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When it comes to managing your money, finding the motivation to do all the right things isn’t easy. It can be challenging to track your spending, invest, and stay out of debt. But, what if instead of having to make big changes with your money, you were able to take small steps that add up to a big difference? Today, I will show you 21 money hacks to do precisely that. Each tip, while small in isolation, can help add up to a significantly better financial life. So, let’s get started!
Saving Money Hacks
This first set of tips is all about the ways you save and spend money. Let’s get started with these quick, easy money hacks!
1) Use a Separate Savings Account
This first money hack is a psychological trick to help you save more money. One trick I’ve found is that you are less likely to spend money when it’s harder to access.
That’s why I suggest you open a separate savings account to keep your savings.
When you keep your savings in a separate account, you’ll have to pause and think before taking money out to use for something else.
2) Automatically Save
Next, once you have a separate savings account set up, you’ll want an easy way to make sure you’re putting money away.
The best way to do this is to set up an automatic transfer for every time you receive a paycheck.
For example, maybe you’re trying to build an emergency fund, and you want to put 10% of your salary towards that goal. Let’s assume your net pay is $1,600 every two weeks. In this case, set up an automatic transfer to move $160 from your checking account to your savings account every two weeks.
By forcing yourself to put money away automatically, you’ll spend less time thinking about your money, knowing instead that your money is doing the right things for you.
And, by taking the decision-making out of your hands, you’re more likely to stay on track.
3) Stop Paying Bank Fees
If there’s one thing that I can’t stand, it’s bank fees—account management charges, wire charges, overdraft charges, you name it. Rather than the bank paying you for the use of your money, you end up paying them in fees.
The first thing you should do is seek out a bank account that doesn’t charge you any monthly fee to keep your money there. One of my favorites is Ally Bank.
Once you have a no-fee account, make sure you aren’t paying silly charges for things like overdrafts. You can avoid these charges by managing your money prudently. However, if you’ve already been assessed a bank fee, using a service like Trim can help you get that fee refunded.
4) Automatic Savings Increases
This next money hack is all about a simple way to trick yourself into saving more. If you’re like many people, you may get a small raise each year. When you get that raise, the best thing you can do is automate your savings to take the thinking out of saving.
Say you get a 3% raise, for example. Increase your automatic savings by 2%. The easiest way to do this is by boosting your contribution to an employer-sponsored 401(k) program if one is available to you. That way, you’re investing more, using a tax-advantaged plan, and avoid the temptation to use the money.
You managed to live on your salary before your raise. So, by allocating a chunk of your raise towards your future, you’re putting away money you never had before anyway!
By taking this simple step, you will end up with thousands in extra savings by the time you retire.
5) Prepare for the Expected
This next tip requires a bit more effort to set up, but it can be a big boon to your finances once you get going.
The thing is, you have expenses, which may not happen frequently, but when they do, they can easily throw your finances off balance.
Take an insurance bill, for example. Perhaps you pay your insurance once every six months. If this is the case, you should be putting aside money each month for this purpose.
If you don’t plan for significant expenses, they tend to catch you by surprise, derailing your best-laid plans.
The way to plan for these lumpy expenses is by setting up sinking funds. Make a list of your infrequent expenses, the amounts, and when they occur. Then, you determine how much you need to set aside each month for the spending you plan to do in the future.
The easiest way to do this is with a budgeting solution like You Need A Budget, but no matter how you set up your sinking funds, they’re a great way to make sure your budget never heads off track.
6) Lower Your Utility Bills
This next money hack is all about finding ways to cut back on your utility bills. There are many ways you can do so, but below are some of my favorite ideas:
#1 Change Your Thermostat Settings
Turning your thermostat up in the summer and down in the winter can save you on your utility bills. Changing your thermostat by 7 – 10 degrees for 8 hours a day can save as much as 10% on your heating and cooling bills per the Department of Energy.
Aim for 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer, and alter your thermostat when you aren’t home or awake.
#2 Get a Smart Thermostat
Constantly changing your thermostat up or down when you leave the house or go to bed is inconvenient. That’s why smart thermostats can help you save money – they do the hard work for you. By adjusting the temperature at night and when you’re away, you can save a boatload on electricity. And, these thermostats can be set up to match your habits to save you even more.
My favorite smart thermostat (and the one I have in my house) is the Ecobee SmartThermostat. Trust me. It’ll more than pay for itself over the long term.
