15 Easy Ways to Stop Wasting Money
Stop wasting money with these easy tips and tricks.
One third of Americans carry more credit card debt right now than they have in personal savings, according to a 2019 report by Bankrate. And on top of that, according to WalletHub's most recent credit card debt study released in Dec. 2019, we just reached a terrible milestone: For the first time in history, U.S. citizens officially own more than $1 trillion—yes, trillion—in credit card debt. Admittedly, we're collectively not so great with money. But if there's a silver lining, it's that you can become more financially responsible and literate today. So read on to learn how to stop wasting money and start spending wisely.
Know that you never have to pay full price.
Pretty much anything—clothing, food, movie rentals, plane tickets, hotel rooms, you name it—will, at some point or another, end up marked down. By paying full price for anything, you're shooting yourself right in the wallet. Make sure you're taking advantage of special discount days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to really make the most of those deals.
Get an older phone.
Currently, a Samsung Galaxy S10 sells for about $900, depending on the retailer. A Samsung Galaxy S9—for all intents and purposes, the same phone—goes for about $599. Similarly, the iPhone 11, if you buy it straight from Apple, starts at $700. The slightly older, equally functional iPhone XR sells for $600. Ask yourself: Is having the latest phone worth spending the extra cash?
Invest in a health savings account.
For those unaware, a Health Savings Account (HSA) is a type of savings account in which you can deposit funds, tax-free, straight from your paycheck for the purpose of paying medical expenses. And what might slip under the radar is the fact that, in many cases, you can use your HSA card to pay for a whole host of over-the-counter convenience store products, including contact lens solution, sunscreen, laxatives, condoms, fertility tests, bandages, hot patches, shoe insoles, and lip balm. You get the same products for the same price—but you get to pay for them using pre-taxed money.
Set up a 529 for your kids.
For those planning to send their children off to college eventually, investing in a 529, or a "qualified tuition plan," is among the best money-saving moves out there. With this savings plan, you can allocate tax-free money straight from your paycheck into the account for your child's college tuition and other related expenses. Each state has its own laws about how much money you can contribute, and they can be anywhere from $235,000 per beneficiary to $529,000 per beneficiary, according to Investopedia.
Upgrade your streaming accounts to a family plan (and share with others).
Make a deal with a sibling or a friend to trade your Netflix password for their Hulu password, or vice versa. That $10 a month might seem like pocket change, but over time, you're saving hundreds of dollars every year simply by sharing!
Instill a mandatory waiting period.
Human impulse is a powerful creature, so be wary whenever you're overcome with an I-have-to-go-home-with-this-today feeling for an expensive item. Wait two or three days and, if you still crave it, go back and buy it. If the feeling has passed—hey, you just avoided wasting money on something you don't really love!
Buy your clothing during the off-season.
As clothing retailers cycle through seasons, they have to get rid of old merchandise to make way for what's new. That means swimwear, skirts, and short-sleeved everything will be marked down come October. Similarly, you can expect anything cozy or puffy to have a slashed ticket price around late April. Of course, shopping with this method means you'll have to steer clear of trends and focus on the classics, but the money you'll save is worth it.
Optimize your electricity consumption.
When you leave the house or stop using something, make sure to turn it off or unplug it. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that households spend, on average, $165 per year on electricity for items that aren't even being used!
Get a new fridge.
Investing in an EPA Energy Star-certified fridge can save you hundreds of dollars. For instance, if you have an old French door model—side-by-side on top, with a drawer freezer on bottom—swap it out for a newer, energy efficient model, and you can save around $150 per year. For more on how it affects you, the EPA has an easy-to-use calculator.
Get a plugged-in thermostat.
Those smart thermostats might be expensive, but the ends justify the means. According to research conducted by the elevated thermostat company Nest, switching your regular analog thermostat to the always-plugged-in Nest (or any other smart thermostat) can save you up to $145 in energy costs per year.
Pay more than the minimum.
The average American, according to Experian's 2019 annual survey, is saddled with $6,194 of credit card debt. Let's say your card has a standard interest rate (15 percent) and you make the standard monthly payments ($100). At that rate, it would take you 120 months to pay off the card. Bump those monthly payments up to $125, and you're staring down a comparatively much shorter 78 months, while $150 payments will bring you down to 59 months. Since annual percentage rates (APRs), minimum payments, and the like can be confusing, consider consulting a credit card debt calculator for advice.
Dodge shipping fees.
As any frequent online shopper will attest, shipping fees can pile sky high. But with a keen eye and some digging, you can avoid paying them altogether. For instance, Crate & Barrel, Nordstrom, and menswear retailer Bonobos all offer free shipping. And if you're willing and able, you'll find that most medium- to large-scale retailers (including Target) offer free shipping to a brick-and-mortar location near you.
Everyone loves a good discount. But when it comes to online shopping, tracking down deals can be like finding a needle in a very messy haystack. Enter Honey, an app that will find discounts for you. It's a Google Chrome plug-in that scours the web for codes and, when you check out, will automatically apply any applicable ones to your order. Cha-ching!
Sign up for rewards programs.
These days, most chains have rewards programs of some sort. And by neglecting to sign up—a painless process that generally requires little more than your name and email address—you're essentially wasting money by not claiming it. Some of the best rewards programs out there include Target Circle, AMC Stubs Insider, and CVS ExtraCare.
Switch to an ATM-reimbursing bank.
Online banks, like Ally, don't have ATMs. As such, they'll pay your withdrawal fees, so you can hit up ATMs at any bank without having to fret about pesky fees.