These under-the-radar tricks to save money can help you cut costs.
YOU’VE LIKELY HEARD conventional money advice related to budgeting and saving, like putting money aside in an emergency fund and contributing to retirement accounts before you pay other bills. But have you considered outside-the-box pieces of money-saving advice like snagging deals on groceries on Wednesdays or setting aside $5 bills to boost your savings? If you’re looking for expert-backed money-saving tips that are out of the ordinary, try these effective and unexpected strategies.
Here are creative and unique ways to save money:
- Shop on Wednesdays.
- Put all unexpected income and financial gifts into a savings account.
- Try the $5 trick.
- Embrace the envelope system.
- Buy clothes from thrift stores.
- Ask if an item will go on sale.
- Try a no-spend holiday.
- Audit your expenses.
- Turn your thermostat down.
1. Shop on Wednesdays.
Many grocery stores launch new sales midweek, generally on Wednesdays, so shoppers who browse the aisles then often get first access to new promotions and discounts. Plus, stores will frequently honor the previous week’s coupons. Best of all, you can maximize your savings, while also shopping during a relatively less crowded time of week.
Mary Kaarto, an author and retired editor in Missouri City, Texas, says that years ago, when she was a single mom, she went through two separate layoffs – and had to stretch her dollars as far as possible. So she bartered. For instance, her hairstylist was a first-time mom. Kaarto wanted to look her best for job interviews, and the hairstylist wanted somebody she could trust to watch her newborn so she and her husband could go on some date nights. Kaarto would get her hair styled for free and babysit for free. She says it was a win-win situation for both her and her hairstylist.
3. Put all unexpected income and financial gifts into a savings account.
Even if you’re past the age of receiving birthday money from relatives, unexpected cash can still come your way. Miguel Suro, a Miami-based attorney who runs the personal finance website RichMiser.com with his wife, Lily Rodriguez, says that if you open a separate savings account just for unexpected cash, you might be surprised at all of the extra money that could wind up there.
“Deposit all unexpected income there,” Suro advises. “I mean things like product recall refunds, class action settlements, refunds you get when you return an item or money someone gifts you. Just money that you weren’t expecting or counting on.”
He adds that you can use the unexpected income to splurge on something fun later, or you could use it as a second emergency fund.
4. Try the $5 trick.
Aimee Spencer Tiemann, a blogger based in Detroit, says that a few years ago her best friend shared a trick to save money: “Every time she received a $5, whether it be the change from a purchase or from her tips as a bartender, she put it away in a container in her house. She said, no matter what, if she got a $5, it went in the container. At the end of one year, she had $4,000 in there.”
Spencer Tiemann says she started doing the same thing, and within three months, she had $1,200. “It’s funny the psychological trigger in your brain when you do something as simple as putting a certain dollar amount away. You don’t think. You just do it. It’s almost a game,” she says.
With that said, if you don’t typically carry cash, you might want to look at Acorns, Chime or another app that will round up your purchases that you make on your debit or credit card – and then will divert them into a savings account. Some of these apps do cost money, but if you use them, you should save far more than you spend. With Acorns, you’ll spend $1 a year for accounts under $5,000; with Chime, a mobile bank app, you won’t pay any fees aside from a $2.50 out-of-network ATM fee.
5. Embrace the envelope system.
With this approach, you can pay for everything in cash. “I’m not sure if this is creative or just old-school,” admits Kristine Thorndyke, the founder of Test Prep Nerds, which provides test prep resources for exams like the MCAT.
Thorndyke says early in her career, when she was starting her business and cash-strapped, she and her boyfriend saved money by paying for everything in cash. She says that they were literally pulling out cash for their monthly budget and putting the determined amounts into envelopes labeled for each category, such as groceries, entertainment, apartment, gym and miscellaneous.
Sometimes, she says, they would find extra cash in the miscellaneous category and splurge on something fun that month. “This isn’t a strategy I’d suggest employing for forever, as the cash aspect is actually kind of a nuisance, but it was a great way to see how we spend money in a really literal sense and think about our budget differently,” Thorndyke says.
6. Buy clothes from thrift stores.
Jodi O’Donnell-Ames, a Pennington, New Jersey-based founder of Hope Loves Company Inc., a nonprofit that offers education and emotional support to kids and young adults with family members who have ALS, says she stopped buying new clothes some time ago. Now, she only shops at consignment and thrift shops. “I can’t even begin to tell you how much money this simple task has saved me,” she says.
If you loathe the idea of buying used clothing, O’Donnell-Ames has some advice: “I buy items that are brand new with tags and that typically end up costing me one-eighth of the original price. Yet, the clothes are brand new.”
7. Ask if an item will go on sale.
We forget about this tactic because we’re all focused on Googling deals, says Charles Thomas, a financial advisor and the founder of Intrepid Eagle Finance in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Sometimes the direct approach is best,” he says. “If you have an item at a store you want to buy, find an employee and pose a direct, but straightforward question: When does this go on sale?”
Sometimes employees don’t know when items will go on sale, but Thomas says that he and his clients have often had a lot of luck doing this. “Retail employees rarely get this question and by asking it you’ll be ahead of the pack on the time to buy,” he says.
8. Try a no-spend holiday.
Pick a day or two – or a week if you can manage it – and vow to not spend any money, aside from regular bills. It can be very easy to go overboard at the supermarket or impulse shop on Amazon. But if you start creating your own no-spend holidays, you might retrain your brain to spend less.
9. Audit your expenses.
Take a close look at everything you spend money on and ask yourself if there’s anything you can pare back. Maybe you have recurring expenses such as a monthly subscription to a streaming service you rarely use. Maybe it’s time to look at your insurance and see if you’re overpaying for anything. Or perhaps you’ve never noticed that you’re eating out at restaurants five times a week, and it’s a good time to start grocery shopping more often. Examining how you spend money – and then taking action – can result in significant savings.
10. Turn your thermostat down.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you could save as much as 10% a year on your electric bill by turning your thermostat down 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours a day from its normal setting. You also might want to see if your electric company offers any free energy audits. If so, they’ll send somebody out to your house, and they’ll point out any appliances that are energy hogs and ways you can make your home more energy-efficient. Granted, you often have to spend money to save money on electric bills. But at least it won’t cost you a cent to turn down the thermostat.
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