I get it – money can be a hard thing to learn how to manage.
I wrote this post about a year and a half ago when I started out on my soul searching trek to becoming debt free.
Picture this: 28 years old and faced with the pure torture of having to tally up ALL OF MY DEBT.
At the end of that spreadsheet was a terrifying number: -$187,000.
Close to $200,000 in debt at 28 years old. The best part about it- I thought I was pretty good with money.
This was the start of my new life.
Now- just under 2 years later, I AM DEBT FREE.
I am not saying these ideas below are the ONLY thing I did to help pay off my debt, but it did help cut back some of my random costs to allow me to put more money toward my loans.
I hope it helps you out too!
I have talked to tons of friends about the struggle of having a “career” yet they are (for the most part) completely broke after rent, student loan repayments and utility bills.
Thankfully, I have learned new passive income ideas that anyone can use to save thousands, but here are some awesome strategies you can start using today.
Read on to see how I have been saving money and slashing costs on almost everything.
I have listened to other podcasts talk about money and the hosts ask questions such as:
How much money should you have in your bank account?
It’s a good question to ask- the answer varies on the person but the struggle is – what if you don’t have extra money to keep in your account?
If you are dead broke- investing in stock markets, mutual funds, real estate, IRAs, 401(k), the terms and conditions are so overwhelming.
PS- If you’re looking for an awesome 401(k) guide, our friends over at Budget Kitty created this epic article.
Chances are, you are like me and most other people- you don’t mean to but are pretty good at wasting your money.
In years past I have wasted so much of my hard earned money on junk- you know, the stuff that is found at the bottom of a drawer or behind something in a closet six months after you bought it.
We all can be a little more thoughtful on how we spend our money and start putting it towards important things like student loans (don’t feel bad- almost all of us have them) or trips that you want to go on, or the event that seems like it will never happen, retirement.
Extended warranties- the trap
If you have ever bought anything that costs more than $1,000- you can opt to purchase the extended warranty.
Now, I know that when plunking down $1,300 for a new TV and the extended warranty on a new car seems tempting; but the reality is, that it is pretty unlikely that your new item will qualify for whatever the warranty covers in the allotted time that it is promised.
I would rather save the “warranty” money in an emergency fund and take my chances.
Coffee- money dripping from your wallet
Everyone knows that going to coffee shops all the time is expensive.
Honestly, for how much I love coffee, a daily “fancy” coffee habit for me would be out of control.
(I also consider this related to having a few cocktails, but I touch on that a bit later.)
Fact: If the average person stops to get a coffee on their way to work for $6 a day, that’s $30 a week on watered down coffee, doesn’t sound terrible, right? Or approximately $130 a month.
Multiply that over a year and you’re looking at about $1,600.
To put into reference sake, that is more than a round-trip ticket to South Africa.
I know what you are thinking… I’m not spending $1,000 on a coffee maker.
I know, and I totally get it.
I actually said the same thing when he mentioned it to me.
Then, we added up our combined coffee purchase and the purchase would have paid for itself in six months.
Seemed like a reasonable buy at that rate then.
hardly ever never go out for coffee. We invest in a little bit better of a whole bean and drink our lattes in our Pjs in bed (which is amazing when it’s cold out)
In fact, if one of us does order a latte or cappuccino at a coffee place, we are often disappointed most of the time because it tastes watered down and we can make nicer ones at home.
Also, it makes great hot chocolate.
Hotels are on the way out
Why pay tons of money for a room and a bed that you probably aren’t going to be spending much time in?
Rather use Airbnb. It is MUCH cheaper and it helps your host earn a little extra cash. (It’s a win/win in my opinion)
For example: when I Airbnb hosted, I would rent out a private room with floor to ceiling windows, full kitchen and private bathroom for $80 a night- I feel like this is a steal!
On the flip side- the hotel one block away rented a smaller, moldy smelling room with a stiff bed for $150.
Again, it is a win/ win for the host and the guest.
Also, if you’re host is there, it is a perfect way to get the local hangouts and tips that typical tourists don’t get- thanks private tour guide!
If you’re looking for other money making ideas, check out that article by our friends over at Breaking The One Percent.
Get interested in your rates
Even the words “interest rate” make me tired.
Unfortunately, it’s something you need to pay attention to.
I know lots of people, myself included, got their first, basically everything when they were leaving to go to college- student loans, credit cards maybe even a car.
All of these things come with interest rates. Since you were probably like most other Americans, at seventeen or eighteen you didn’t have any credit or really care about it.
Now that we have quickly approached “real” adulthood, it’s time to get it together and negotiate some lower interest rates.
