The 9 Best Money-Saving Personal Finance Hacks

published Jan 23, 2020
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When it comes to money, little changes can add up to big dividends. A small shift in the way you think about money, or how you spend and save it, can make a major difference in your life, helping you reach goals you once thought impossible.

Not that small shifts are easy. (Really, nothing is easy when it comes to money.) It takes foreward thinking and discipline to change your financial habits, even in the tiniest ways. So you really ought to take every shortcut or mental trick that you can.

Here, we’ve rounded up nine of the best money-saving hacks. Each one is designed to change the way you act or think to give you a little leg up on deciding where your money goes day after day and year after year.

Take the 30-Day $100 Savings Challenge

With just a few dollars a day, you can save $100 in one month. This printable month-long savings chart shows you how, by squirreling away $1 to $5 per day, in whatever order you’re able. Doing this challenge early on in the year will show you that saving a significant chunk is probably not as hard as it seems. Small daily sacrifices add up to big savings over not that much time.

Create and display money jars for your savings goals

You know what works? Good, old-fashioned “piggy bank” jars, with masking tape labels. When you can see money adding up, you not only won’t be tempted to spend it, but you’ll be motivated to put add more money to what you can see. Use jars to collect your spare coins and bills, but also to keep your savings goals and the money you’re allocating to them right in front of you, no app or spreadsheet necessary. No goal is too big or small for your goal jars, whether it’s your a trip to Europe or the new rug you’ve been eyeing.

Try the money envelope system

The idea behind this back-to-basics method is that by allocating physical cash to each of your budget items, you can’t possibly go over budget. At the beginning of the month, designate an envelope (or use a money envelope wallet) for each of your expenses and divvy up the cash you have into the envelopes. When the money is gone, it’s gone. You’ll think twice about each and every purchase when you experience the “pain” of parting with money and watching the amount in the envelope dwindle. This method may be a good fit for new budgeters or those who want to get a better handle on their spending.

Add reminders to your planner

Make notes to transfer money to savings and put them on your calendar or in your planner. You can leave a generic dollar sign sticker on (or before) pay day to remind you to make a deposit into your savings account. Or try stickers tied to savings challenges that prompt you to save a certain sum every week, make it impossible to forget taking those little steps that add up to achieving big savings goals.

Begin the $5 Bill System

This money-saving hack involves saving every single $5 bill you come across and never touching it. The method only works if you use mostly cash to pay for things. Though you could use any bill amount you choose, $5 is ideal because it’s small enough to not make much of a dent in your budget when you pull it out for savings, but it’s large enough to add up quickly.

Pay down debt with the debt snowball

The most financially sound way to pay down debt is called the “avalanche” method, where you focus on paying off your highest-interest debts, thereby saving yourself the most money paying compound interest. But if you’re somebody who’s more inspired by short-term victories and getting to the finish line quickly, the “debt snowball” method might be a better fit. The snowball method prescribes listing your debts from smallest to largest and paying off the smallest first as you continue to make minimum payments toward the rest. Once you pay off a debt, you add that minimum payment amount to the minimum payment on the next debt you’ll pay off. You’re snowballing your minimum payments without ever having to increase your total debt payment output (although if you can, by all means, do!).

Commit to a no-spend challenge

It’s true: The best way to save money is to not spend it. But that phrase sometimes proves to be a bit too broad to implement in our daily lives. Instead, choose a category of something to not spend money on for a specified length of time—like not eating at restaurants for a month, or not buying clothes for a year (or a season). That strategy gives you no-spend parameters you can work with, and still adds up to significant chunks of cash.

Rate your spending with the 1-2-3 system

To view her spending in a fresh light, Certified Financial Planner Shannah Compton Game describes how she gives every purchase a 1, 2, or 3 rating at the end of every day or week: She assigns a “1” rating to purchases that didn’t make her feel good, a “2” rating to things that felt “sort of good but indifferent,” and a “3” for dollar amounts that she would spend all over again in a heartbeat. It’s a mindful way to ferret out the expenses that you could cut.

Put the words in front of you

Displaying a quote that will help guide you toward your financial goals is one of the simplest ways to keep you on track. You could remind yourself of a simple habit you’d like to implement, such as “Pay yourself first!” written across a note stuck to your computer, or jotted across the budgeting page of your bullet journal. Or you could go with something more high level like Thoreau’s reminder that “That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest,” which reminds you to enjoy the little things that money can’t buy.