You already know — because you’re on this website! — that creating a budget is the most important thing to do if you want to save up for a down payment, make a big purchase, or ensure that you’re good for six months if you lose your job. That’s excellent advice, but we’ve got to go deeper. Because if you want to save even more, sometimes you have to get a little trickier.
You know what we mean, right? It’s likely you have a money-saving hack of your own already. For instance, do you cut your own hair? Or do you only buy your beauty products at the Dollar Tree? Do skip soda in favor of water at restaurants? Have you thought of doing any of these things?
If so: Great: you’re already a frugal genius. If not: Great, because we asked people who are frugal geniuses what they do to stretch their dollar as far as it goes. And they gave us their sneakiest, trickiest, easiest, money-saving tips. These tricks have made their lives better — and they’re pretty sure they’ll make your bank account happy, too.
Delay gratification when you’re buying online
It’s so easy to make impulse purchases when you’re shopping on the internet. Just click once and something new and exciting will be delivered to you within a matter of days (or sometimes, hours). But did you know that retailers will sometimes give you a discount if you load up your shopping cart and walk away?
That’s what Amit and Chhavi, a married couple who blog about personal finance, discovered by chance a few years ago. They love to use online shopping sites as a way to make wishlists. And they quickly found that companies were catching on to this and offering discounts if they didn’t buy right away.
“E-commerce companies pay a lot of attention to buyers who wanted to make a purchase but abandoned their cart,” Chhavi says. “In most cases, you will receive an email with a discount code or a coupon to encourage you to finish the purchase.”
This doesn’t work on all sites but it’s definitely something to test out if you want to save. In the best case, you’ll get a discount (savings!).
In the worst case, you’ll spend a few days thinking about whether you really want the item and then either purchase it with joy in your heart (yes!) or let it go (savings!). Some retailers, like Amazon, may not offer you a discount but will monitor whether something in your cart has gone on sale and alert you. You know what that means? (Also savings.)
Always use cash
It’s so easy to slide, swipe, or tap your card when you’re making purchases that it’s also easy to forget that you’re spending money. After all, how often do most of us check our bank accounts or read out credit card statements? The answer: Not often enough.
That’s why you should consider going cash-only for any purchases that you make outside of household bills.
Carey Zielke, a personal finance expert, says that using cash serves two purposes. First, it sets up a boundary: If you don’t have the money in your wallet, you simply don’t buy the item (and maybe budget for it later). In addition, using cash gives you a clearer picture of your spending.
Don’t spend your change
Perhaps “only use cash” doesn’t go far enough for you. If you’re already using cash, here’s another piece of advice: Don’t spend your coins. That tip comes from organizational guru Nick Glassett of New Orleans. He’s found that saving tiny amounts of money really helped him out when it came to the holidays.
“Once I saw how much loose change would build up into, I stopped spending it no matter what. I always broke a $1 instead of using change. We’d get to Christmas and have about $250 in change to buy presents for family and friends!”
Now, Glassett doesn’t use dollar bills, either. He uses fives, tens, and twenties and puts the dollars he gets back away until the end of the year.
“It adds up quick and you don’t even notice the money not being used,” he says. “At the end of every day, my wife and I stack our $1.00 bills in an envelope. Within 3 months we have over $350! The whole stack will likely pay for most of Christmas for our family of four!”
Pretend you’re a smoker and always check the date on Sundays
You know all those ads that tell you how much money you’ll save if you quit smoking today? Michael Outar, a financial blogger and non-smoker, decided he was going to treat his bank account like he’d spent money on cigarettes.
“All it involves is pretending you are a smoker and act like you are buying a pack of cigarettes a week,” Outar says. “But really throw that money into savings.”
It may not be a huge amount of savings right off the bat, but if a pack of cigarettes costs $10 where you live, that’s $40 saved a month. And throwing that amount into savings can help you motivate yourself to spend even more.
If that doesn’t feel like enough of a save for you, consider this tip from wealth educator Whitney White and take part in #savingonsunday.
“Each Sunday, I look at the date and transfer that amount of money into my savings account,” White says. “On August 25th, I saved $25! If done weekly, the user has the potential to save anywhere from about $50-$70 each month depending on how the days line up.”
Do it yourself
It’s nice to go out for dinner or drop money on a haircut, but sometimes you can get the same effect by trying to do things at home.
For busy parent Dela Ainoo of Savvy Money Moms, it was impossible (and unhealthy) to grab fast food on the regular. So she came up with an alternate plan: Try to recreate the meals she was craving at home. You may be taking this as “learn to cook,” which is great advice, but that’s not exactly what Ainoo means. She cooks up the fast food she knows would otherwise be too expensive and not as good for her family.
Now Ainoo’s cooking up burgers which she says, “are almost as good as Burger King’s.” And with four kids, she says she’s saved a ton of money on eating out.
One of the most popular tips for those who don’t need a lot of hair maintenance is to learn how to cut your hair at home. If you’re spending $15-$25 on a haircut every month or so, it may be worthwhile to invest in a trimmer and a mirror. Then you can keep the price of the cut and the tip for yourself!
“I noticed that my haircuts are fairly simple and can be done under 10 Minutes,” says Bernard Wong, a VC of Commerce. All he needed to do was buzz the sides and trim the top.
“I quickly realized that I can easily do this by myself, so I bought a hair cutting kit on Walmart for $30 and pretty much made my money back after 2 cuts.” Now he’s saving hundreds a year.
And if all else fails…move to another country?
This final tip is really out-of-the-box. In fact, it could be clear on the other side of the world. But for Dela Ainoo, it’s worked wonders.
“We had so much debt a few years ago that it seemed almost impossible to get out,” Ainoo says. “So we decided to move to another country where the cost of living is much lower.” Since then, Ainoo and her family have cleared out most of their debts without taking on any more loans or lines of credit. “It’s completely changed our lives,” she says.
Moving from one country to another may be a bit of a leap, but we promised you really tricky tips. So keep your passport on hand just in case you may need it. But try the other tips first. You don’t know just how much money you might save!