10 Ways I Radically Improved My Finances (w/out Changing My Lifestyle)
Updated: Jul 26, 2022
I am always looking for ways to save money without having to change too many habits or put in much effort. Lazy? Perhaps. Savvy? Definitely. Here are all the ways I started saving this year:
*Below includes referral links which means I make a tiny percentage if you join. Everything I recommend is what I have personally done and would recommend even without a referral return. Thank you so much for supporting my family and have fun saving!
What can you cut?
This first recommendation is going to be the most time-consuming but oh so worth it. Go through your bank statements and write down all your recurring bills. For each item, ask if you can save money somehow (even for your basic expenses like utilities).
Here were my yearly savings from doing this:
-Switched phone carriers - $240 (see below)
-Switched to a shared family iCloud storage plan - $36
-Cancelled Netflix subscription - $156
-Cancelled Instacart subscription - $120 (although if you always overspend when you are in the supermarket, this can actually SAVE money)
-Called our credit cards and asked for different fees to be waived/refunded - $40
-Closed/downgraded all our credit cards with monthly/yearly fees - $320
-Spotify downgrade - $60
-Moved money into a 1-3% APY with ONE FINANCE (this is where our noninvestment money goes like emergency fund) - $32 earned in interest.
-Cancelled Amazon Prime (you can still shop on the site. You just don't have prime video. Also, I was just given a free month since they want us back) - $119
This Yearly savings= $1,083.
This doesn't include other perks I discovered like free lightbulbs from my power company, free heater tune-up from my home warranty, credit card benefits like free CALM membership for a year, etc. This took me a whole day to do. Making $1000 + bucks in a day is not bad!
Know all your credit cards, banks, and membership benefits.
Write down all your personal credit cards' APY so you know which cards are a priority to pay off (even though ideally you want to pay everything off every month) and reward percentages so you know which stores to use which cards.
Our Credit Cards:
We currently have Citi Double Cash. I love how simple this one is with 2% back on everything and you can cash in the money earned whenever you want. We also have an American Express card. This one offers tons of rewards. If you are an avid shopper or like rewards programs, you'll like this. It also does amazing things like reward you extra for shopping small or give you free yearly memberships like the Calm app. But if that sounds overwhelming to you, Citi Double Cash is where it's at. Amex (like Costco) also offers different % depending on where you use the card (think department store vs grocery shopping vs locally owned). Based on our cards, here is where we use them:
Gas station: Amex or Citi
Department Stores: Amex or Citi
Local shops: Citi (unless Amex is running a promo)
All things Costco, use Costco card
-Keep in mind some checking accounts like Betterment offer rewards as well.
-Amazon likes to partner with Amex often for other promos.
-Look for other perks like extended warranties and roadside assistance. Why pay for these if you already get them?
-In the future, I might close the Amex card and open a Lowe's CC when we start our home renovations as it's one of the best store cards out there (5% back).
-I've noticed the most bang for your buck is to use your rewards points for gift cards.
-If you shop at Costco, get a Costco credit card. We stayed on the basic membership forever, afraid of giving more money or signing up for a store credit card. After crunching the numbers, turns out you save a lot more going all-in.
-Start the cancelation process with all your sevices, often you will be prompted to stay with the company at a discounted rate, especially if you say its for financial reasons. I got 6 months of free monitoring with our security system: Simpli Safe doing this.
Go minimal on eating.
Fasting is one great way to save money and improve your health. Many do this in the morning. I've recently gone one step further by simplifying my lunch. Here is what my day looks like:
Morning: FAST usually by drinking organic decaf coffee and lemon water all morning.
Lunch: Protein smoothie. Either with grass-fed whey or Kachava with some frozen banana. (Here is $15 off Kachava). At about a $5 a meal serving, you might think this doesn't save money but simplifying your meals can save you from unfocused splurging at the supermarket or food waste. And don't forget time is money. Making a smoothie can earn you 20 extra minutes of money-making time. Even cheaper and you could try avocado and hard-boiled egg.
Dinner: My main full meal of the day! Usually a grass-fed steak (we buy whole cows at a time from local farms to save A LOT of money), veggies, and potatoes.
Write out the cost of your current meal plan and what it would cost after simplifying and see if it works for you.
Let's not forget the alcohol! This can rack up a lot of your budget. My husband and I recently found a no added sugar, no carb, no gluten Huckleberry potato vodka here in Idaho we swear by. No seriously, I normally hate vodka. It's packed full of flavor so sipping on it is easy. We got rid of all our mixers, juices, etc. Who knew you could go minimal and save money on your liquor cabinet? My other recommendation would be to get Costco, Kirkland liquor. It is of great quality and so cheap. For one more added bonus, Dave Asprey says Potato Vodka is the "healthiest". Cheers to that!
Earn a lot of money for the shopping you already do.
I use Rakuten and Honey browser extensions/apps. When you go onto a shopping website, a pop-up button will ask you to activate rewards (usually 1-6% back). Click the button and you literally get money for the shopping you ALREADY DO. I'm kicking myself. I had Rakuten installed for a year but just never used it. Since shopping season is among us I started using it and made $100 back on the mattress we bought this month. You can even get money back on gift cards you purchase. It's amazing.
