30 easy money hacks to get a little richer every single day this month
Managing your finances and making smart money moves is a marathon, not a sprint. That's because there are always better ways to save cash, invest wisely and pay down debt strategically.
Now that spring is in full bloom, you'll want to look for ways to shake off your winter sluggishness and get ahead with your finances. Think of it as financial spring cleaning.
One big way to get a little richer? Follow these tips for saving on your taxes when you file by April 18. To help you out even more, here are 30 tips — one for each day in the month of April.
1. Buy a discount gift card
Sam's Club, Costco, eBay, and online sites like CardCash sell gift cards for less than face value. Savings on some cards is as high as 20%, according to CNBC. Use the discounted gift cards to get that savings on your total purchase, especially if you shop with coupons that cannot be combined with discount offers. Be careful to avoid cards that tack on fees and thus cut into savings.
2. Shop generic
Three Thrifty Guys calculated that a cart full of generic groceries costs only about $42, versus more than $56 for the same brand-name products. The quality, taste and ingredients are usually the same. Why pay more for something that provides no extra benefit?
3. Fill up your fridge and freezer
Are your fridge and freezer empty but for a few jars of old condiments? You're actually paying more to cool empty space and losing more cold air than you should when you open the door. "Freezers operate most efficiently when they are full," according to Aurora Energy. Want to save on utilities but don't have tons of food? Fill jugs of water and stick them in your fridge and freezer.
4. Get a free educational credit score
Bad credit means higher interest rates and higher insurance costs. Sign up to services like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame to monitor your educational score and find ways to improve. Both explain factors affecting your credit and have features like a score simulator showing how different actions could impact your score. And if you don't know your "real" score, here's how to get it.
5. Check eligibility for an HSA or FSA
Flexible spending accounts — offered through an employer — and health savings accounts — which you can open yourself — save you money on healthcare by allowing you to pay with pre-tax funds for qualifying care costs, including the purchase of some over-the-counter products. Talk to HR about putting money into an FSA or open an HSA at a bank or brokerage firm.
6. Review fees on your investment accounts
If you're investing in expensive funds in your 401(k), you could be losing big. Fees may not seem like a big deal, but they add up over time: Even a 1% increase can add up to tens of thousands of dollars lost over time, according to an Investopedia analysis. Low-fee Vanguard funds or robo-advisors like Betterment help you avoid unnecessary costs. Make a change today to save.
7. Take old clothes or household items to Goodwill
Donating unwanted stuff has lots of benefits. You can declutter, help someone else and take a tax deduction for the estimated value of your donations. Women's sweaters could be worth around a $5-$15 tax deduction for each, while men's two-piece suits could earn you a deduction of up to $30. Keep the receipt the charity provides in case the IRS asks about your donation.
8. Make your own cleaning products
The average household spends $42 monthly on cleaning supplies: more than $500 a year or $5,000 over 10 years. That's a lot of money for products full of hazardous chemicals. Try your hand at making your own cleaning products with easy, environmentally-friendly recipes as simple as diluting vinegar.
9. Consider refinancing debt
Refinancing your student loans could save as much as five figures over your loan repayment period, depending on the size of your debt. But more than a third of borrowers don't even know they can refinance. Explore options for lowering your interest rate. Bonus tip: Credit card debt can also be refinanced too, so you could potentially lower rates on all your debt.
10. Install power strips for your electronics
The average home has around 50 devices constantly drawing power, with idle devices accounting for 25% of home energy use and $19 million in utility costs, according to data from the New York Times. Install a power strip and unplug your phone once it's charged to save on costs and reduce carbon emissions.
11. Plant a few small herbs in pots
Fresh herbs are an expensive grocery item, but a must if you like to cook. Plant your own for steady access to low-cost fresh ingredients. Savvy Gardening reported saving $102.89 from growing just six herb: chives, basil, cilantro, rosemary and dill. Herbs — like this one pot herb garden — can grow in an apartment window. They'll pretty up your place and let you cook for less.
