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They say money doesn’t buy happiness, which is true in some respects, but not having enough money to live comfortably won’t make you happy either. If you’re stressed about not having enough money and feeling like you can’t do anything – pay bills, buy necessities, go on vacations – because you just don’t have the cash, you’re definitely not enjoying life. Lack of money is one of the top sources of stress, unhappiness, and relationship and marital problems. If you want to get your financial life on track and start living the good life, keep reading for the Top 25 Money Hacks you can start right now.
For more smart money tips, check out the following:
Super Smart Money Hacks You Need to Start Now
START A SAVINGS ACCOUNT ASAP
When I was young, my Aunt Mary told me to start saving at least $25 every month for emergencies. She said whether I had a real emergency or just really wanted to buy something, I’d be really happy I saved that money. Now that I’m older, I can say that was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten. Now that I have a grown up job, I like to save at least $50 per biweekly paycheck, but you should definitely save more if you can afford it.
I get the money taken out of my checks and put in a savings account automatically. I never touch the money and don’t regularly monitor how much is in there. It still amazes me how quickly it accumulates, which has been so helpful to buy necessities like new tires or luxuries like an iPhone. This way, you don’t have to charge purchases to a credit card, thereby saving money on interest and avoiding credit card debt problems. Just make sure to think of this money as a last resort, so you don’t spend it all too quickly.
CREATE A BUDGET + SPENDING PLAN
Add up all of your basic expenses like rent or mortgage, utilities, car payments, phone, TV – any expenses you need to pay every month. See if you can trim some of these expenses like your cell phone and TV (more on that later). Once you know how much money needs to go out every month, you know how much you can spend on essentials and wants and how much you can save. To make budgeting easier, use a free app or website like EveryDollar, which will help you track expenses and make informed financial decisions, so you can pay off debt, save money, and start building wealth.
USE THE 50/30/20 RULE
The 50/30/20 rule for budgeting provides a guideline for spending and saving based on percentages of your after-tax income. Your after-tax income is what remains of your paycheck after state tax, local tax, income tax, Medicare, and Social Security are taken out. This figure wouldn’t necessarily be your take home pay, though, because you want to add deductions such as health care, retirement contributions, etc. back in.
If you’re self-employed, your after-tax income is your gross income (income before taxes) minus your business expenses and the amount you set aside for taxes. You’re responsible for remitting your quarterly estimated tax payments to the government, since you don’t have an employer to do it for you. You’ll also pay the self-employment tax, which is double what regular employees pay in Medicare and Social Security taxes, so include that in your calculations, as well.
Once you have figured out your after-tax income, you can follow the 50/30/20 rule for spending and saving money. This rule states that you should be spending no more than 50% of your after-tax income on “needs,” 30% on “wants,” and 20% on savings and paying off debt. Allocating up to 30% for wants sounds like a lot, but this is where this rule gets a little tricky – what are considered wants and needs?
According to the 50/30/20 budgeting rule, needs include groceries, housing, utilities, health insurance, car payments, car insurance, etc. Wants are anything (or any payment) you can forego with only minor inconvenience. Your cable bill would be a want, and anything above a basic calling plan, like text messages and data, would also be a want. Minimum payments on your credit card would be a need, since not paying the minimum would negatively impact your credit score. Anything more than the minimum payment would go under the 20% category for paying off debt, as would saving for your emergency fund and retirement.
MAKE A MEAL PLAN
Meal planning can save you loads of money because you’re planning out your meals for the week, pay period, or month and not just buying whatever looks good at the grocery store. This can be helpful for your overall health and wellbeing, as well, because you are being mindful of your food choices.
PRO TIP: Plan your meals around sales. Check out weekly grocery sale flyers to see if some favorite meats or vegetables are on sale. Then, plan your meals around those items. If you need more help with meal planning, check out this article.
DRINK MORE WATER
Water is my drink of choice, especially at home or work. It quenches my thirst like no other drink and is readily available. Soft drinks and juices might be more popular, but they are bad news for your wallet and your waistline. Bottled water is cheap, and tap water is cheaper – or even free in some cases (I have a well). When eating out, a family of four can save $12-20 per meal just by ordering water instead of soft drinks! Your body and your bottom line will thank you.
