According to a report by Business Insider, fewer than 50% of all Americans have a full month’s salary saved up in case of emergencies. Seeing that being laid off or needing unexpected car repairs can set you back as much as a month’s salary pretty easily, that’s a problem.
Revolving credit is fine for business investments like inventory financing, but maybe you’d rather not be forced to rely on personal credit cards or a 203k loan when times get tough. For life’s bigger expenses, from buying a home with a realtor to getting an anniversary gift from the local jeweler, having your own savings set back is a must.
No matter where you are on your personal financial journey, it’s important first of all to know that it’s possible for anyone to change the course of their financial future with a few good finance tips.
It goes without saying that not all of these finance tips will apply for everyone. But if you find a few, or even just one, that really work for you — that can be enough to change your life.
To learn the best finance tips for saving money fast, keep reading.
Cut Out Cable
With the increase in options and popularity of streaming services, more and more people have made the leap from paying for television every month to cutting it out of their budget.
But cutting the cord to cable TV isn’t the only way to benefit from changing your media habits. By watching less television, you save money on electricity because you aren’t using that enormous screen as much. You expose yourself to fewer splurge-inducing ads. If you opt to keep your cable but downgrade your subscription, you can spend less on that. Finally, spending less time on TV means more time for other things, such as a side hustle (which can be the best of all finance tips).
Stop Collecting and Start Selling
Back before Bitcoin was all the rage, some people thought that collecting certain items would make them rich someday after they were no longer produced. Sadly, the hype rarely paid off, with many people stuck with toys and collectibles they bought in the 90s sitting in boxes in their attics.
If you’re still engaged in collecting knickknacks of questionable value, now would be a good time to stop so you can put that money to better use. And if you have large collections of things lying around, you should begin selling them off so the money can be put towards your finance goals. Don’t worry about it if you feel like you could be making more from them. They aren’t making any money while they sit on the shelf.
Use the 30-Day Rule
When it comes to personal finance tips, avoiding instant gratification is one of the most important lessons to learn. One simple way to do this is to follow the 30-day rule: never spend on a purchase that you haven’t budgeted for unless you’ve given yourself 30 days to decide whether you really need it or not.
It often turns out that once the full month has passed, you don’t experience the desire anymore. You’ll have saved yourself not only the money you would have spent but the buyer’s remorse that would have followed. On the other hand, if you still want it after one month, you can rest assured that it’s something truly important to you, and you can buy it knowing you’re likely to enjoy it for a good long time.
Never Go Shopping Without a List (and Never Buy Things That Aren’t on It)
You would be surprised how effective these kinds of finance tips can be. By only going shopping when you have a list to guide your purchasing decisions, you’ll enjoy a much lower possibility of buying things you can’t afford.
Of course, this rule will only be helpful to you if you also apply rule #2: only buy what’s actually on the list. These finance tips are a great way to curb impulse buys and buyer’s remorse!
Invite Friends Over Instead of Going Out
Here are more great finance tips: it’s always cheaper to stay indoors and entertain guests at home than it is to buy food and drinks in town. In a similar vein, consider waiting for movies to come out on streaming or rental services, instead of going to see them at the theater.
Minimize Spending on Children’s Entertainment
The children’s entertainment industry pulls in millions upon millions of dollars each year, and they certainly don’t need what’s in your pocket. For one thing, most children don’t need much to be entertained — young kids especially are notorious for wanting to watch the same movie on repeat for days, and playing with the same toy for hours on end without getting bored.
For another thing, what kids really want isn’t your money, but your time. Take them places where admission is free; play ball at the park or in the backyard; finally teach them to ride their bike without training wheels. Or you can combine fun with education to get twice as much value out of each dollar spent, with things such as music lessons or visits to museums.
As you can see, good finance tips and good parenting advice often go hand in hand!
Clear Out Your Closets and Sell Unused Items
The benefits of these finance tips are two-fold. First of all, cleaning out your closets and drawers often takes a weight off your mind, and the freed-up space can create the psychological benefit of feeling in control and de-cluttered.
The more obvious second benefit is that you can put what you no longer need to good use by holding a garage sale or dropping it off at a resale shop. Or even if you just donate it, you can still save money with the tax deduction. This way you can turn any old stuff you don’t want anymore into cash in your pocket.
Avoid Fast Foods
Instead of going out to the nearest burger joint or warming up a microwaveable dinner, try cooking simple meals that you can prepare ahead of time. Just one hour spent on the weekends can result in a surprising amount of pre-made snacks and meals for the rest of the week. You should also consider using a crockpot to cook meals on the weekdays that are cheap and easy. When you do go all out with a casserole or similar dish, make two or three times the usual amount so you can save the rest for later.
