Financial Life Hacks That ACTUALLY Save Money
Worried about money? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. According to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, approximately 72% of the Americans are occasionally worried about money. Meanwhile, a good 22% are intensely stressed about their finances. If you’re one of them, you’re certainly not an isolated case. Still, you worry about the fact that you’re stressed about money. You need to pay your bills, settle your debts and prepare for retirement – all of which can seem too much to bear in this time of a financial crunch.
You’re not hopeless. You can still take control of your financial situation and achieve your goals through these financial life hacks.
14 Best Financial Life Hacks
Leave Your Cards at Home
Yes, cards have become the more popular way to make a purchase, but they also make it easier for you to overspend. When you use the card, you don’t see money leaving your account physically, so it feels less painful to spend.
If you want to be more conscious of your spending, consider leaving your cards at home. Make a budget and withdraw only the amount you need for one or two weeks. When you buy using cash, you see money changing hands, making you more aware of the purchase’s impact on your finances. Using cash makes you want to think things over and start to question “do I really need this?” and “is this really worth the money?”
Cards can still come in handy for special expenses like booking flights and accommodation but use cash more often for things like coffee, groceries and gas. You’ll feel more compelled to keep the cash than spend it or at least make you feel more vigilant of your purchasing decisions.
Only Carry Large Bills
Many countries nowadays are making a move to become cashless societies. Although a lot of people are considering credit cards and debit cards as their primary form of currency, using cash is still an excellent way to save money and become more disciplined in using it. If you’re already doing this, take it up a notch by bringing only large amount of bills.
Carrying large bills is a mind trick that works perfectly for people who need to constrain themselves from impulse spending. If you have a lot $5 bills in your wallet, it’s easy to spend one or two of them without thinking twice. However, if you carry large bills like $50 and $100, you’ll feel constrained to spend the cash for say a $5 coffee.
Pay Bills Using Auto Pay
How many times have you missed a bill’s due date and suffered the inevitable penalty charge? Missing one bill may cause less stress, but if your mind is all over the place and you tend to forget things, it’s very likely that missing a few bills, quite regularly, can mess things up.
Paying your bills on autopilot is a great way to save money and time, but not many people take advantage of it. If you’re still paying your bills the regular way, you’d be surprised how easy and breezy automated payment is, and you’ll probably never look back.
Automated bill payments are best used for credit cards, student loans, home loans, and other forms of consumer debts with recurring payments. Instead of having to log into your accounts individually on the due date, the amount of debt is taken out from your account at a pre-determined date each month. In most cases, you only need to set this up once, and the process repeats itself.
With automated bill payments, you don’t have to worry about missing another due date, even if you were on vacation or busy working. You can forget about the payments and still ensure that they’re being paid on time. Also, you can automate your savings pretty much the same way, which will “force” you to save a set amount each month and pay yourself first.
Some people would say that finding, clipping and stocking coupons are not worth the time, but those who have seen how financially valuable coupons are, they actually make the time for couponing.
Coupons allow you to shop without paying the full price. You can enjoy even deeper discounts if you know where and when to shop and how to figure in coupons to your purchasing strategies. You can purchase everyday items at a discount by using coupons. You can also stockpile on non-perishable products like tissue, toothpaste, table napkins etc. with coupons. Best of all, you can save even money more money when you use coupons for products being sold at a discount.
Fortunately, couponing is not time-consuming as it used to be. To be on the radar of the hottest deals and promos, follow your favorite brands and products on social media or subscribe to their newsletters. Most of these companies would give out coupons online, so being a little tech-savvy couponer can go a long way in saving some money.
Get a Digital Thermostat
Heating and cooling consumes almost half of your utility expenses at home. The intensely humid summers and very cold winters can wreak havoc to your household budget. A digital thermostat is a step above the regular thermostat in that you can program the device to switch to a pre-determined temperature at specific times of the day.
Many people tend to forget turning off their thermostats when they leave home for work, or worse, go away for a weekend getaway or longer vacations. A digital thermostat turns on and off when people are actually at home. You can set it up to heat up the house 30 minutes before you arrive, so the space feels warm and toasty, then bring down the temperature when you’re about to sleep. The modern thermostats even allow you to control them from your smart phone.
Of course, for whatever device, proper usage is the key for conservation. A digital thermostat is just one of those that help you manage your power use more conveniently, but if you don’t have to determination to save, you will still use a lot of unnecessary energy, whether you’re conscious of it or not.
