Yesterday, I discussed how anyone can turn their financial life around if they just take that first step – the first step is always the hardest one. After that, you start taking more and more little steps and before you know it, your financial life is getting better and better.
What follows is a list of 20 more steps to take. Each of these tactics are simple little moves you can make to improve your financial situation. Some of them take just a few minutes, others might take an hour or two, some of them require a bit of regular effort, but they’re all incredibly simple – anyone can do them. Each of them also save significant money, especially over the long haul, and when combined together these tips can save you a lot of money now.
Obviously, not all of these tips will apply to everyone. Just go through the list and find ten or fifteen that do apply to you and use them in your life – you’ll quickly find yourself saving some serious scratch.
1. Switch your bank accounts to a bank that respects you.
You shouldn’t be spending your hard-earned money on maintenance fees – you also should be earning some serious interest on your checking and savings accounts. Interest rates are not what they once were, but some of the best free checking accountsand best savings accounts can be found online. Here’s a guide on how to make that switch.
2. Turn off the television.
One big way to save money is to watch less television. There are a lot of financial benefits to this: less exposure to guilt-inducing ads, more time to focus on other things in life, less electrical use, and so on. It’s great to unwind in the evening, but seek another hobby to do that.
3. Turn a critical eye to your “collections.”
Most people collect something – what do you collect? Is it something that consistently brings you joy? Or is it something that you just do out of habit at this point? Does the collection itself have value? Could you perhaps “trim the fat” from this collection by getting rid of duplicates or getting rid of the items you no longer use? Also, could you perhaps cut down on your spending on that hobby? Focus on trimming the things you don’t feel strongly about – if you dig into things that bother you, you’re going to eventually relapse.
4. Sign up for every free customer rewards program you can.
Even if you rarely shop at that place, having a rewards card for that place will eventually net you some coupons and discounts. Here’s the basic game plan for maximizing these programs: create a Gmail address just for these mailings, collect every card you can, and then check that account for extra coupons whenever you’re ready to shop. Another good idea is to use Rewards Credit Cards that give points on purchases at a wide range of stores. Check out this post on the best rewards credit cards for some recommended cards.
5. Make your own gifts instead of buying stuff from the store.
You can make food mixes, candles, bread, cookies, soap, and all kinds of other things at home quite easily and inexpensively. These make spectacular gifts for others because they involve your homemade touch, plus quite often they’re consumable, meaning they don’t wind up filling someone’s closet with junk. Even better – include a personal handwritten note with the gift. This will make it even more special than anything you could possibly buy down at the mall, plus it saves you money.
6. Master the thirty day rule.
Whenever you’re considering making an unnecessary purchase, wait thirty days and then ask yourself if you still want that item. Quite often, you’ll find that the urge to buy has passed and you’ll have saved yourself some money by simply waiting. If you want, you can even keep a “thirty day list” where you write down the item and the day you’ll reconsider it, but I prefer just to keep this one in my head – that way, I often just forget about the unimportant things.
7. Write a list before you go shopping – and stick to it.
One should never go into a store without a strong idea of what one will be buying while in there. Make a careful plan of what you’ll buy before you go, then stick strictly to that list when you go to the store. Don’t put anything in the cart that’s not on the list, no matter how tempting, and you’ll come out of the store saving a bundle.
8. Invite friends over instead of going out.
Almost every activity at home is less expensive than going out. Invite some friends over and have a cookout or a potluck meal, then play some cards and have a few drinks. Everyone will have fun, the cost will be low, and the others will likely reciprocate not long afterwards.
9. Instead of throwing out some damaged clothing, repair it instead.
Don’t toss out a shirt because of a broken button – sew a new one on with some closely-matched thread. Don’t toss out pants because of a hole in them – put in a patch of some sort and save them for times when you’re working around the house. Simple sewing can be done by anyone – it just takes a few minutes and it saves a lot of money by keeping you from buying new clothes when you don’t really need to.
10. Don’t spend big money entertaining your children.
Most children, especially young ones, can be entertained very cheaply. Buy them an end roll of newspaper from your local paper and let their creativity run wild. Make a game out of ordinary stuff around the house, like tossing pennies into a jar, even. Realize that what your children want most of all is your time, not your stuff, and you’ll find money in your pocket and joy in your heart.
11. Call your credit card company and ask for a rate reduction.
Take any of your credit cards that are carrying a balance, flip them over, and call the number on the back. Tell them that you want an interest rate reduction or you’ll take your business elsewhere. If the first person you talk to won’t do it, ask to talk to a supervisor. If you have a $5,000 balance, even a 3% rate reduction saves you $150 a year.
12. Clean out your closet.
Go through your closets and try to get rid of some of the stuff in there. You can have a yard sale with it, take it to a consignment shop, or even donate it for the tax deduction – all of which turn old stuff you don’t want to use any more into money in your pocket. Not only that, it’s often a psychological load off your mind to clean out your closets.
13. Buy video games that have a lot of replay value – and don’t acquire new ones until you’ve mastered what you have.
My video game buying habits have changed quite a bit since my “game of the week” days. Now, I focus on games that can be played over and over and over again, and I focus on mastering the games that I buy. Good targets include puzzle games and long, involved quest games – they maximize the value of your gaming dollar.
14. Drink more water.
Not only does drinking plenty of water have great health benefits, water drinking has financial benefits, too. Drink a big glass of water before each meal, and not only will you digest it better, you won’t eat as much, saving on the ol’ food bill. You’ll also find yourself feeling a bit better as you begin to get adequately hydrated (most Americans are perpetually somewhat dehydrated).
15. Cut back on the convenience foods – fast foods, microwave meals, and so on.
Instead of eating fast food or just nuking some prepackaged food when you get home, try making some simple and healthy replacements that you can take with you. An hour’s worth of preparation one weekend can give you a ton of cheap and handy meals that will end up saving you a lot of cash and not eat into your time when you’re busy.
16. Give up expensive habits, like cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.
Those habits cause money to flow away from you with nothing in return. Call up your fortitude and work hard to kick the habits and you’ll find that money staying in your pocket instead of burning up and floating away.
17. Make a quadruple batch of a casserole.
Casseroles are nice, easy dishes to prepare, but on busy nights, it’s often still easier to just order some take-out or eat out or just plop a prepackaged meal in the oven. Instead, the next time you make a casserole, make four batches of it and put the other three in the freezer. Then, the next time you need a quick meal for the family, grab one of those batches and just heat it up – easy as can be. Even better, doing this allows you to buy the ingredients in bulk, making each casserole cheaper than it would be ordinarily – and far, far cheaper than eating out or trying a prepackaged meal.
18. Be diligent about turning off lights before you leave.
If you spend one minute turning off lights before a two hour trip, that’s the equivalent of earning $50 an hour. That’s some impressive savings, particularly if you do it before longer trips. The key is to use less energy, particularly when you’re not using the device.
19. Swap books, music, and DVDs cheaply on the internet via services like PaperBackSwap.
You can very easily swap the books and CDs and DVDs you’ve grown bored with via the internet with others. Just use sites like PaperBackSwap, clean out your media collection, and trade them with others online. The best part? You’ll get a flood of new books (or CDs or DVDs) to enjoy, mailed right to you – for free.
20. Maximize yard sales.
I like to stop by yard sales if I see them, but I recognize that often the stuff there is junk. Thus, I’m careful about what I buy and I use clever tactics to find it – and lower the prices. That way, I wind up with a really big bargain – or else I can just walk away with the money in my pocket, having been entertained for a bit.