From checking your credit report to comparison shopping, go the extra mile to keep your cash.
Nobody likes to be called lazy – but nobody likes throwing away money, either.
The good news is that personal finance is just like physical health: You can tone up with a little commitment. Here are 12 tips to keep more of your cash. Even if you only do a couple, you’re better off than you were…
1. Stick with in-network ATMs
Do you run to just any ATM every time you need cash? If so, you’re paying around $4.50 per transaction, according to a recent survey. That’s because when you use an ATM not affiliated with the card’s bank, you’re charged two fees – one by your debit card’s bank and another by the ATM’s bank. Don’t pay those unnecessary fees.
Look up locations for your debit card’s bank and only withdraw from authorized ATMs. You can also get extra cash with no fee when you use your debit card in retail checkout lanes.
2. Pass up convenience stores
Think twice before buying salty snacks, candy, and drinks or beer the next time you gas up. Convenience store food and merchandise can be two or three times the price you’d pay at a grocery store. So plan ahead.
Buy snacks and beverages in bulk at a regular grocery store. Stockpile toilet paper, toothpaste, pain relievers and other items so you don’t get stuck paying twice as much at a gas station when you’re desperate.
3. Cancel meal kit subscriptions
Companies such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and others will deliver recipes and pre-measured ingredients to your door. But U.S. customers of meal kit services pay 21 percent more than they’d pay at the grocery store for similar ingredients, according to a study by Lux Research. Don’t pay more for convenience.
Instead, look up meal kit delivery companies’ recipes online and purchase those ingredients on sale or at a discount grocer. Same meal. Lower prices. While you’re shopping, keep these six tips to reduce food waste and cut your grocery bill in mind and save even more.
4. Comparison shop
Do you buy whatever you like the minute you spot it? If you don’t take time to compare prices, you’ll often pay more than necessary for health and food items, appliances, auto insurance and really, just about anything. Take a moment. Breathe. Compare.
Get online and shop prices, and not just on big-ticket items. Retailers such as Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Petsmart, and others will match online prices for in-store purchases. For even more comparing, download Honey, a free browser extension that automatically applies the best coupon code during checkout at stores, restaurants and travel sites.
5. Open your mail
Maybe you put off opening mail because most of it is junk. But what if there’s an insurance refund or a notice that a creditor didn’t receive your payment? You could even miss a deal from your internet provider on a package that could save you money.
Take a few minutes each day to rip open those envelopes so you don’t miss good deals, coupons, crucial deadlines or the five bucks Grandma sent for your birthday.
6. Don’t wait until the last minute
Airfare isn’t the only thing you’ll pay more for if you blow off purchasing until the last minute. You could also pay extra for concert, sports, conference and event tickets or online payments that don’t go through by the deadline. So stop procrastinating.
Read ticket rules and terms to find out whether prices shoot up as the date draws near. Pay bills early to make sure the payment clears in time. Book rental cars and hotels in advance so you can compare prices and have better choices. The simple fact is – procrastinating can cost you money in the long run.
7. Sign up for payment notifications
Ever paid a late fee for missing a payment because you forgot about the due date? Stop paying out late fees. Sign up to receive e-mail or text notifications that a due date is approaching for credit cards, utilities, and mortgage or car loans.
Here’s another tip for avoiding late payments: If payday arrives after a troublesome due date, contact the creditor and ask the agent to change the date so you can pay on time.
8. Tackle the takeout habit
Everyone has the occasional night when it’s easier to order out than cook dinner. But if you’re getting takeout every night, you could be blowing through hundreds of dollars a month. Instead, store some go-to food in the fridge.
Make time on the weekend before your workweek starts to prepare a couple of entrees, side dishes, and snacks that you can fill up on when you get home from work instead of shelling out that hard-earned money.
9. Monitor your credit report
If you don’t check your credit report regularly, you could pay for that mistake one day with higher interest rates, lower credit limits, and less favorable financing. You can’t dispute errors that ding your credit or spot a fraudulently opened account if you don’t know those things exist. That’s why you need to order a copy of your credit report.
You are entitled to order one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Once you know what’s in your report, you can find simple, no-hassle ways to build credit so you can achieve a good score that gets you approved.
10. Cut up your own produce
Is preparing a melon so time-consuming that it’s worth paying twice as much for a smaller portion that someone else cut up? Don’t pay two or three times as much for produce just because you’re too lazy to chop an onion or dice a couple of sticks of celery.
Take a knife to your own produce to free up money. Use the savings to buy more or enjoy exotic fruits and veggies you couldn’t otherwise afford. While you’re eating healthy, here are some tasty gluten-free shopping tips that won’t gut your wallet.
11. Activate rotating credit card rewards
On a higher cash-back rewards card, you can earn bonus rewards for purchases like gas, wholesale clubs and restaurants every quarter. That’s when cashback may jump from around 1 percent to as much as 5 percent on specific types of purchases. Earning more cashback is a sweet deal. Unless you forget to reactivate the rewards every quarter. Don’t miss out on more cash back.
Go to the card’s website and find the cashback calendar, which displays categories and quarterly reactivation dates. Then add those dates to your own calendar to make sure you earn maximum rewards.
12. Don’t pay for services you can do yourself
We all have at least one dirty chore that’s worth hiring someone else to do. Mowing the grass. Cleaning the house. Painting a room. Still, if you’re paying another person to perform every single task you dislike, you’re blowing through some serious cash you could stash in savings or use to pay off debt. Don’t be such a fragile flower.
Make a list of jobs you’re paying someone else to do and take on at least one or two you can do yourself. Or, add your own sweat into a rotating schedule to hire out that work less often.
Connect with a certified credit counselor from a nonprofit organization now to get a free debt analysis.
Published by Debt.com, LLC