1. Use Cash, Not Credit
There’s a massive and obvious difference between cash and credit. With cash you can only use what you have: with credit you can spend outside your limit. Consider switching to cash as much as possible for your short and long-term spending. While it is obviously difficult—if not impossible—to cut out credit cards and online payments entirely, consider using cash for your day-to-day expenses as much as possible. Numerous studies show that people often spend more recklessly when they’re using a credit card: save money by using cash.
2. Stuff Money Away
Envelopes aren’t just for sending letters. They are also highly useful for filling with crisp cash. By developing a pre-set budget for basic monthly expenses and then stuffing labeled envelopes with the cash you can limit yourself to the real essentials and cut down on random, excessive expenses. Take out the cash each time you incur an expense and then you’ll know exactly how much you have left for the month.
Even if your actual expenses have to be paid by card, use the cash as a tracking system and take it out to put it in a giant SPENT envelope as it gets spent. At the end of the month walk into the bank and put it in your account to pay off whatever you had to pay by card. By putting a set amount of cash in labeled envelopes—one for each required category of monthly spending including going out, utilities, clothing, tuition, etc.—you hold yourself to a standard and save big.
3. Go Coupon Crazy
As much as it might be a cliché it’s also true: coupons save money. Whether it is via online promo codes or old-fashioned physical coupons that you cut out, collecting coupons for your vital purchases is going to save you an arm and a leg. For next level coupon savings, consider collaboration. For example, if there is a two-for-one sale that is amazing but you only need one, find a friend, family member or colleague who wants another of the same item or service and then use the coupon. Savings city here we come.
4. Avoid Accessories
Have you ever heard the saying “less is more?” Well, it’s more true than you know. The less you spend on accessories and unneeded items the more money you are going to save. It sounds obvious, and it is, but nowadays most people could use ten reminders a day. Avoid accessories and unnecessary items. This applies across the board from food to phone accessories to jewelry to clothing to interior décor to pills that seem like they could give you a lot of energy because they have Ginseng in them. When it comes to the things that catch your eye last-minute in the shopping line (hello, chocolate bar) or just as you’re exiting your browser (no, you don’t need a new exclusive necklace from Chanel) avoid, avoid, avoid.
5. Buy In Bulk
This is especially advisable when there is a great sale on or product you’re especially in need of. Take the station wagon—or whatever you drive—and load it to the rooftop with those sweet bulk deals. Buying in bulk can mean signing up for a warehouse style store like Costco but it can also mean just keeping your eyes open as you browse the grocery store for especially amazing bulk deals. Everything from toilet paper to pasta sauce can sometimes have extraordinary discounts when purchased in large quantities.
6. Don’t Buy Items Just Because They’re On Sale
Despite the last piece of advice on taking advantage of sales and buying in bulk it is important to also keep in mind that just because it is on sale doesn’t mean you need to buy it. Sometimes there really is a great deal and it will save you a lot, but, and it’s a big but, that’s only if you actually need the item.
7. Quit Smoking – Or At Least Cut Down. And Limit Drinking, Too.
If you smoke, stop. Easier said than done, right? Still, the savings will be massive. Studies estimate that someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes per day spends an average of $11,000 per year. Half a pack? Still over $5,000 a year. That money could be put to good use besides sucking it into your lungs. Let the savings roll in.
Also, limit drinking. Your liver will thank you and so will your bank account. Even if you still want to enjoy a drink or two with the girls or the guys, cutting down is a clever savings hack. Especially when you’re out drinks cost a lot, and even from the liquor store they’re not exactly giving it away. Another advantage is that when you drink less you’ll enjoy it more. An ice-cold beer after a long week of work is even more enjoyable than a few every day. You skip the bloated feeling and enjoy the refreshment instead—plus you know that you earned it, both literally and figuratively.
8. Curb Your Online Shopping Habit
Online shopping can be addictive. Whether you’re buying books on Amazon like you’re about to enter the World Speed Reading Championship (is there such a thing?) or ordering cute Capri pants in every brand that exists, take a step away from the monitor and flex your fingers. Look at them one by one and then look closely at your index finger and consider how much money that innocent-looking finger is costing you with its compulsive clicking. Do you need that amazing new scarf from Gucci? Do you need twenty Baby Yoda action figures for future gifts once your kids possibly have kids and you become a grandparent? No you do not. Limit your online shopping to what you actually need or at least what you want so much that it’s making you shake with anticipation.
9. Be Reasonable About Restaurants
Dining out is one of the great pleasures of life. However, it’s also often rather expensive. The average family spends $3,000 per year eating out, and some spend way more! Especially once you add in a drink or two and a dessert. Even if you make an effort to go to modestly-priced restaurants, eating out adds up. Be reasonable about restaurants by limiting your patronage to once a week maximum and possibly even only once or twice a month. The upside is that the few times you do eat out will be even more of a treat and you will save more money than you expect.
