may be your best bet. Anything from appliances and cabinets to sinks and bathtubs can be painted. You just have to buy the right paint. Always make this consideration before buying something new.

16. Know your options

Home Depot and Lowes aren’t the only places to buy home items, just like Best Buy isn’t the only place to buy electronics. Know your local and online options. We almost all know to look online before deciding on a purchase, but you may also be surprised at your local options. Overstock, wholesale and liquidation stores are a few of the places you should check out. Sure they’re hit or miss, but when you find some deals that save you hundreds or thousands it will all be worth it. We were able to buy ceramic tile for less than half the price we previously found, just by walking into a wholesale store that we passed by every day.

17. Keep up with maintenance

Maintaining your home and your vehicle can save you thousands down the road. Regular oil changes, replacing air filters and checking tire pressure will all lead to savings in the future. Likewise, replacing your home filters, being aware of issues and quickly making needed repairs will save you some serious cash. Be mindful and pay attention to general maintenance. Staying on top of maintenance will stop other problems before they happen.

18. Reduce your interest rate

If you have credit card debt, you know interest can be a killer. Call your credit card company and ask for a lower rate. You don’t need some amazing reason to convince them. Many companies will simply lower it because you asked. It’s easier than you may think to negotiate with credit card companies. Often times, they are just happy you’re paying instead of filing for bankruptcy.

19. Give up the expensive habits

If you’re trying to save money, your habits may be working against you. For example, the cost of cigarettes and alcohol can be insane. If you don’t want to completely cut it out, try cutting back. Smoking one less pack of cigarettes each week can save you as much as $40/month depending on the state you live in. When you count the costs of your habits, it may open your eyes to another benefit of quitting.

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20. Get paid to spend

Maximize your credit card rewards by using the right card for your purchase. Some cards offer 5% cash back on gas, while others offer 6% cash back on groceries. Credit card rewards are a great way to earn while you spend, which in return, saves you money. It’s like putting a certain percentage of every purchase into a savings account.

That was quick! Now you’ve got 20 ways to save money so start saving today. Some of these require you to take action, while others mean you’ve got to stop doing something. Whether you’re adding or subtracting something from your life, stay mindful of your spending. You should always know where your money is going, since you should be the one telling it where to go. Stick to your budget, follow these tips and save some money!

Featured photo credit: Cutting Your Spending / Tax Credits via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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