In today’s economy, there are a lot of ways to make money, but there are just as many inventive ways to save a buck or two. While the focus is on how to save on interest and maximize return, most money experts and consumer advocates focus on dollars rather than dimes. Listed below are some very easy and almost insanely simple ways to use your money smarter, build some good habits which can serve you well in the future:
- Nickel and dime YOURSELF to death for a change: Pun intended here. We oftentimes forget that those little nickels and dimes we find in the couch cushions can be little lifesavers. Ten dimes may equal a dollar, but have you thought about how many times you actually looked around your home and found spare change just laying around in the goofiest places? That couch that seems to eat everything, under the bed, even in your car? It’s not unheard of for people to find ten, sometimes twenty dollars worth of loose change in their home and vehicles during a solid cleaning. Also, try using exact change when spending – you would be surprised how fast the green adds up in your wallet when you add the coin to your spending toolbox.
- Go old school with cash – paper instead of plastic: It’s been psychologically proven that when we use paper money, we spend less. Why? When we use a debit/check card, we don’t see real money flowing out of our hands. It even happens with a checkbook, as it’s not actually hard currency in our hands. Here’s a challenge to try: figure out how much you spend in a week, cut that amount by approximately 25 percent, then pull that much money out of the bank (Note: don’t do this if it causes an overdraft…the fees aren’t worth it) and make that what you live on the for the week. For added security, freeze your debit card in a block of ice, and put your checkbook somewhere you can’t get to it easily (throwing it into a pile of stuff in your garage usually works). You will surprised how conservative you become when your spending limit becomes what you have in your wallet or purse at the moment.
- Pay in person whenever possible and with cash whenever possible: Yes, Automatic Billpay is a wonderful thing for so many reasons – it waives bank fees, it provides us with peace of mind when we forget, and it simply is so cool to use. Yet, it is the fact it is automatic that creates so many headaches. That bill we forgot we set up over the phone comes out, and that’s when that $2 coffee turns into a $42 nightmare when overdraft charges hit. Turn off the automatic bill pay or, if you absolutely MUST have it, set the bill pay to a ridiculously low amount, like a penny or ten cents. Most bank computers don’t pay attention to the amount – just that it’s used. Whenever possible, pay with cash at the business itself, and always get a receipt and stow it away for records.
- Watch for manager’s specials at the grocery stores: This may sound like something out of Grandma’s playbook, but it works! Manager specials can oftentimes be a matter of striking gold. Granted, sometimes it’s like hitting the Powerball, and other times its more like winning a free ticket, but the important thing to remember is that the more you do it, the more you learn markdown trends and how to spot a special others miss. Great example: my local grocery store marked down giant blocks of cheddar cheese from $3.69 to 99 cents. Though I didn’t have the money to buy them at the time, it was a steal for anyone wanting to make a family-sized mac and cheese bake.
- Read your fast-food receipt (both sides) for deals: More often than not, places such as Burger King, Dunkin Donuts and Popeyes offer discounts and free items for completing a survey. It may sound silly, but these make a great reward for a good week of budgeting. Take a few minutes every day to complete the surveys, get the reward codes, and then redeem them for the discounts or freebies. Sometimes it’s a few cents, sometimes it’s a free meal. You never know and, more importantly, you aren’t just giving yourself incentive to be good with your money, you are also helping businesses decide how best to serve you, the customer, so above all, be honest.