It goes without saying: We’re all trying to save money. This is more important than ever: A 2018 survey showed that 40% of Americans were unable to cover a $400 emergency expense.
This means that all of us need to do a better job of saving money, even if we can’t afford to hire the best financial experts. To that end, here are 15 personal finance tips to help you cut your expenses and put more money in your wallet.
Personal Finance Tips to Help You Save Money
Establish a budget
This is the most basic of all personal finance tips: Establish a budget. Judge your income and expenses, and track the results during the month. The first few months may be tough, and you’ll probably find yourself shifting money around. However, you can’t save money if you don’t know how much you have, or how much you are spending.
Thankfully, you don’t need insanely expensive software to make this work. An excel sheet will do just fine. Conversely, there are plenty of free websites you can use, including Mint, or You Need A Budget.
Audit your expenses
This is one of the personal finance tips that’s often overlooked! A budget won’t do you any good if you aren’t looking at the data it reveals. Once you have a budget done for a few months, check out the results. Where can you save money? Are there things you find yourself purchasing that you don’t need? What can you cut out? Do a full audit of your own expenses, and see where you can save.
Buy gift cards online
Of all the personal finance tips we have to offer, this is one of the more creative ones. Do you make purchases at major chain stores? If so, check out Gift Card Wiki, an amazing website which aggregates other websites that allow you to purchase discount gift cards at a discount.
So, let’s say you go to Target on a regular basis. Right now, you can purchase a Target gift card for as much as a 15% discount! And, if you leverage that purchase with a credit card which gives you points on your purchases (more on that below), you can make even more money.
Do this enough, and you can save major bucks.
Saving isn’t supposed to be about saving what’s left at the end of the month – that means you’ll never get to put anything away! Instead, set up your bank account so that you save at the beginning of every month, and make the transfer automatic. This way, you’re guaranteed to put away money with every paycheck, ensuring that you save what you need.
Set a “24 hour rule” for expensive purchases
We’ve all been there – You see that television set, and think: Yes, you really want that! It will look so good in your room, and you can finally play all the video games you want! I mean, yeah, it’s a little expensive, but it’s on a special clearance sale!
Here’s one of those personal finance tips which involve restraint: Wait. Don’t make any major purchases until you think about it for at least 24 hours. This will give you time to answer a few important questions:
- Do you really need that item?
- Can you afford it? What does your budget say?
- Can you get it less expensive somewhere else? Is it available in another store, purchasable with a discount card, or cheaper online?
Don’t make impulse buys on major purchases. Take a breath, wait a day, and see if you still want or need it in the morning.
Take advantage of credit card point programs
So many people leave money on the table. Have you checked out credit card reward point programs? Depending on the card, you can get anywhere from .5% – 5% of your purchase back, and use that money to pay down your credit card, earn gift cards or miles on travel purchases. Even better, many of these cards are available without any additional fee, or the fee is waived in the first year. This means that it may cost you nothing to save money!
Cut down on eating out
Eating out is a huge expense. It sounds cliche, but it’s true: If you’re buying a $4 coffee every day, you’re costing yourself $1,460 a year – enough to save towards a down payment of a house, reduce your debt or make a dent in your college loans. Thankfully, with proper planning (see the next item) and a little bit of restraint, you can help cut down on this cost. If you find that eating out or going to the bar is a big part of your social life, try having pot-luck dinners instead. As with most personal finance tips, sacrifice is a must.
Plan your meals in advance
Have a set time every night to plan out what you are having for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and to the extent that you can, cook the meal or get all the prep done. This will make it easier for you the next day, and will prevent you from waking up in the morning and saying, “Gah, I’m too busy, I’ll just grab a coffee on the road!”
Figure out how to save on your energy usage
This can take two forms. First, if your state allows it, see if you can purchase power from a cheaper generation service. This may allow you to buy money from a less expensive source.
Second, check your house, and give yourself an energy audit. Common ways to save money here include:
- Turn off unnecessary lights and use more natural lights.
- Turning off the water and fixing a leaky faucet.
- Unplugging unused appliances.
- Purchase lower wattage light bulbs and more energy-efficient appliances.
Consolidate your debt
Consolidating your debt can lower your monthly payment, reduce your interest rates and make it so you only have one easy monthly payment. You may pay more money over the length of a loan, but this can help you free up cash that you can use for other purposes – including paying down your debt quicker.
Keep in mind, some loans cannot be consolidated, and others may already have low interest rates. It’s important that you review your options to get a better handle on your debt and consolidation possibilities just by implementing our personal finance tips.
Comparison shop for major purchases
Never, ever make a major purchase – totaling hundreds or thousands of dollars – without checking out other options first. In a digital age, there are no shortage of options to check out how to save money on big purchases. Examples include:
- PriceGrabber, which lists a slew of products and possible purchase options.
- Google Shopping, which, of course, hooks in the impressive power of Google.
- RedLaser, which has an easy to use smartphone app which allows you to scan a bar code and get a price comparison.
This is truly one of the more basic personal finance tips, but it also comes back to the general principles here: Take your time, don’t impulse by, think about your purchases and do your homework first.
Let someone else negotiate your bills
If you aren’t sure how to negotiate major purchases (like your utilities or gym membership), fear not: There are major services like Trim and BillCutterz which will do it for you! All you have to do is list what you pay and to whom you pay it and turn it over to these companies. They will negotiate lower rates for you, and they get paid by charging you for a portion of the savings – usually around 30-40%. This means that you will save a ton of money and someone else will do all the work!
Create a grocery spreadsheet
Have you ever tracked how much your regular purchases cost at different grocery stores? You’d be surprised at how much the purchase price can vary from store to store. To that end, grab your receipts and create a spreadsheet which allows you to analyze and compare your purchases.
Of the personal finance tips we’re offering here, this one is one of the more labor intensive. But, it can save you a pretty penny – maybe as much as 5%.
Inflate your tires and save fuel
Here’s one of those smaller personal finance tips which can make a big difference: Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Did you know that under-inflated tires can cost you big money? It’s true. Properly inflated tires can save you 3-4% on fuel costs, and given the price of gas, that’s real money! Additionally, under-inflated tires increase stopping distances, hurt your steering control and increase the risk of a tire blowout. This can all cost you big money on repairs, and that says nothing about the safety hazards!
There are dozens of more personal finance tips that you can use to boost your income and save your hard-earned dollars. By and large, it all comes down to common sense and discipline. Think before you spend, don’t buy what you don’t need and engage in some preventative maintenance and planning. Those cents turn into dollars, and those dollars turn into more. Use these tips and more and you will be a long way towards reaching your financial goals.