Bundle Your Insurance for a Discount
Insurance is an essential part to live a peaceful life. Right now, you probably have one or all of these – auto insurance, home insurance and life insurance. But, the question is: do you have them under one insurance company?
If you’ve taken these separate insurance policies from different companies, you might consider bundling them to save even more money. A bundled auto and home insurance policy saves you around 10-20% in discounts, as compared to getting them from different insurers.
And although the cost of the insurance is always a main consideration, don’t forget coverage. You may need to check and evaluate your policies at different life milestones just to see if you’re still amply covered. Also, it makes it easier for you to just deal with one insurance agent and one company (as long as you get the coverage you need), on top of getting some nice discounts for the bundled policies.
Buy Gift Cards at a Discount
Apart from cash and credit cards, gift cards are also popular forms of currency in the country. According to www.giftcards.com, around 93% of Americans receive gift cards the whole year round!
Gift cards can give you some nifty savings too, if you know the trick.
First, you don’t have to purchase gift cards full price. A couple of places, including eBay, sell gift cards at a discount. It’s possible to buy a gift card with as much as 35% discount.
You may also trade unwanted gift cards with ones that you will use. Retail stores like Target has a list of acceptable gift cards that they trade with their own gift cards. So if an aunt or distant relatives mistakenly gave you a gift card for a store you don’t shop in, try trading it at one of the places you purchase from and put the gift card to use.
Additionally, you may redeem rewards from your credit card in the form of a gift card. Gift cards typically have higher face value as compared to most cash back program, allowing you to get twice as much amount on the gift card as compared to getting cash back rewards.
Fill Prescriptions at Costco
Prescription drugs are necessary, especially for specific health conditions, yet they can be expensive too! If you don’t have health insurance, or if you have one but doesn’t cover prescription meds, you need to prepare for some financial damage medications are going to cost you.
But instead of going to a traditional pharmacy, consider looking at retail stores like Costco. Costco is one of the largest retail chains in the country having its own pharmacy. Surprisingly, buying your prescription drugs from Costco can save you a couple of thousand dollars each year!
Costco has its own list of drug prices on their website. This allows you to comparison shop for meds even before going out. Additionally, you can purchase prescription drugs at the store even without a Costco membership. And if you do have a membership card, enroll for their drug discount card which allows up to 40% off on the price of your prescription drug.
Switch to LED Light Bulbs
According to the study conducted by Consumer Federation of America, a typical American family uses around 20 light bulbs inside their homes. Also, around 12% of your utility bill is consumed by lighting.
Lighting is an essential part of the modern life. However, you don’t have to spend as much if you’re willing to make some changes around. And the first thing you need to change around your home is replacing your old bulbs with LED ones.
In their initial entry to the market, LED bulbs were expensive. But the surge of demand on LED bulbs has led to the drop of prices, and now you can purchase them for a more reasonable price.
But that’s not their only selling point. LED bulbs are way better than their CFL and incandescent counterparts because they are cooler and use lesser heat to generate light, and therefore, are more energy-efficient. Also, LED bulbs last longer so you wouldn’t have to keep replacing them, and are also eco-friendly.
Cancel Subscriptions You Aren’t Using
We are now living in an automated society where you sign up once, and you get charged month after month, whether or not the subscription is bringing value to you.
Consider checking all your subscriptions – TV, cable, internet, magazines and gym membership to name a few. Now, begin looking at those you are using and keep them. Next, look at those you don’t use and cut them now. If you have subscriptions that you don’t use on a regular basis, do more thinking. Look around for cheaper deals or consider bundling up if that will save you more money.
Periodically do this check-up to prevent useless subscriptions from eating away at your budget and shop around for cheaper counterparts. You’d be surprised at how much money you can potentially save just by cancelling all of your unused subscriptions.
Cook Your Meals at Home and Eat the Leftovers
We can’t live without food, so we always need to spend money to eat. However, do you really need to always buy food and eat at a restaurant? No. In fact, if you limit the frequency of dining out and cook meals at home on a regular basis, you’ll be able to save more money.
The key to maximizing your savings in cooking meals at home starts with your food shopping. Before you hit the stores, make a meal plan for the week and list down all the ingredients that you will need. Also, check out the pantry to make sure you don’t get anything in doubles unnecessarily.