AVOID EATING OUT
Eating out with friends or family can be so much fun, but when you go out too much, it can have a serious impact on your financial situation. It’s pretty common to eat out at least a few times a week, which can really add up. Add in daily coffee from Starbucks or small snack from the convenience store, and you might be wasting hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year!
Buying your food from the grocery store and packing your lunch and snacks to take with you when you’re away from home can save you loads of money. Food from home is often healthier, too, especially if you frequent fast food restaurants or tend to indulge when dining out. Once you get used to eating at home and preparing quick, inexpensive meals (or even meal planning), you’ll probably prefer dining in the comfort of your home and saving all that money.
Luckily, staying in doesn’t mean you can’t socialize! True friends would be glad to come over to your place for a home cooked meal and some great company. They might even be happy to save money, too! Take turns hosting, so you’re not always paying for the meal.
STOCK UP ON SALE ITEMS
Watch for sales, and stock up on your favorite items when prices are low. It may be more money up front, but you’ll save in the long run.
We are so lucky to live in this age of convenience where if local stores don’t stock what we want at great prices, we can shop on the Internet and have products delivered right to our door! I typically shop at my local grocery store, Weis Markets, and sometimes supplement that with a trip to Walmart about once a month or less (I can’t stand the crowds). Weis usually offers great deals especially if I pay attention to current market prices on my favorite items, but I also like to shop Amazon for essentials like paper towels, toilet paper, and more and Chewy for pet supplies.
If you have pets, check out Chewy.com. I have three cats. When I went to buy their cat tree, all the trees I found at Petco, Petsmart, and Walmart were really expensive and not very nice, so I searched on the Internet and found Chewy. I bought a huge cat tree (it’s taller than I am – I can barely fit it in my living room) for just over $100, got fast free shipping, and the cats and I couldn’t be happier with our purchase!
BUY GENERIC PRODUCTS
Why buy name brand products when generics can offer identical or similar products at significant savings? Many generic brands are actually made by the same companies as their name brand counterparts – they just have different labels! Even if they aren’t made by the same company, they usually use the same ingredients, so the quality should be similar.
Sure, saving a dollar or two doesn’t seem like much, but when you add up all the money you can save over a month or year, you can really see how beneficial coupons can be! Don’t like clipping the coupons in your Sunday papers or sale fliers? Download coupon apps like Ebates, Ibotta, SavingStar, Coupons.com, RetailMeNot, Walmart Savings Catcher, Groupon, SnipSnap, Checkout 51, and more.
BUY ITEMS OUT OF SEASON
You’ll get the best buys on seasonal items like clothing, Christmas gifts, and more as the season ends. Stores often drastically lower prices at the end of the season to make room for new products. Buy bathing suits and other summertime essentials at the end of summer and winter coats, socks, and snow blowers in spring. Even if you can’t use them this time around, next year will be here soon enough!
USE THE 30-DAY RULE
If you want to buy something non-essential, such as the latest iPhone, video game, clothes, etc., but aren’t sure you should spend the money, wait a while – like 30 days – before purchasing it. Chances are, if you wait that long, you won’t want the product anymore, and you won’t waste money on something you don’t really need. Even waiting a week or two may be enough for you to conquer the impulse to spend your hard earned cash.
CANCEL YOUR TV SERVICE
Cable and satellite TV services can seem like a good deal when you first sign up. Initially, they offer you lower monthly payments and bundling deals like TV, phone, and Internet, but then, your promotional period ends, and you’re spending $100-200/month. Suddenly, those traditional companies don’t look so great anymore.
Luckily, times have changed, and most consumers have an ever-expanding list of alternative options that offer great programing at much lower prices. If you’re tired of paying ridiculous monthly rates for cable and satellite and dealing with their awful customer service, consider switching to one or more streaming services.
To stream straight to your TV, you’ll need a high speed internet connection and a smart TV or streaming device like a Roku Streaming Stick, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV Stick. You can also stream straight to your computer, tablet, or smartphone without a streaming device. Then, you can subscribe to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Acorn (UK TV shows), Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Beachbody On Demand, and more. There are also great live TV and sports channel offerings that make cutting cable totally painless, including Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, Playstation Vue (you don’t need a Playstation), DirecTV Now, fuboTV, and more. For more information on these streaming services, check out this comparison article.
