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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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Published on September 17, 2018

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

2. When you want something big, wait

Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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So, you get the itch.

You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

Here’s where you have to take a step back.

Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

3. Live smaller than you can afford

You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

4. Practice smart grocery shopping

Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

Create a grocery budget

Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

Make a list… and never deviate

Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

Eat before going grocery shopping

It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

5. Cancel your gym membership

Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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