Another tip is to plan your meals around food sales. It’s cheaper to make pasta at home when the ingredients go on sale than ordering one from the restaurant. Also consider hitting the local farmers’ market for fresh in-season produce, which also typically cost less.
Or, transform an unused area in your yard and turn it into a vegetable garden. You can even grow your herbs in a pot and place them on the window sill. Small things like these can go a long way for your savings.
If you think you don’t have a lot of time to cook in the morning or if you’re too tired to come up with a decent meal for dinner, consider cooking in large batches during the weekends. Pack the meals in individual containers and just heat one up in the morning or evening.
There are also a couple of easy recipes requiring just a few ingredients. Stir-fry vegetables, for instance, take only a couple of minutes to make. Or, you could come up with your pizza using on-hand ingredients. One of the best things about cooking at home is that you know your ingredients and you get to control their amount, which can be particularly helpful if you need to avoid specific food (for allergies) or following a certain diet.
Finally, don’t throw the leftovers. As long as you stored them properly in the fridge, your leftover food can very well become next day’s lunch or snacks. Leftover chicken breast can go into your salad the next day, and you can turn leftover vegetables into omelets. You can even boil chicken bones and shrimp heads and use the soup as stock.
Looking for ways to reduce your grocery bills? Here’s a simple little trick that can help you save thousands per year!
Stop Going Out
There are a lot of things outside your home that are designed to make you spend, so if you’re trying to save, stop going out.
Going out means putting gas on your car, which costs you money. When you go to the mall, you run the risk of making unnecessary purchases. There’s also the pull to dine outside. You might also spend for movie tickets, drinks with friends, and probably drop $5 on coffee on the way home. While going out gives you a different kind of thrill, it also places you in a vulnerable position to spend.
Staying at home means using entertainment that is readily available for you. You could get lazy and binge of Netflix and catch up on sleep. Or, you could spend your time more productively by tending to your garden, doing some minor home repairs or de-cluttering. Or, you could spend more time with family by watching movies, cooking, doing puzzles together, and playing in the yard and so on. These fun and free activities cost way lesser than going out, yet they can make such an impact on your home relationship.
Cut the Cable Cord
Cable TV is one of those things you probably spend on, but not use in its maximum. After all, if you spend most time at work, a few more hours in traffic and then some on the internet, you’re not getting the best bang for your buck! That is why many people have decided to cut the cord and never regretted.
The Leichtman Research Group reports that American households spend an average of $103 each month. Apparently, you can obtain your movie and TV fix without cable if you look for most suitable and cheaper alternatives. For instance, you can opt to get Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu for a way cheaper deal. HBO also offers a standalone streaming channel with a decent library of movies for a lower price.
Invest Something Each Month
If you’re already doing most, if not all, of the money hacks above, you’re probably enjoying the savings that other people are missing out on. But the thing is, cutting back on things can only go so much. When you’ve reached the bare bones of your budget, it’s difficult to cut back any further.
There’s one crucial thing that you need to do to keep your wealth growing: invest. In fact, if you make investing a priority, and you do it early and consistently, the benefits will be massive later on. Fortunately, investing is not that hard or intimidating now. Many investment platforms now allow for automated and digital investing. It cuts the middleman (investment broker), and you can see and control your accounts virtually. Of course, arm yourself with some investing knowledge, do your research make sure to invest in a legit platform before anything else.
Apart from investing, you also need to pay yourself, and this is something you should do every month. Before you even dispense your income for expenses, set aside a certain amount for your savings. You can use this savings for your financial goals, like a vacation, home down payment, wedding, or a new car, or throw it towards your emergency fund. Or, you could set some money towards retirement or your kids’ college expenses.
Financial Life Hack Recap
We have different financial circumstances and goals, but what remains true for most of us is that we all need to spend, save and invest money wisely. The sad truth is that we need to money to live the life we want. Fortunately, we also don’t need to take the more expensive route. There are always cheaper alternatives for just about anything, and if you just do some legwork, you’d be able to save a significant amount along the way.
Mastering some or all of these money hacks put you in a better position to achieve your financial goals. Of course, you also need to instill discipline and commitment, but if you’re already doing most of these hacks, you’re already in a right place. Don’t be afraid to be a little different. If you’re not going out to save money on the weekend because you needed to throw this amount on investments, then do what you believe is right. At the end of the day, your budget will thank you for making the best decision.