I go into this in detail in my Crafty Credit Course but for a quick briefing, here’s how it works.
When you are considered “new” to a lender, they feel like you are a risky customer, therefore give you a high interest rate.
Now, you are approaching your next decade, have job and are a lot more responsible than you were at eighteen. You have earned your way to get low interest rates, but they don’t just happen. Like many things in life, you have to ask or in business terms, “refinance.”
Here are is a list of things you might want to consider refinancing:
have done did a really good job at making minimum payments or deferring my loans altogether for the past seven years. (I didn’t get it all paid off, but I did my best. $20,000 down in 2018.)
Update: As of March of 2019- all my loans are paid off!
It wasn’t until late in the game that I learned that I can refinance my loans for a cheaper rate.
For example, now at almost 30 years old with great credit, I shouldn’t be paying 7% on my loan. I decided to refinance with Credible. If you are looking to refinance get an extra $200 towards your loan if you sign up here.
If you bought your car when you were young, or did not have great credit, you probably got nailed for a high interest rate. Now, if your score has gone up, try to refinance the loan so that you can get a lower interest rate.
Just like student loans, shop around for a card with a low interest rate and always pay your card off in full each month.
Side note- if you are responsible with your credit card payments- I highly suggest you check out credit card gaming. I have gone on many trips for free with credit card points.
Check out the Chase Freedom card to earn 3% cash back if you’re interested.
- Whenever possible, put down as much as you can when buying a house. If you only put down the minimum amount, you will be paying something called PMI or Personal Mortgage Insurance. This is costing you thousands of extra dollars when buying a house.
“Sign up- it’s FREE”
I cannot tell you how many times I have signed up for a “free trial” that turned out to not be free.
Free trials are great but make sure you actually cancel the subscription if you’re only using the service for a short period.
Every year millions of people forget to cancel their subscriptions and waste hundreds of dollars without even realizing it.
Here are some steps to see if you’re paying a bunch of monthly $5 or $10 fees:
- Check your credit card statement. Chances are if you are not actively looking at your statement every month, there is a chance a little $5, $10 or $20 a month fees could be creeping around and you don’t even notice it.
- Call (or go to the website) and cancel it.
That’s it. Two steps to save you potentially hundreds of dollars a year.
Some subscriptions you may have but not realize:
If you are not good at managing your own list of subscriptions, I suggest that you download Truebill.
This is an app that takes care of cancelling unwanted subscriptions, lowering bills and refunding bank fees for you.
Buying Bottled- It hurts more than just the environment
Bottled water is a love/ hate relationship for me.
I love bottled water as much as the next person but I see it as a total waste of money.
I only buy bottled water when there is no other option and I am desperate.
I usually use water right out of the sink in a reusable water bottle. This is much better for the environment as a report from ABC NEWS stated that 1.5 million tons of plastic is used to package water annually.
That is a ton of toxic chemicals being released into the atmosphere. 1.5 million tons- that’s just from water bottles!
Furthermore, it can take anywhere from 450 years all the way to 1,000 years for a bottle to decompose.
At that rate, I don’t know about you, but I’m happy to wash and reuse my water bottle.
Asking for a glass of water or using a reusable bottle instead of a plastic water bottle seems like a win/ win for your wallet, waist and planet.
Shot! Shot! Shot!... Right through your budget
I will admit, I think I would be a millionaire if I learned this earlier on in life.
Going out all the time is very pricey.
One beer at a bar is as much (if not more) than a six pack at the store.
When going out all the time and buying drinks, dollars add up quickly. Paul Michael from WISEBREAD- Living large on a small budget points out if you enjoy just one glass of wine or beer after work, you are in the top 30% of alcohol drinkers in the US.
Assuming you meet a friend for dinner mid-week and then have a big night out on Saturday, you’re looking at about $160 a week or $650 a month- yikes!
I am not saying to never go out and have a good time, just be cognizant that it is costing money and try cutting back every now and then.
Ways to have a social life without going broke:
- Pregame- invite some friends over and have some drinks at home.
- Find places with specials- Happy hour is no longer just a Friday after work thing to unwind from 6pm-7pm. I see places that have happy hours every day for many hours. Take advantage of those deals!
- Don’t pay cover charges- I can’t tell you how many times I dodged cover costs for myself and friends just by asking “can we get in free?” pair that with a smile and it almost always works. I think the fact that not many people ask, they let it slide.
- Don’t buy rounds- this gets pricey and even if you are drinking the cheaper drinks, you’ll have to foot the bill for your friend’s love of Patron.
- Drink from the draft- Draft beer is usually half the price and just as tasty.
- Maximize specials- Ladies, this is easy. Most clubs and bars have great drink specials for you during certain times of the night.
