If you can hack your tech life and airport travel, you can hack your finances as well. While we don’t have financial hacks that can magically add money to your bank account (believe us, we looked), we do have plenty of tips that can help stop money leakages, which is almost kind of sort of the same thing.
You’ll probably know some of these financial hacks. In equal measure, you’ll probably don’t know some of them. Maybe some of them will finally make sense this time around. Regardless, here are some of the best financial hacks that you can use right now.
Don’t use it if there are no obvious financial advantages. Credit cards make spending money more abstract, which psychologically encourages you to spend more on impulse purchases — 56% more, in fact.
Set weekly reminders to pay off credit card balance. This helps to avoid being shocked over cumulative spending throughout the month. Plus, you’ll know how much you have left in your bank account balance, which is always good to know.
As a general rule, stick to cashback credit cards. Other types of reward cards may limit you to specific categories (with its own terms and conditions), but savings from cashback cards can be used in any way you want.
Limit your credit cards. Yes, it can be useful to have different cards for different purposes. However, unless you have the time (and mental space) to remember all the different perks, it’s best to stick with one or two.
Paying Off Debt
Make weekly instead of monthly payments. This helps to reduce the interest and overall owed amount.
According to Dave Ramsey, if you have multiple debts, the debt snowball method works best. Prioritize the debt with the highest interest rates first. Once they’re paid off, focus on the next-highest rates.
Which is better: $2000 in savings account and $1000 in credit card debt OR $1000 in savings but no credit card debt? The latter, of course! High-interest debt can cancel off any interest you earn from savings account, and then some. Keep a modest emergency fund, then use the rest to pay off your debts.
Have a high-interest debt? Paying off debt with another debt is actually a common strategy, provided the new loan has a much lower interest rate. See if you qualify for any of them, then crunch the numbers.
When making a big purchase on Amazon, try leaving it in the cart for a few days or even weeks. You might get an email offering further discounts on the item.
Buy discounted gift cards. Websites like GiftCardGranny sells gift cards, which you can buy for indirect savings.
Don’t overlook shipping and miscellaneous fees. Unless they are individual sellers who don’t make much profit anyway, always ask if these can be waived. It’s also worth making bulk purchases with friends to qualify for free shipping.
Time your purchases. Many items have seasonal sales — it’s best to make the purchase then. Here’s a general guide, from cars to mattresses.
Compare prices online. Check how much the item is sold from at least 3 shopping platforms. This list of 39 price watching and tracking tools can help.
If you are weak against email offers, unsubscribe them now. Use Unroll.me to quickly unsubscribe.
Don’t want to unsubscribe? Ok, create a junk email address instead. Sign up and send all promotional offers to this address. Only check this email if you plan to make the purchase anyway, and see if there are coupons/promotions you can take advantage of.
Use Google Flights to compare prices of all available airlines. If your dates are flexible, it may also suggest other dates with cheaper flight tickets.
According to some anecdotes from Redditors, it might be cheaper to book return flights tickets separately. There might also be savings if you book them from non-US travel websites.
It’s not a bad idea to choose a holiday destination based on how much you can stretch your dollars. Many travel websites publish annual ‘value for money holiday destination’ guides.
Pack light and avoid bag check-ins if you can. How this saves money: no check-in fee, and minimized indirect payments. Example: you can use cheaper public transportation options, instead of getting a taxi (just to lug that heavy suitcase to/from the hotel).
Pick a focus. Is it a foodie trip, or a sight-seeing trip, or something else? Then you can prioritize your budget towards these experiences, and save money in less-important areas. Use any of these travel apps to help you plan your itinerary.
Recommended Reading: Google Trips & 9 alternative travel apps for avid travelers
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without". Repeat as necessary, every time you feel like buying something unnecessary.
If your rent is choking you, swallow your pride. Either get a roommate or move back to your parents’ house.
Go minimalist. Only buy items with purpose. This avoids clutter as well, which saves you money. How many times have you bought something just because you can’t find it?
On that note, turn to minimalist fashion. Capsule wardrobe is all about being creative with mix-and-matching. This person owns it with just 30 articles of clothing, including shoes, tops, bottoms, outerwear and dresses.
Cook your own meals. It’s very easy to learn kitchen skills on YouTube (special shoutout to Jamie Oliver 1-Minute Tips) and find meal inspirations online. Check out 30-Second Recipes Twitter to learn easy meals, fast.
As much as possible, opt for multi-purpose items. Example: it’s cheaper to have a good phone with a good camera than an average phone plus a good camera. Note: Not applicable to professional photographers.
Choose low-cost investments. You know what’s cool? Robo-advisors. They can give you personalized advice based on the input you key in, and significantly cheaper than fund managers’ services.
Once you’ve selected an investment vehicle, make it easy to regularly contribute. Automate the deductions every month, right after payday. Out of sight, out of mind. Future you will be so happy.
When in doubt about where and how to invest money, ask the women in your life. Women tend to make safer investments, making them better investors.
Joke: What’s something you pay for but hope you never use? Answer: Insurance. It’s painful to part with the money, but you have to get them. The good thing is, you don’t have to get all types of insurances to be adequately covered. You need these, but you can probably do without these.
The financial hacks given above are not exhaustive. There are plenty more that we didn’t mention (grow your own garden, raise chickens), but these will generally help most of you make better financial decisions. Which ones were your favorite hacks?
Editor’s note: This is written for Hongkiat.com by Suraya Zainuddin. Suraya is a freelance writer specialising in personal finance, investing, nonprofits, women’s empowerment, and FinTech.