This is the seventh day in our 31-Day Money Challenge. Over 31 days we’ll publish 31 podcasts, each designed to help you move closer to financial freedom. Yesterday we looked at the One-N-Done method of saving serious money. In today’s podcast, we talk about other ways to save money without pain or sacrifice.
Sponsors: The 31-Day Money Podcast is sponsored by Betterment and Personal Capital. Betterment and Personal Capital are two tools you can use to make investing easier, less expensive, and more effective.
20 Ways to Save Money Without Pain or Sacrifice
- Use Rewards Credit Cards: We earn about $1,000 a year using a rewards credit card for our everyday purchases, many of our monthly bills, and all of our big purchases. The key, of course, is to pay the bill in full each month. You’ll find some excellent cash back and travel rewards cards here and here.
- Use Rakuten: Rakuten is an easy way to earn cash back on almost every online purchase.
- Improve your credit score: Credit scores affect everything from the interest rate on mortgages and other loans to auto insurance premiums. A good credit score can easily be worth tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. Your credit score also affects how much house you can afford. I’ll be covering credit scores in depth later in the 31-Day Money Challenge. Until then, check out my interview with FICO credit score expert, Tom Quinn.
- Go with a prepaid cell phone: Many have saved a bundle by getting an iPhone 5 through T-Mobile. Of course, we could have saved even more by going with a Moto X at Republic Wireless. That’s my plan as soon as my 2-year contract expires. Republic Wireless has a plan for as little as $10 a month.
- Buy Refurbished: You can get great deals with full warranties on refurbished products. My favorite is to buy refurbished Macs, iPods, and iPads. You can typically save between 15 and 25 percent and still get the full warranty.
- Avoid banking fees: They are so easy to avoid that there’s no excuse to paying them at all. You can check out a list of free checking accounts here. Most of these banks also pay interest on their checking accounts.
- Increase insurance deductibles: This is perhaps the easiest and quickest way to save money. Of course, you have to be prepared to handle a larger deductible, but that’s the purpose of an emergency fund.
- Buy discounted gift cards: It’s easy to get 15 percent or more off of the face value of a gift card. You can also sell gift cards you no longer need. A good place to start is Gift Card Granny.
- Pass on extended warranties: These warranties are never worth the price you pay. In addition, if you use the right credit card, you’ll get an extended warranty through the card.
- Get prescriptions from Costco: I was surprised to learn recently that the cost of a prescription can vary significantly from one pharmacy to the next. We are talking hundreds of dollars sometimes. One tool to help you find the lowest cost is a website called GoodRx.
- Use Manilla to avoid missed payments: Manilla is a free tool that enables you to link your monthly bills online. Once linked, you’ll receive notices when each bill comes due.
- Check the expense ratios of your mutual funds: Expenses are a significant drag on investment returns. Even a .50% difference in expense ratios can mean tens of thousands of dollars in lost investment returns over a lifetime. So make sure to select funds and ETFs with the lowest expense ratios.
- Pay insurance semi-annually or even annually: It will cost you less than if you pay monthly
- Use a digital thermostat: According to Energy.gov, you can save up to 10% in heating and cooling costs with a programmable thermostat. Enough said.
- Use CFL or LED bulbs: I don’t like these types of bulbs in every light in our house. But we use them where we can. CFL’s are up to 75% more efficient than incandescents. LED’s are up to 90% more efficient.
- Always get multiple quotes for big purchases: I learned this one the hard way. We just had a furnace and air conditioner installed, but I didn’t get multiple quotes. I’m certain we could have saved at least $1,000 had I done so. There’s no excuse. Get multiple quotes.
- Work from home: If your employer will allow it, work from home as many days as you can. You save a bundle on transportation and parking costs while avoiding the headache of rush hour traffic.
- Coupons: I’m not big into coupons. But if you are, check out the Krazy Coupon Lady. They take extreme couponing the new level.
- Drive your car longer: Every year you can keep your car saves you money not only on the new purchase but also on insurance that is likely to be higher with a new card.
- Roll over your 401k to an IRA: With an IRA you have unlimited investing options. This is particularly important if your 401k options are limited or expensive. Here are some of the best online brokers for IRAs.
So now that you've reduced your monthly expenses, it's time to put that extra cash to work. What you don't want to do is leave it in your checking account.
If you are building an emergency fund, have the amount saved automatically transferred to a saving account each month. If you are trying to max out your 401k, increase your contribution. If you are working to get out of debt, make sure you put the savings toward that debt each month.
Whatever you do, don’t fritter away the fruits of your frugality.