From beer helmets to sporks to this scarf-flask combo, sometimes the concept of “double duty” goes wrong (or at least kind of weird). Other times, it just clicks—like these hacks that simplify your life and save you money.
Having too much stuff often means you’re constantly wading through disorder, wasting time, to find what you’re looking for. (You know that panic when you’re late to work because you can’t find your favorite black pants, thanks to the sea of other black pants in your closet?) It can also mean you end up spending money replacing something that’s just gone missing in the mess. Think: the pack of stamps or batteries your junk drawer ate.
2. Go paperless.
Living among stacks of papers also makes it likely that something important goes missing—and hello, late fee. Converting to online statements, then setting up autopay, could also help you score a discount, says Donna Lubrano, a Newbury College professor and personal finance workshop leader.
That’s because many banks and utilities now charge for mailing paper bills. At $3 a month, like Lubrano’s bank charges, that’s a savings of almost $40 a year—not to mention the time it takes to open, pay and file or recycle.
3. Save and invest automatically.
Take saving and investing off your to-do list by setting up automatic transfers to your savings, retirement and regular investment accounts. This way, you’ll never forget a contribution or accidentally spend the money you meant to set aside. (Apps like Acorns make that easy with automatic Round-Ups and recurring investment options.)
4. Consolidate and/or refinance your student debt.
Consolidating combines all your debts into one new loan. If you have federal loans, your new interest rate will be a weighted average of your old loans’ rates—so this may not save you money outright. But if it makes it easier to consistently pay on time, that can help you avoid late fees, and have a ripple effect on your credit score and ability to land better interest rates in the future. With private loans, the lender will give you a new (hopefully lower) rate, based on your credit history.
You can often score even better terms by working with a private lender to refinance your federal and private student loans. Just keep in mind that if you’re a federal loan borrower, you may sacrifice certain benefits and consumer protections associated with federal loans, like flexible repayment and forgiveness plans. So do your homework to ensure the benefits outweigh the downsides.
5. Rethink your housing situation.
More house (or apartment) is more to clean, more to maintain, and, of course, more to pay for. And yet a recent study from Porch finds that the average house size is inching up every year.
Before you automatically buy or rent the biggest place you can afford, think through what you’ll do with the space. You may find that less is more when it comes to both the square footage and the payment—especially if that money could be better spent on your other financial goals.
6. Evaluate memberships and subscriptions.
Sometimes we sign up for new services—from meal kits and music streaming to treat boxes for our pets—on a whim or because they’re offering a free trial, but neglect to assess whether we’re really using them, points outs Certified Financial Planner Matthew Gaffey. Cancelling unnecessary subscriptions frees up cash every single month—and you’ll probably be glad those magazines (or other products) aren’t piling up on the counter anymore.
7. Plan your meals.
Stocking up on freezer and pantry staples and other ingredients you’ll need for the week—and even doing a little advance meal prep—is the oldest trick in the book for simplifying your life and slashing your food bill. But it’s worth revisiting if you’ve slacked off. Just a few minutes spent on the weekends looking ahead and shopping with a list at the grocery store can keep you from grabbing takeout yet again or having to make last-minute trips to the market for forgotten ingredients.
September 6, 2018