10. Don’t Let Corner Stores And Gas Station Markets Corner You
Gas station markets and convenience stores are convenient but they’re also pricey. That’s why you should buy things elsewhere. Even the odd bottle of water or gum every few days here and there adds up into a mountain of uselessly-wasted money. The next time you find yourself reaching for a $8.99 bag of honey mustard pretzels at 7-Eleven or a $2.99 bottle of water at the gas station, calm yourself and resist. Drink tap water and buy pretzels in bulk. Save that money, honey.
11. App-ly Yourself
Use apps. They can really help. From gas buddy apps that tell you the cheapest prices on fuel in your area to special discount and promo code apps your phone can be your best saving friend. There are so many apps out there that it is also important to check reviews and ratings. Pick the highest-rated and most downloaded apps that are known to be trustworthy and use them. Avoid typing in your credit card info or other sensitive stuff and be smart, but use trustworthy apps to save bundles.
12. The Meal Prep Miracle
Preparing and cooking meals takes a lot of energy, particularly if you have a large family or a large appetite. There is a solution: prep your meals all on one day of the week for the week ahead. Then freeze them and bring them to work, defrost and enjoy. Planning your meals ahead and knowing what you’re spending for the week is a legit lifesaver when it comes to finances. You’ll cut down on extra food items you don’t need and avoid all the stress of last-minute meal prep or hurried lunches where you spend way more than you should because you’re starving and in a rush.
13. Fix Your Own Faucet
This hack doesn’t need to be taken literally, but it’s good advice generally speaking. Do home repairs and car repairs and other maintenance yourself as much as humanly possible. Don’t attempt to rebuild a carburetor from scratch with no experience, of course, but consider using Do-It-Yourself techniques for basic plumbing repairs and simple patch-ups like small dents in the wall or discolored caulking around your bathtub. Instead of spending $200 to fix your clogged sink, learn how to do it yourself for $0 or maybe $4.99 including the price of drain-cleaner and an hour learning to clear the trap.
14. Be Utility-Savvy
Utilities can add up, but there are ways to lower the cost. Consider lowering the water pressure or capacity of your shower heads and turning down your heating and air conditioning slightly. An extra sweater in the winter and an extra drop of sweat in the summer won’t kill you (but high utility prices might). Also make sure that your windows are well sealed and your insulation is good quality. The amount this can cost in heating and air conditioning is considerable.
15. Try A Zero Spending Emissions Weekend
The weekend is a time for relaxation and fun, but it doesn’t have to be a financial black hole. Consider attempting a zero spending emissions weekend in which you make do with what you have and enjoy the finer things in life like sitting on your porch if you have one, or enjoying a nice cool glass of … ice water. Of course you’ll want to be stocked up on groceries and maybe a nice snack or two for good measure, but you’ll love the feeling of zero spending emissions.
16. Kill The Cookies
Please note: this tip does not advocate violence against chocolate chip cookies oatmeal raisin cookies or any other variety of innocent cookies. Instead, we’re talking here about internet cookies: tracking technology that follows what you browse online and increases the prices of tickets, books and other items when you view them repeatedly while considering whether to purchase them. Go to options on your internet browser and click “clear cache” or “clear cookies.” Then go back. You might notice a lower price. Good job, have a cookie.
17. Hang Out At Home
This hack is simple and good: instead of going out to expensive bars, clubs or restaurants, have your friends and family over to your house. Other than the cleanup you’ll have a great time (maybe). Even better, you can ask each guest to bring over a food item and pool it all together, aka a potluck. This saves money and gives people a fun enjoyment of trying all sorts of different dishes and drinks.
18. Goodbye Gym
This is no excuse for getting lazy: just the opposite. Instead of paying big bucks to your local gym, consider running, buying free weights for your home or doing bodyweight exercises like push-ups and squats. Especially if you find you’re never getting to the gym anyway, re-prioritize your workouts to home workouts and runs and cut that membership cost.
19. Subscribe Less
Whether it’s Netflix, an audiobook subscription, meditation classes or your phone, think about unsubscribing and finding cheaper options. In this day and age, subscriptions seem to stack up everywhere from real-world signup to online. By cutting down to one or two essentials you will save big money and have less on your plate with your schedule, too.
20. Don’t Use ATMs
This comes with one exception: you can use ATMs that are part of your bank and included in your monthly account for no extra fee. Using other bank ATMs—especially if you’re traveling or working abroad—incurs large fees and wasted money. Even just a few times a month starts to add up to hundreds by the end of the year. Just use your bank’s ATMs and consider taking out slightly higher amounts or using traveler’s checks if you are abroad.
Now go out there and save the world by saving your money. One less person in debt is one more person who can help others, support their family and friends and be less stressed. The world could use more of that! So feel good while you save big with these clever savings hacks.