#3 Switch to LEDs
One of the easiest ways to save money on energy is to switch to LEDs. While they may cost a little more upfront, they will last for a very long time.
In fact, according to the Consumer Federation of America, the average U.S. household could lower its electric bill by over $1,000 over a decade by switching to LEDs.
#4 Open & Close the Blinds
What better way to save energy than harnessing the power of the sun? By opening and closing your blinds at the right times, you can save on energy.
Close the blinds on hot summer days to keep the heat out, and close the blinds on cold winter nights to help keep the heat in your home.
Open the blinds during winter days to allow some of the sun’s heat into your home.
7) Wait for a Price Drop
This next money hack is easy. If you want to buy something, wait for the price to drop. For example, when a new electronic gadget comes out, it is often discounted within a few months.
Or, if you’re willing to wait for the holidays, you can often find deals that you wouldn’t other times of the year.
It’s not always possible to wait to make a purchase, but when you can, see if you can hold out for a price drop.
8) Meal Plan
This next tip won’t come as a surprise, but eating out can get very expensive very quickly. It costs leaps and bounds less to prepare your food than to eat out.
One of the best ways to stay on track with your food budget is to plan your meals. When you’ve already decided how you’re going to eat for the week, it’s much easier to avoid eating out or hitting up DoorDash.
While many people meal plan for dinner, you may also want to think about planning your lunches. Going out to eat at work can easily cost $10+ per day, adding up to over $200 per month. Instead, try bringing your lunch to work. I usually prepare a salad on Sunday and take that to work 2-3 days that week to cut down on how much I eat out.
9) Drink More Water
When you go out to eat, drinks can add to the tab rather quickly. This includes both soda and alcohol.
If possible, aim to switch to water when you go out to eat. It costs a whole lot less, and it’s much better for you!
10) Check Your Subscriptions
Ever find that there are charges for subscriptions on your credit card which you barely recognize? It’s time to tackle those subscriptions!
The easiest way to identify subscriptions is by using a service such as Truebill. Truebill is smart in that it recognizes which charges are subscriptions, and it can even help you cancel them.
So, stop paying for things you don’t use and get your subscriptions under control today!
Truebill is a bill negotiation service that will help negotiate your regular bills, track your subscriptions, and help you save. You only pay when Truebill saves you money, so you have nothing to lose. Check out our review to learn more!
11) Shop Your Car Insurance
If you budget regularly, you’ve probably realized that transportation is one of your most significant expenses. However, one area where it is easy to scale back is car insurance.
Unfortunately, there is quite a range in what different insurance carriers charge for car insurance.
That said, it may be worthwhile to shop for your car insurance once a year.
However, I am the first to admit that I do not follow this tip. Why? When it comes to insurance, I am a bit of a snob. I would rather have the best insurance carrier, even if it costs a bit more because I feel more confident that they’ll help square things away if and when something goes wrong.
12) Buy Term Life Insurance when You’re Young
Do you have life insurance, or do you even need it? If you have someone that relies on your income who would be in a difficult position if you were gone, you need life insurance.
That said, all life insurance is not created equal. Go with a term life policy rather than a whole life policy – the whole life policies are junk marketed as an investment product.
And, if possible, buy your term life policy while you’re young. It’ll cost a whole lot less to buy than when you get older.
13) House Hack
Finally, when it comes to saving money, most of the money hacks on this list are easy to implement. This tip is not, but it is perhaps the most impactful of all money hacks.
Housing is likely one of your most substantial expenses. The best way you can cut that cost is by sharing your housing expenses with somebody else.
One such popular way is to house hack. House hacking can mean getting someone else to rent out a room in your house or buying a multi-family home and renting out one of the units.
For example, if you buy a duplex and live in half of the property, the other unit may cover most of your mortgage, making it possible to live in the property for free.
House hacking can take some planning and sacrifices, but it can save you a ton of money.
Earning Money Hacks
While the first 13 money hacks were all about saving money and smarter ways to spend, I now want to share some tips with you to find more money. While it’s easier to control saving and spending, finding additional money sources can be equally powerful.
14) Find Unclaimed Money
Did you know that there are billions of dollars of unclaimed property? It’s true. Sometimes stocks are found, utility deposits aren’t returned, and much more.
It sounds hokey, but 1 in 10 people has unclaimed money. And this money is rightfully theirs!