CUT PHONE COSTS, TOO
You might be thinking, “I can’t cut my cable or satellite TV because I have bundled services!” Companies like Comcast, DirectTV, Dish Network, CenturyLink, and Verizon make you think you’re getting a great deal when you bundle services like TV, Internet, and phone, but compared to what’s available, you may be paying way too much!
I switched to Consumer Cellular over 3 1/2 years ago, and I’m so happy with their service! They have the best prices I’ve found, great nationwide cell phone and data coverage on AT&T’s network, no contracts, and fantastic customer service! You can buy a phone through them, or bring any unlocked cell phone with you. They let you make 0% APR payments on expensive Smartphones if you need to, and if you already have a cell phone, they’ll send you a SIM card to connect to their plans for FREE! They have the latest cell phones, including iPhones. Cell phone plans start at $15/month (for talk and text), data plans start at $5/month, and you can add lines for an extra $15/month each. Plus, you can buy a wireless home phone base and connect your home phone for the cost of an added line!
If you already have Comcast Xfinity Internet service, check out Xfinity Mobile. Xfinity Mobile is only available for current Comcast Internet Subscribers, but if you don’t have Comcast Internet, you can sign up for it now and take advantage of their mobile service, which offers FREE Unlimited talk and text and 100 MB of data included with your Internet service!! You only have to pay for data, which is very affordable at $45/line for unlimited data $12/GB when you pay by the Gig. Plus, you can switch between per gig and unlimited data plans any time depending on how much data you use. Just like Consumer Cellular, they let you make 0% APR payments to buy their Smartphones, including the iPhone. However, you can’t bring your own device, though they are working on offering that in the future. If you use a lot of data, you’ll end up paying about the same as Consumer Cellular, but if you don’t use much data, you could save a lot of money with this cell plan.
PRO TIP: If you’re interested in the Xfinity Mobile service, watch their smartphone prices. I almost switched to their service, but I wanted a cheaper iPhone like an SE or 6 model and noticed Xfinity’s prices for these older phones are much higher than Consumer Cellular ($349.99 vs. $160 for the iPhone SE). Their prices on the newer iPhones are the same – just make sure to compare before you buy.
GIVE UP EXPENSIVE HABITS
If you’re trying to save money, some of your habits may be working against you. Take smoking and drinking alcohol, for example. Regularly engaging in these behaviors can be ridiculously expensive! Take a moment to add up what you’re spending per month – this may be the motivation you need to quit or cut down on these bad habits. While quitting completely is best, even smoking one less pack of cigarettes per week can save you $20-$40 per month depending on which state you live in.
ELIMINATE SMALL EXPENSES
It’s easy to rationalize that $5 dollar cup of coffee when you’re only thinking about one cup, but add up all the times you stop at Starbucks or incur other small expenses, you could be wasting a lot of dough! The trick here is to be mindful of all your purchases. Of course, it’s okay to treat yourself once in a while – just make sure you don’t make it a regular habit if you’re trying to save money.
PAY OFF + STAY OUT OF DEBT
If you’re struggling to pay your monthly bills, chances are it’s because you have debt. Credit cards, college loans, car payments, mortgage, it all adds up! Some debt, like your mortgage and vehicles, may be unavoidable, but it’s still a good idea to hustle to get those debts paid off, so you can start building wealth for your future.
There are a few ways you can pay off debt, but the most popular are the debt snowball and debt avalanche. With the debt snowball, you list all your debts from smallest to largest. Then, you focus on paying off the debt with the smallest balance first with any extra money, while paying the minimum on all your remaining debts to keep them current. Once the smallest debt is paid off, you take that payment plus any extra money and apply it to the next smallest debt, and continue following this plan until you’re debt free. The debt avalanche is similar except you sort your debts by interest rate. Pay off debts with the highest interest rate first to save money on interest.
So which method is better? It’s a mental game, really. Some people find motivation in paying off their smallest debts first, which helps them continue on to the next debt and so on. Other people would rather just save the interest money – it just depends on your personality and what might motivate you to pay of your debt in the fastest way possible.
Once you have all your debts paid off, do your best to stay out of debt if you can. Sure, things happen, but if you’re racking up debts on wants instead of needs, you may have to find a way to control your spending if you want to be financially free for life. Instead of following our spendthrift culture, learn how to save money and wait to buy what you want rather than charging on your credit card. Instant gratification might be fun now, but it can lead to money stresses later on.