The health benefits are obvious — eating homemade is almost always healthier than eating convenience food, even if you don’t make a particular effort to be health-conscious. But the financial benefits are there, too: foods cooked from scratch are much cheaper than prepared meals or restaurant dishes.
For those times when you simply can’t avoid going out to eat, at least try to maximize your savings with coupons and a credit card that rewards you for buying at restaurants. Just make sure you only spend within your budget so you don’t end up with interest on your credit card.
Give Up Smoking
Health tips and finance tips are often closely tied together, too.
Over recent years, many people have given up smoking with the help of incentivized and accessible programs pushed by health institutions. If you’re still smoking out of habit, you already know that this is not only expensive but potentially deadly, too.
To save a boatload of money (and add years to your life), the best thing you can do for yourself is to give up smoking altogether. If you can’t find it in yourself to quit cold turkey, you could try one of the many anti-smoking products and systems on the market. Even if you just lower the amount of smoking you do, you’ll be much better off.
Keep the Lights Turned Off
Not all the time, of course. But you would be surprised how much it can help your finances over time if you simply remember to turn off the light every time you leave a room. During the day when there’s plenty of natural light, you might be able to avoid using the lights at all. Be sure and turn them off when you leave the house, except for just one lamp in a front window if you’re worried about intruders.
The bottom line for this finance tip is if you’re not actively using a light, turn it off.
Use LED or CFL Lightbulbs
Along with our last point of using the lights in your house less, why not also set them up so they use less energy when they are in use?
Energy-efficient bulbs may cost extra to begin with, but they quickly make up for this with their long lifespan and low power consumption.
CFL bulbs use a quarter of the electricity incandescent bulbs do, and they last for years. In terms of price, they’re most comparable to incandescent bulbs. However, they take some extra time to warm up to full brightness, and they also contain trace amounts of mercury.
LED bulbs are more expensive than CFLs, but they reach full brightness instantly when turned on, they don’t produce significant heat, and they can last for tens of years.
You don’t have to replace every lightbulb in your house to enjoy some of these benefits, of course. If you like, you could start replacing your incandescent bulbs as they go out, and gradually you’ll have energy-efficient, eco-friendly, permanent lighting all throughout your home.
Make Full Use of Yard Sales
Yard sales and garage sales present great opportunities to save on everyday items that you need to buy anyway. From housewares to clothing to sports equipment, visiting yard sales once every month or so can help you get what you need for much less than you’d have to pay for it new.
The only thing you really have to remember here is that you must limit yourself to only the things you need to buy. (Remember our tip about only going shopping with a list?) Don’t use the low prices at a garage sale as an excuse to spend extra money.
Use a Programmable Thermostat
One of the best finance tips for cutting power usage is to get a programmable thermostat from your local HVAC service. By setting your thermostat to automatically heat or cool your home at specific times, you can lower the amount of energy you use for your HVAC system without having to monitor it constantly. This way precious energy isn’t being wasted while you’re at work or asleep.
Only Buy Quality Appliances
If one of your appliances suddenly hits the dust and you’re forced to invest in a new one, it’s a good idea to do your research before buying. It can be tempting to buy the cheapest option at the store. After all, we’re trying to save money, right? But you should resist the temptation. Doing your research and “splurging” on a high-quality, reliable machine is almost always worth it in the long run.
You may pay more up front, sure. But more expensive appliances tend to be more energy efficient, and they last longer. If you get the right one, even though it’s costly at first, it can save you a lot more money than buying the cheapest one would have.
Finally, when you go to buy a new appliance, first sign up for a credit card with a generous signup bonus. For example, some cash back cards give you double points on purchases made in the first six months if you spend a certain amount. This can be a helpful boost to offset the cost of your expensive appliance purchase.
Avoid Stress Spending
For some people, spending money is a form of relaxation. After a stressful day at work, some find it easy to justify spending to wind down. Obviously, this can have some bad consequences for your financial psychology. If you train yourself to find spending money relaxing, you may end up with a habit that’s tough to break, all the while spending money on things that aren’t in your budget.
Instead, find other ways to wind down after a tough day. Meditation, exercise, and even good old-fashioned naps are great options. Even reading or watching movies can help you chill out.
If the temptation to spend arises, remind yourself that in the long run, giving into that temptation will only cause more stress, not less.
Cancel Unused Memberships
Do you have a gym membership you never use? How about that Netflix subscription that you only use once or twice a month?
If you’re on the fence about certain membership services, or if you never use them at all, cancel them to keep from getting charged. If you have several streaming services but don’t watch that much TV (good on you for following that finance tip from earlier!), you might find it’s more cost-effective to cut out streaming service altogether and rent specific movies and shows that you actually want to see.
As far as gym memberships go, it’s great to work out, but consider doing it at home to maximize savings.