I’m all about maximizing efficiencies at school and work, so it’s no surprise I look for ways to replicate these efforts in my financial life.
I’m always looking for financial life-hacks, and below are my three most effective ones for saving and paying off debt.
1. Make Your Credit Card Company Pay You
OK, so last time we talked, I said that using credit instead of cash is a budgeting mistake you should avoid. That’s still true if you’ve been using your credit card for unnecessary spending. In that case, skip this tip until you get your shopping habits under control
However, if you’ve mastered the art of not treating available credit like extra income, using a credit card can be an excellent way to organize your bills and get some free money. All you have to do is find a no-fee, cash-back rewards card and then automate your regular bills, like your cellphone, Netflix, and utilities, to it. This will not only ensure you never miss a due date (and face late fees), but it will also earn you cash back on things you’re buying anyway.
I get a check for $50 from my cash-back credit card about every 2 months, and I always set it aside for my emergency fund. That $50 is not a huge amount on its own, but it equals an extra $300 per year in savings—without working any extra hours or cutting spending elsewhere.
2. Use Cash, Then Keep The Change
Now that I have a regular income, I take out cash from my bank account every week for “fun” spending on things like coffee and dinners out. When the cash runs out, so does my fun. But more importantly, I save the change and small bills in an old-school piggy bank to use against my MBA student loans when I graduate.
Because Canada uses both $1 and $2 coins, a little bit of change will go a long way a year from now! My piggy bank holds about $400 to $600 when full, so if I drop in whatever weighs down my wallet every week, I’ll be able to make a big payment against my small graduate school loan a year from now without feeling the pinch.
Commit to putting away anything smaller than a $5 bill, and you’ll have hundreds of dollars in a matter of months.
3. Shop Where There’s Cash Back
You might already look online for deals and coupons, but have you tried rebate websites like Ebates?
Ebates offers you 1% to 5% cash back for shopping online at stores you probably already visit frequently, like Amazon. Couple this with a cash-back credit card, and next time you buy textbooks for school or a gift for mom and dad, you’ll likely earn 2%+ cash back on purchases you had to make anyway.
When it comes to spending, there’s never any reason to pay more than you have to; however, sometimes the secret isn’t finding a sale, but getting money back. Pocketing extra change and cash-back rewards will help you meet your savings and debt repayment goals faster without having to change any of your behavior.
Who said money management can’t be effortless?
What’s your favorite financial life-hack? Share it in the comments!