PAY OFF CREDIT CARD DEBT WITH A 0% APR CARD
Credit card debt is a slippery slope – it’s so easy to get in over your head. With high interest rates, you can make loads of payments and still see little change in your balance. Luckily, with good credit, you can open a new card and take advantage of balance transfer deals that offer generous 0% APR introductory periods for up to 18 months to help you clear your debt much faster. Just be sure to watch out for balance transfer fees, which are usually around 3% of the amount you’re transferring to the new card.
PRO TIP 1: Some card companies waive the balance transfer fee, which can be a great deal when you’re having money problems. I also recommend looking at online reviews to vet the credit card company before making any commitments.
PRO TIP 2: Even if you don’t want to open a new credit card to pay off existing debt, at least call your credit card companies to try to negotiate a lower APR – it can’t hurt and might help.
GET A REWARD CREDIT CARD
Credit cards aren’t always bad news. If you pay off your balances every month, you can actually make your credit cards work for you. With rewards credit cards, you can earn rewards for every dollar you spend, including cash back, statement credits, airline miles, and points you can redeem toward gift cards and other items. If you use these cards for everyday purchases and even bills, your rewards can really add up!
REVIEW YOUR STATEMENTS
Review all your credit card and banking statements every month to ensure your records match up. You might not think banks would make a lot of errors, but you might be surprised. It’s always good to know what’s going on with your money, so you can catch any discrepancies – including fraud – as soon as possible.
SHOP FOR INSURANCE
Consider shopping for home and auto insurance every year to ensure you have the best rate and coverage for situation. You don’t need to wait to receive a renewal notice from your current carrier to start shopping for a new policy. You can save even more money by paying your insurance premiums yearly instead of monthly, which may be a time where that savings account comes in handy.
BORROW AGAINST YOUR HOME’S EQUITY
Home equity loans can be a great idea for homeowners who plan on staying in their home for a while. Your home’s equity is the difference between your mortgage and your home’s appraised value. With home equity loans, you can typically borrow about 75% of your home’s equity. Why might you want a home equity loan instead of a personal loan? If you already have a mortgage, the same bank will be more inclined to loan you more money, as long as you’re in good standing with them. Borrowing against your home’s equity instead of taking out a personal loan to do home repairs or pay down other debts means a lower interest rate. Plus, interest on home equity loans is usually tax deductible, which isn’t true for personal loans. Just be sure you can afford to make timely payments on a new loan – if you default, you could lose your house.
ADJUST YOUR THERMOSTAT
Depending on the time of year, you can adjust your thermostat warmer or cooler to save money on your energy bill. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 1% for each degree.
While you’re at home, adjust the thermostat higher or lower by 1-2 degrees. You’ll get used to such a small change in temperature in about a month or less. During the cooler months, if you’re chilly while hanging out at home, put on a sweatshirt, snuggle in a warm blanket, or find a way to be active like working out or cleaning the house.
While you’re asleep or away, adjust the thermostat by 7-10 degrees to save even more. The U.S. Department of Energy states you can save as much as 10% per year by adjusting the temperature 7-10 degrees for 8 hours per day.
PRO TIP: Consider buying an automatic and remotely programmable thermostat like the Nest Learning Thermostat to do the work for you. You can program the Nest to change the temperature automatically, which can streamline cost savings and ensure your home’s temperature will be comfortable for you when you wake or return home.
INCREASE YOUR INCOME
With the current state of our economy, second jobs and side hustles are becoming more and more common. The extra money can be used to pay off debts or beef up your savings, including your retirement. Consider a job in the service industry, such as tending bar or waiting tables. If you find the right establishment, you can make a lot of money in just a few hours on nights and weekends. For more money making ideas, check out 20 Easy Side Hustles You Can Start Today.
If you’re tired of never having enough money, don’t wait – try these 25 Money Hacks to start getting your finances on track in no time, so you can live the good life! For more helpful money hacks, check out 24 Ways to Trick Yourself into Saving Money.
I would love to hear from you!
Comment below to share what you think of this list of 25 Money Hacks. If you try any of these tips, let me know how it works out for you!