The worst way to ruin a good time is by being irresponsible. After a night out, don’t drive.
Nobody wants to be “that guy” in their social circle.
These days with ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, it is very affordable and safe to go out and be able to get home safely.
If you are having to go a long distance, invite a friend to stay at your place and split the bill- you can even split the bill in the app, it’s super easy.
I always thought of it as: a $300 Uber is cheaper and easier than a DUI.
The most expensive cleaning product
Growing up, my mom would joke about how much I love paper towels and it’s true.
I could use them for everything.
I like cleaning and I can easily use half a roll on a cleaning spree.
2019 Update- I have dramatically cut down my paper towel usage- to about one roll per 6 months. That’s a win in my book.
I am not going to tell you I never buy paper towels because I do BUT I try to use them a lot less.
Hacks I have tried to cutting down on paper towel usage:
- Buy in bulk
- Rinse and reuse if possible
Keep an eye out on insurance
Insurance is 100% needed. Car, health, life insurance… you name it.
Make sure that you are getting the best deal where you can.
I know many people hate dealing with insurance, so they just go for the first place that “seems reasonable”.
Rather do your homework and really research who is the best deal.
Here are some places to start when looking for various types of insurances for a good rate:
New York Life
I don’t understand new car photos on social media
After selling my car and getting out of $20,000 of negative equity, I am a big no car payment advocate.
It’s like a new found freedom for me.
I realize that most people need a car to get around but try to buy a car with a low payment/ low interest rate.
The best way to have a low interest rate on your payment is all tied to credit. Credit can be a tricky thing to understand.
To really understand some of the ins and outs of what credit is, you can check out my Crafty Credit Course.
The bottom line is, if you have a low credit score, financial institutions (banks, credit unions, etc.) see you as a big risk, therefore they charge you more money when you borrow it.
To have a smaller monthly payment, you need to put more money down. When financing a car, you want to put a good chunk of money down on it when you get it.
Nick Palermo from Autotrader.com recommends putting down at least 10 percent of the cars worth.
This means that if you are buying a $20,000 car, you should be prepared to put down $2,000 the day you sign to buy the car.
Reasons to put 10 percent down:
- Financial institutions may give a better interest rate because they are having to finance less.
- You will owe more of the car, thus reducing your debt owed.
- You will pay less interest over the life of the loan.
Remember, buying a car is a commitment.
Shop around & do you research.
The last thing you want to do is rush into something that you will later regret.
A great resource to check when looking at the price of a car is Kelly Blue Book.
Kelly Blue Book will show you how much money a car should be worth.
This will help you immensely in the car price negotiation part of buying the car. And remember, unless you cannot live without the car (which you more than likely can) buy a nice USED car.
Brand new cars depreciate the second you drive it off the lot.
Rather, let your money go farther for you and get a used car- most of them look and feel new anyway.
Most importantly, buy something you can AFFORD.
Everyone wants a convertible Mercedes but if you can’t really afford, get something more reasonable. Your wallet will thank you.
Let’s go to the mall…
We have all done it. Late night Wal-Mart trips, rainy Saturdays at the mall. Chances are you don’t actually need any of the stuff you are buying.
Again, I’m not saying to cut out the shopping sprees, after all, you only live once and sometimes you need to treat yourself.
There are ways to “treat yo self” without blowing the budget though.
Next time you get the shopping bug, try one of these hacks to save some money.
- Go with a friend. Many times I have been about to buy something and a friend talks me out of it. Also, it’s a second opinion, “is this $40 cute?”… No? move on.
- Take cash. Seems easy. Take as much money as you are willing to spend. When you run out, it’s time to go home.
- Shop at discount stores. I love places like TJ Maxx, ROSS or Burlington. They have so much great quality stuff and it’s all much cheaper than other places.
- Hit the clearance rack. I don’t know about you, but I’m not fashionable enough to know if something is “last year”. So out of season and cute is exactly what I am looking for.
Pay your bills on time!
Late fees are the worst!
Don’t waste your hard earned money because you were unorganized and late.
There are apps that can help keep you organized.
Try one of these out!
- 24me: it’s basically a personal assistant in your back pocket. It can handle your to-do list, personal accounts and notes all in one place.
- Evernote: have audio recording, sketches or PDFs to look after. All this can be handled with this app.
- Lastpass: I think the most annoying thing in the world is not being able to remember your password for a login somewhere. I’ll admit, this app had a learning curve, but once you’re used to it, it’s a lifesaver.
Or if you’re not into apps, you can just put a note in your phone calendar to remind you when to pay things.
What does a record player, cassette player and cable all have in common?
