Think you can do a better job of reducing your expenses to save more money every month? Let me share a few of my secrets!
If you’re trying to cut costs, creating a budget is a good place to start. I use Personal Capital and Mint, two free personal finance services, to keep tabs on my spending. The tools help me identify the areas I need to work on and where I’m already doing everything I can to save.
Developing a frugal mindset helped me pay off my $86,000 mortgage in two years when I was in my 20s. Read on for my best money-saving tips…
Michael Saves: My best strategies to reduce expenses and save money
Budgeting with cash
I gave up most of my credit cards and started budgeting with cash at the start of 2018 as an experiment. Let me be clear: I don’t follow the envelope method 100%, but I have started using cash to manage three budget categories: food/dining, clothing and miscellaneous spending.
After my first month of budgeting with cash, I started saving a lot of money because I was more disciplined about letting go of those dollars!
A lot of people refuse to budget with cash because they get credit card rewards, but if a cash-only system helps you reduce your spending by more than 2% to 5%, who cares about the credit card rewards?
Switch to a better bank
I recently wrote about how I use five bank accounts to earn more interest every year. I now bank 100% online with CIT Bank and Discover Bank. Both of them offer some of the highest interest rates in the nation.
If you have $5,000 in an online savings account at 1.5% interest, you’d earn $75 in a year. You don’t get that with a traditional big bank!
Download these three cash-back apps
When a cashier asks me if I’d like a printed receipt, I always say yes because I turn those receipts into cash with three apps. I’ve earned nearly $2,000 with Ibotta since May 2014. The cash-back app started with grocery stores but now has mobile shopping options.
More recently, I’ve gotten hooked on another app called Fetch Rewards because it accepts receipts from any grocery, convenience or club store.
The third app that I use to upload my receipts is Receipt Hog. The rewards add up slowly, but it accepts receipts from all retailers. There are no restrictions on where you shop or what you buy!
Cut your cable and internet bill
Although I spent 10 years as a TV producer, I really don’t watch much television. In fact, I didn’t even own one for a couple of years. I now rely on a $40 digital antenna to pick up my local channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and PBS.
If you’re paying more than $100 per month for cable or satellite TV, try one of the new live TV streaming services.
I’ve tested all of the major ones for my day job, including DirecTV Now, Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV, YouTube TV and PlayStation Vue. They all come with free trials to give you time to see if they’re a good fit.
Sling TV starts at just $25 per month for a super skinny bundle, but most of the services are around $40 per month.
MY TAKE: Sling TV’s starter package (ESPN, AMC, HGTV, Disney and more) is great if you’re on a tight budget, DirecTV Now gives you the best channel lineup for $40 and YouTube TV’s unlimited DVR makes it a top contender.
Find a cheaper cell phone plan
When the major cell phone providers made the switch to unlimited data, so did I. But a few months later I realized that I was still only using about 2 GB of data per month.
In late 2017, I made the switch to Xfinity Mobile and pay only $12 per month for cell phone service before taxes and fees.
If you’re not familiar with Xfinity, it’s the new cell phone service from Comcast. It runs on Verizon’s #1 network and relies on millions of Xfinity’s Wi-Fi hotspots to help users keep data usage to a minimum.
DIY pest control
Down here in Atlanta, a pest control plan is essential. When I first moved into my condo, I hired Orkin and started paying their high prices. I probably would have continued to do that, but they didn’t get rid of the bugs!
I followed a co-worker’s advice and started doing my own pest control every month. Here’s what I bought for American and Smokybrown roaches:
- Delta Dust Insecticide
- Gentrol IGR Concentrate
- Suspend SC
UPDATE: I’ve since switched from Suspend SC to a different residual spray called Demon WP. It has kept American and Smokybrown away for three months, which means fewer applications. Read about the best roach killers here.
Limit your subscriptions
I love subscription services and membership clubs just as much as anyone else, but the annual fees can quickly get out of control! I’m currently taking a break from Amazon Prime because I decided to give Costco a try. Do you really need both?
The same thing goes for Netflix and Hulu. I monitor my subscriptions closely and cancel them when I don’t need them.
This is another benefit of the Trim service that I used to lower my high-speed internet bill. It also will review your subscriptions and take care of the cancellation process on your behalf for free.
In fact, Trim helped me break up with the Orkin man once and for all.
You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to have a stockpile. I keep 3-6 months of health and beauty supplies in a cabinet to avoid last-minute runs to the nearest drugstore, which happens to be a CVS.
With this system, I never run out of household essentials and can take my time looking for the best sales. Here’s a guide to get you started.
I also keep a smaller stockpile of dry goods in my pantry for the same reason. When I start to accumulate too much stuff, I make a game out of clearing the pantry, freezer and fridge by building my weekly menu around items I already have in the kitchen.
The biggest difference between savers and spenders is motivation. I stay pumped about saving money because I’m always setting short-term goals that inspire me to continue pursuing financial independence.
For example, I have three savings challenges going on this year:
- Save $2,018 in 2018: I transfer a specific dollar amount from my checking account to this savings account every week based on the New Year’s challenge I created for Clark.com.
- Save my savings: I add up the “You saved” amounts from the bottom of receipts and transfer that amount from my checking account to this savings account on a monthly basis.
- Workout and save: For every week that I workout four or more times, I transfer $50 from my checking account to this savings account.
- Credit card rewards match: When I go to redeem credit card rewards for travel, gift cards or a statement credit, I match the value of the rewards and transfer it to an online savings account.
When I was paying off my mortgage, I would give myself $100 in play money for every $5,000 that I knocked off the principal balance. That’s another example of a short-term goal that kept me focused on my main goal of eliminating the debt.
I truly believe that short-term goals are the key to long-term success! Don’t be afraid to start small — just start somewhere!
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I have plenty of other ways that I save money and can’t wait to share them with you. Subscribe to my newsletter or bookmark this page and check back from time to time for more money-saving tips.