Sign up for Rakuten and get $30 here.
Sign up for Honey here.
Make money snapping pics of your receipts with Fetch. I tried every single app that rewarded you for taking pics of your receipts. Some even offered to earn doing surveys. They all took too much time or the apps were annoying to use. Fetch is the best option out there.
That being said, you do have to work for this reward. But I just snap a pic right after I get the receipt. If I have to wait for my coffee anyway, I have time to earn a few points. I honestly recommend Rakuten/Honey over Fetch but it has been working for me.
Ditch the big mobile service.
My family has been a loyal member of T-mobile for years. We were paying about $120 a month for two lines (I was told it was the best deal T-mobile offered). A few months back, I decided to research a cheaper option. It just couldn't be that much to make some phone calls!
This is when we decided to switch to Mint Mobile. To choose a plan, I looked at my last year's monthly data use to see how much I needed. So now we save $60 a month for the same phone usage.
I discovered a game-changer in budgeting this year: Ynab! It's different than every other budget software I have seen. It forces you to be forward-thinking and intentional with every single dollar you have. It's not a cheap service but since joining we have no debt, built our emergency savings, have all expenses covered 3 months ahead, started putting money into our IRA's and Crypto accounts, and are now working towards kitchen renovations without making any more money.
Try it for free for 34 days!
In regards to being intentional, I have an ongoing Pinterest board (think of it as an inspiration board) of all the things I would like to have. This lets me stay focused on where I would like to spend money and serves as an ongoing wishlist for my birthday and Christmas. This allows me to also not overindulge during sale season. I wait till the thing I have been wanting goes on sale and get it at the discount guilt free while ignoring all the other emails.
Open a Coinbase Account and Begin Your Crypto Journey.
Maybe you already have some investments or maybe you are still trying to get out of credit card debt. No matter what your situation, it's an EXTREMELY good time to start investing in Crypto. It had one of its biggest crashes recently which means it's time to BUY BUY BUY. We use Coinbase . You can put in as little as $10 at a time. You can even earn crypto by doing some easy tutorials. Use this link and you get $10 for signing up.
Check Your Health insurance.
For the last couple of years, I praised Liberty Health Share. After all, it honors things like home births and acupuncture. But honestly, I was getting really stressed out by their billing system and reimbursements were taking a year. After moving to Idaho, a friend kept telling me to see if I qualify for Medicaid. Coming from California, all I could think about was long waits, terrible service, etc. I didn't even know if I qualified but she told me kids qualify at an even higher income level. So at first, I thought it might be good to put the kids on Medicaid and stay on Liberty.
Turns out Medicaid in Idaho is AMAZING. I have never had better health coverage. We even get free chiropractic and I have all my allergy shots covered. And the doctors who accept Medicaid offer premium services. And if you qualify for Medicaid, you qualify for a lot of other things like discounted kids programs through the city (think summer camp, ice skating, pottery classes, etc).
Whatever health insurance you have, take the time to read the fine print so you can maximize your benefits. And the biggest lesson I learned from Liberty Health Share (where you have to do you own billing) is that things get billed wrong all the time. I remember getting my $8,000 hospital bill down to $800 because of billing errors by the hospital.
Going on Vacation?
Avoid souvenir splurging (especially with kids).
We had a big Disney vacation this year. I went to all the thrift stores in town and spent $20 on mickey mouse gear to deck the kids out. I then went to the dollar store and made my own glamourous and non-stop complimented mickey ears. This allowed us to avoid the expensive gift shops (for the most part).
You can also get discounted disney gift cards ahead of time to use while on vacation.
My Favorite Shopping Tips.
-Go through your amazon order history (and really all your purchases of the past few months): What can you return? I have no shame in using the store's return policy. If it didn't serve me, it's going back.
-Save money on buying clothing: Every season, sell your stuff (or kids' stuff) to a consignment store. Use that money to buy next season's items.
-Kid obsessed with legos? Join a lego renting service or start your own with other local parents. We are going to be trying netbricks this year.
-Take photos while shopping. This is my trick to survive Costco. Snapping a pick somehow justifies in my head like, "I can remember it in case I want to buy it later". I always come home with 20 pictures of things I was tempted to buy.
-Always ask stores if there are sales coming soon. I was able to go into REI the day before a big sale and shop the sale prices without the crowded store. Also, if I bought something that goes on sale within a few weeks time, I'll call the store to see if I can get the discounted rate. If it's within the return window they usually honor it.
What didn't work for me this year? Gardening. It was a lot of initial expense and work for not a lot of outcome. Here is what I would do if I could do it over. Buy some cheap pots (or plant straight in the ground, no beds). Grow only the easiest and most expensive foods that you consume. Next year, I am just going to grow fresh herbs, tomatoes, and sugar snap peas.
When it comes to saving money and being financially savvy, we need to get pretty creative. What are some unique ways you have saved money this year?