I am not sure if anyone actually has cable these days, but if you do, get rid of it.
It is expensive and full of commercials that usually don’t apply to you.
With technology like Netflix and Hulu, online TV watching is so easy and there are no commercials- it’s the new path for TV binge watching.
Netflix can even work with older televisions. Just make sure that there is a USB port in the back.
Then you can order a Firestick. Just plug it into the back of the TV and then into the wall and you’re all set.
It’s really that easy.
My mom, who is not the most technology savvy person I have met, watches all her shows on it with ease.
Paying for a gym membership doesn’t make you more (financially) fit.
It would be nice though, wouldn’t it?
I have had a gym membership basically my whole life.
It started when I was 15 and had to have a YMCA membership to swim during the off season and then the memberships never stopped.
I calculated and the last 15 years, I have spent close to $5,400.
That is a ton of money- especially considering I go at best three times a week, so in an effort to stop paying my monthly fee of feeling guilty for not working out.
I am going to cancel my membership and do other thing to keep myself and my piggy bank in shape:
- Run and bike outside. I always either use the stationary bikes during spinning class or power walk on the treadmill. I can easily do either activity outside for free.
- Join a team. At least when you join a kickball or basketball team, you are making new friends and they hold you accountable for your workouts.
- Join free gyms. Many employers or health insurance companies offer free gym memberships
Eating out: Making your wallet skinny and your waistline fat.
Same as going out for a few drinks over the weekend, eating out at restaurants can be a sneaky money sucker.
It is much easier to order a pizza or stop at a curbside to pick something up for convenience sake after work but it’s best not to make it a constant event.
As Emmie Martin from CNBC states in her post, 90% of Americans don’t like to cook—and it’s costing them thousands each year she spoke with Eddie Yoon from the Harvard Business Review.
He said that the number of people who love to cook is dwindling- thus more people are eating out or using food preparation services such as $5 Meal Plan.
Eating out is expensive when considering you pay $15 for one meal.
Take that $15 to the grocery store and you can buy food for a couple of meals with the same money.
Add on any grocery store loyalty programs and you might walk out with spending even less.
(If you haven’t, download the Ibotta app (promo code: jsmummj for a free $5 on your Android or iPhone.) Ibotta is a modern form of couponing and is a great way to get cheaper deals on grocery store six packs and home appetizers for your friends.
Personally, I love cooking.
I grew up in a restaurant and my mom taught me how to cook from a young age.
I try to spice things up for meals a few different ways:
- I love fondue but going out for a nice fondue dinner will set you back about $200 plus tip. Yowza! I decided to go ahead and buy my own fondue set. After all, I can tear up my own bread and cut some apples to dunk in cheese if it’s going to save me literally hundreds of dollars on a romantic dinner date. Also, on the plus side, then I can be at home, in comfy clothes and really relax with friends and family.
- Pro-tip: Use Pinterest! I am ALWAYS on Pinterest looking up recipes for things- it is one of my favorite ways to learn new affordable foods to eat.
- Crockpots are the best thing ever. I don’t think I could live without mine. On rainy or cold weekends, I meal prep a bunch of food and freeze it in Ziplock bags. This makes my life so much easier during the work week. All I do is put the bag in the refrigerator the night before to defrost, then in the morning, I dump the bag contents in a crockpot and let it cook all day. It is the best feeling coming home after a long day, knowing that dinner is already done.
Pro-tip: if you use crockpot liners, it even makes cleaning your crockpot a breeze. No more beef stew stuck on the side.
Although eating out is not cheap, there are hacks to saving a few pennies:
- Eat the special. Normally restaurants have certain meals cheaper on certain days. Know the restaurants in your area and go when your favorite appetizer is half price.
- Download their app. Lots of restaurants give away a free dessert or appetizer if you just download the app and show it to them. Super easy for some free chips and queso or lava cake.
- Use coupons. I know it sounds strange, but there are great coupons in those Valpak envelops that come to your house. For a while when I was growing up, my mom and I would only go to “Val-Pak restaurants”. It was fun and it saved a ton of money.
- 2 for $20- I love these places. All through college my friends and I would go to places that offered 2 for $20 deals. You get an appetizer and a meal, split the bill and you leave stuffed for $10. (Please make sure that you do budget enough for a 15%-20% tip for your hardworking server)
- Drink water. When eating out, I always drink water. I do this for a few reasons: it’s free and it’s better for you.
- Go out for lunch. Usually lunch menus are not as expensive as the dinner menu. So if you’re deciding between the two, go for lunch.
Your home is costing you big bucks. This is how you can cut back.
Around the house work can be a bit redundant.
