Much of the money-saving advice out there today focuses on giving something up in order to save — it could be your daily latte, outings to the movies, or dining out each week. But where’s the fun in that? Especially when there are ways to save without sacrificing anything.
“It’s about re-examining how money is being spent,” says Jacquelyn Kearns, Chief Brand Officer and financial educator at Affinity Federal Credit Union. “If you budget a little differently, you don’t have to give up that much.” With that in mind, we put together a list of five ways to effortlessly free up an extra $100 in your budget over the next 30 days.
1. Cancel Digital Subscriptions
Internet-enabled devices like smartphones and tablets have changed the way we consume content, including movies, books, songs, video games and more. Countless people across the globe pay monthly to access this digital content. According to consulting firm Deloitte, by the end of 2020, a fifth of all adults in developed countries will have a minimum of 10 digital subscriptions costing them more than $100 a month.
But a lot of these subscriptions often go unused. Take the experience of Yahya Mokhtarzada, the co-founder and chief revenue officer of San Francisco based startup Truebill. He signed up for Audible unlimited for $15 per month, with the goal of taking in a couple of extra books a month. Although his efforts fell to the wayside, Audible’s $15 per month charge didn’t. “That’s the No. 1 thing consumers can do,” says Mokhtarzada, whose startup helps people dig into their monthly expenses and cut out excesses. “Ask yourself: Do I really need this, and am I really using it? If not, get rid of it. It can free up a lot of money.”
2. Turn Shopping into Saving With Apps
Reining in your shopping for nonessentials is obviously a quick and easy way to free up cash, but even when you do that, there are purchases you must make during the month. Enter couponing. Sure, it’s long been a tried and tested method of saving money for millions of Americans. But these days you don’t have to scour newspapers to find coupons to clip — the Internet and mobile apps have done much of the work for you.
Take Ibotta, for example. The mobile app serves up coupons daily, and integrates with many supermarket loyalty programs. It also offers consumers cash back rewards when they shop through its website. Once customers have saved $20, they can withdraw the money or apply it to a gift card. Shopkick is another couponing app, with a twist. Consumers can get their fill of coupons in almost every category, and can earn reward points whenever they enter a physical retailer. Even if coupons aren’t your thing, Rakuten (formerly known as ebates) offers cash back on sites where you’re likely already shopping. You just have to do it through their portal.
The only thing to watch out for with these apps is — you guessed it — your spending. “The negative side of these apps is that people may overspend because they know they are getting money back for their purchases,” says Denise Nostrom, a financial adviser at Diversified Financial Solutions.
3. Round Up Spare Change to Save
Rounding up your spare change may not sound like a way to accumulate significant money — but when you do it every time you spend, it’s actually possible to make serious headway. There are several apps on the market that let you link your debit and credit cards, and every time you make a purchase, it’s rounded up to the next dollar, and the excess is deposited into a savings account. So, if your coffee is $3.25, the other 75 cents would immediately be placed into savings. Acorns, the wealth management app, saves the money in an investment account, while Chime, the mobile-only Internet bank, places the money into your choice of a checking or savings account.
No, you won’t become a millionaire this way, but it’s one quick and easy way to start building a little buffer when you have very little to spare. One thing to watch out for? Fees. Whatever app you choose, make sure there are no hidden fees involved, advises Kearns.
4. Make Going to Work Less Costly
Unless you work from home, going to work every day isn’t cheap. Whether you’re driving yourself or taking public transportation, it adds up over the course of the year. But there may be ways to free up money in this category without drastically overhauling your lifestyle. Take your commute, for starters. If the expense of getting to and from work is adding up, talk to your boss about adjusting your schedule. If you can arrive and leave work early and/or late, you may be able to save with off-peak train tickets, or on gas you’d burn sitting in traffic.
If you’re anything like Truebill’s Mokhtarzada, a simple lifestyle change can save serious cash. Mokhtarzada isn’t an early riser and has been known to hit the snooze button a few times a week. The result: a mad dash to his office via Uber. “Each time I do that, its $8,” says the executive.
And while you’re on the job? Apply the same cost-saving attitude to meals. Nostrom advocates preparing meals at home and bringing them to the office. It’s much cheaper to buy food from the grocery store and prepare a meal than it is to hit your favorite restaurant every day, something that we all know, but few of us act on. “It’s not a matter of revamping your entire lifestyle, but more about making smarter choices with your money,” says Nostrom.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
While we may think of bargaining as being reserved for garage sales and flea markets, it can also apply to the services you use monthly. Your smartphone is a perfect example. “Cell phone bills always come down over time, but phone companies rarely proactively apply those savings,” says Mokhtarzada. “They leave you in your old plan until you call to complain about it.”
TRY TRUEBILL: Say goodbye to hidden subscriptions with Truebill.
And calling to ask for a price adjustment is a strategy can be applied to all your bills — cable, Internet, home security, radio, and pest control, says Mokhtarzada. “It’s kind of amazing that as you dig into your finances there are so many small transactions, that when added up, can actually amount to something significant. There’s a lot of ways you can free up money before actually getting into changing the quality of your life.”
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