Every state has a program that will allow you to search for unclaimed property for free. Start with the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators to see if you have unclaimed property!
15) Credit Card Hack
One of my favorite sources of “income” is credit card hacking. Currently, I carry five credit cards. While this may seem excessive, each card does have a specific purpose, which helps me redeem the most rewards possible.
While some people use many more credit cards, this can get highly complex very quickly.
However, credit card hacking allows you to earn cashback, earn free travel, and much more. If you’re spending money anyway, credit card hacking is a great way to get rewarded.
I would caution that if you don’t use credit cards responsibly (i.e., paying bills in full every month), this is a tip you should avoid.
However, if you think credit card hacking could make sense for you, check out my guide to earning credit card points to get started.
16) Sell Unused Stuff
Next, do you have unused items sitting around the house? Maybe it’s an old iPhone, or perhaps you have a stack of CDs or Blu-rays which you no longer use.
If you have things lying around the house that you no longer use, try to sell those items for cash! Of course, the most popular option is eBay, but if you’re looking for something simpler, try out Decluttr! It is a one-stop-shop to sell old electronics, textbooks, DVDs, and more!
17) Get Paid for Your Receipts
If you’re going to be shopping anyway, you might as well see if there is a way to save on that spending and get cashback.
Several providers can help you get cashback just by providing your receipts. For example, Paribus by Capital One will search the items you purchased to see if the price dropped after your purchase. If the price dropped after your purchase, Paribus helps refund you the difference.
18) Start Investing with Pennies
Next, if you feel like you’re always stretched thin, it may seem impossible to invest. However, it is possible to invest with just your spare change – and that can add up to a lot over the long-term.
Acorns is one of my favorite investing apps to do exactly that. When you spend money, Acorns will automatically invest the spare change in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds, making it an easy way to achieve your investment goals, all with almost no thought at all.
Sign up for Acorns to get started investing the easy way!
19) Sign up for a Brokerage Account
While Acorns is great for getting started, if you’re looking to put more money into your investments or want more control over where your investment dollars are going, you’ll want to use a more traditional brokerage account like M1 Finance.
M1 is my favorite brokerage account because they provide a great deal of investment flexibility as well as pre-built portfolios to help you meet your investment goals.
And you can even set up automatic investments, so you can move money to your investments each month without having to think about it!
20) Invest in Crowdfunded Real Estate
Another way to invest is through real estate. While investing in real estate may feel out of reach, various crowdfunding sites have aimed to change this.
Fundrise is my favorite way to invest in real estate because you can get started with just $500! Fundrise will invest your money in a diversified portfolio of real estate based on your unique investing goals.
Real estate is a great way to build passive income through cash flow, and you’ll also have the opportunity to benefit from appreciation long-term.
Plus, if you’re looking to grow your real estate portfolio, you can set up automatic investments and watch your wealth build over time!
Fundrise is my favorite tool for getting started with real estate investing. It allows you to invest in a diversified portfolio of commercial real estate at low costs and with a great deal of transparency. Check out my full review to see if this tool is right for you!
21) Track Your Finances
Finally, when it comes to managing your money, the most important thing you can do is track your progress. Is your budget under control? Are your investments on track for retirement? Are you losing money to fees?
Personal Capital can help you track all of these things, and the best news of all is that it’s free!
I have been using Personal Capital for years, and it is by far the best service I have found for keeping tabs on my overall financial picture. You can check out my review of Personal Capital to learn more!
21 Money Hacks: A Summary
Saving, spending, and investing can feel like a burden, particularly when you’re tight on time or money. That’s why I want you to get the most bang for your proverbial buck by seeking easy changes with your money that can add up to significant results.
To summarize, here are my top 21 money hacks to start taking control of your money!
- Use a Separate Savings Account
- Automatically Save
- Stop Paying Bank Fees
- Automatic Savings Increases
- Prepare for the Expected
- Lower Your Utility Bills
- Wait for a Price Drop
- Meal Plan
- Drink More Water
- Check Your Subscriptions
- Shop Your Car Insurance
- Buy Term Life Insurance when You’re Young
- House Hack
- Find Unclaimed Money
- Credit Card Hack
- Sell Unused Stuff
- Get Paid for Your Receipts
- Start Investing with Pennies
- Sign up for a Brokerage Account
- Invest in Crowdfunded Real Estate
- Track Your Finances
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