I enjoy cleaning but sometimes I don’t feel like cleaning the dishes and I wait until I literally have nothing left to wear to do the laundry.
A quick story- years ago, to make some extra cash, I had the idea to clean other people’s houses on the side with my mom.
I’ll say, it was great money for not that much work.
To sweep someone’s floor, clean their bathroom and wipe down the countertops, it was $150 for 60 minutes of work.
If I was on the flipside and the one paying, I would never pay someone that much to do things that I realistically could do myself (especially if money was tight)
Most household chores are not everyday tasks.
Now, I have a schedule-type order of what I do and when.
This is what mine looks like:
Day of rest
*(I wash my floors 2x a week because I don’t like things sticking to my feet)
Also, I have a Roomba that cleans all the floors daily.
As long as you keep anything that will catch it up and trap it, it works really well.
(Side note- we refer to her as a dog since having a pet in the city is so expensive.)
If you do each chore regularly, it doesn’t take that long to complete.
I probably spend 20 minutes a day cleaning up.
This of course would depend on how big your home is and if you have kids/real pets.
I am guilty of this.
I love to binge watch on Netflix, but lately I have made a concentrated effort to not watch as much TV and do other things that are more constructive.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner stated that people watch about 30 hours of television a week! Yikes!
Here are some other things you can do to cut back your TV watching and be a little more productive:
- Start a blog (it’s actually really fun, even if you just use it as an online diary) A popular hosting site that is very easy to set up is through Blue Host and it only costs $2.95 a month to start. My good friend Pete from Do You Even Blog teaches you exactly how to make money while blogging.
- Exercise- meet a friend for an evening jog
- Read- I feel like books are really underrated. I am currently reading the Elephant Whisperer and Broke Millennial
- Start a side hustle- As my mom would say, “you’re never too rich or too thin” In order to continue on making enormous student loan payments, I spend so much time side hustlin’.
- Serving (I worked in a restaurant for 6 months and was able to buy my first house this way)
- House cleaner- capitalize on other people’s laziness
- Pet sit
- Take surveys
- My current side hustles: private tutoring, virtual assistant, city scooter charger and I sell anything not being used.
Flying can be so expensive.
As I write this,
I am on a flight to Florida to see my family for the holidays. I just got back from a month in South Africa. The whole trip was paid for from a side hustle I picked up specifically to pay for the trip. (It’s much more exciting to go when the money isn’t needed elsewhere.)
My flight from Virginia to Florida was more expensive than my flight to Europe a few months ago. When you need to fly places, try to take a hold of deals offered.
I talked to Bethany Bayless not too long ago, the author of Wanderlust For Less who tells exactly how to travel for cheaper.
Another great way for some cheap travel hacking is to take advantage of some credit card offers.
Many credit cards offer points that go toward flights.
For example, when Denis and I went to London a few months back to visit some family, we went for basically free.
We did this because of the points he earned on his Chase Sapphire Reserve (use this link to get 50,000 bonus points if you spend $4k in the first 3 months!) card.
Tricks to find some cheap flights:
- Sign up for rewards programs with airlines. When I was traveling a lot to Washington, DC I signed up for deals with American Airlines. This helped a ton when shuttling back and forth before I moved.
- Travel in off peak times. Everyone wants to travel on Friday and Sunday night. Can you rearrange your schedule to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday?
- Try Hopper– it is an app that tracks when flights are cheaper
- Is flying the only way? Sure, if you are going from Atlanta to Australia, there’s only one mode to get there. But if you are going just a few hours away, trains are also a great experience.
For my birthday last year, Denis and I went to New York. (I had never been) Flights were super expensive and for half the price we were able to take a three-hour train ride to get there.
The train was actually a lot of fun! We hung out in the bar cart, had some cocktails and made friends.
Road trip- I am not a huge car person but a day long road trip can be fun.
Make sure you pack some great snacks and have good music.
I try to leave during the middle of the day or the middle of the night to avoid traffic.
When rush hour starts to build, you can take a break and have a nice dinner somewhere new.
To find some more ways to cut back on spending or to make a few extra bucks- checkout
22 ways to make money from using your phone apps.
How I made an extra $497 dollars in 15 days (without a second job)
Try baby steps in cutting back.
Cancel your cable and get a Firestick and only use 1 roll of paper towels or host a potluck with your friends instead of always going out to dinner and drinks.
It’s the small, gradual steps that will make it easy to stick to your new plan.
If you’re looking for actionable next steps, here’s a 52 week money challenge that I highly recommend you check out!
If you liked this post- I suggest that you check out some of our others.
Before you go:
Please leave a comment below and let me know what was your favorite tip and do you have any others that I missed out on?