12. Transfer $10 a week to your IRA
Starting to save for retirement doesn't have to cost a fortune. Just $10 a week invested over 45 years could turn into more than $165,000 by age 67. If you don't already have an Individual Retirement Account, opening one is easy. If you already have one, set up an automated transfer of cash from checking.
13. Swap out your shower head
All you need is a wrench, some teflon tape and a new shower head to swap out your money-wasting one. The switch could lower hot water costs for shower use by 43%, the Nebraska Energy Office estimates, for an annual savings of more than $32 if you pay a rate of .05 kWh. The higher your energy costs, the more you'll save.
14. Make yourself some visuals
"Because so many people are visual learners, it helps to actually see your money goals. Make a debt snowball thermometer for your fridge and color it in as you make more and more payments," Dave Ramsey advises. Break out your Sharpie markers or highlighters to make a visual you can update easily.
15. Sign up for a free online class
There are lots of free places online — like edX or Coursera — where you can learn valuable skills to advance your career, understand investing, or get better with money. You could also find online instructions for processes like car or computer repair so you can DIY instead of spending. Sign up for a no-cost course today to expand your mind.
16. Check your credit report for errors
Credit reports are surprisingly inaccurate. In fact, one in four consumers found an error on their report that could impact their credit score, according to a 2013 Federal Trade Commission Study. So review your report for mistakes. If you find an error, tell your credit reporting agency immediately and make sure it gets fixed, as a lower score can result in less favorable loan rates.
17. Organize a swap party
A clothing swap party can help you build a work wardrobe, while a book, movie, or media swap party will give you new sources of entertainment — all without spending a dime. Just invite over some friends and ask each person to bring some items they like, but are ready to trade.
18. Learn the difference between a Roth and traditional IRA
Consider diversifying by opening multiple types of IRAs for retirement savings. "A Roth IRA is a fabulous way to save for retirement because the money you invest grows without any taxation and there's no tax due when you take the money out," financial expert Jill Schlesinger said in a phone interview. Your income — and thus your tax rate — usually rises as you get older, so it likely makes more sense to pay taxes now, while your rate is relatively low.
19. Look at price per unit when you buy, not total price
When you're shopping, it's tempting to pick up the product with the lowest price. This isn't always best. Instead, compare unit prices, which you can calculate yourself to avoid misleading labels.
20. Calculate your net worth
Learn how to calculate your net worth to see where you stand. Knowing your net worth and watching it change over time is a good way to ensure you're making progress on financial goals.
21. Buy a slow-cooker on sale
You can purchase a slow cooker for as low as $10 at Target. It's a great option for nights you don't want to eat out or spend a lot of time cooking. Time is money, after all! Set it up in the morning before you leave for work and you'll have a low-cost meal waiting for you when you get home. There are many low-cost slow cooker recipes that allow you to make whole meals for less than $5.
22. Sign up for a cash-back site
If you're going to shop online, you may as well get cash back. Some cash-back sites are better than others. Consider Swagbucks, which offers a browser extension you can use to alert you to deals, or CouponCabin, which has offered deals like 7% cash back at Target, according to Lifehacker.
23. Ask your doctor about switching to generic medication
Generic drugs "are copies of brand-name drugs and are the same as those brand name drugs in dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics and intended use," according to the FDA. They just cost a lot less. An asthma user who swaps out albuterol for Ventolin, for example, could save $273 annually, according to Healthday.
24. Close vents in rooms you aren't using
Close your closet doors and close vents in rooms that you aren't using to avoid paying to heat and cool empty space. This can lower utility costs. "Compare the temperatures inside and outside of the sealed room. The greater the difference, the more you're saving," explained the Simple Dollar.
25. Know the best time to buy things
If you're thinking about any big purchases, check out the best time to buy so you can plan your purchase when you're likely to get the best deal. Mic's guide to the best time to buy big ticket items — like linens in January and luggage in March — can help you spend less through strategic timing.
26. Actually read your grocery store flyers
You probably get grocery store flyers in the mail, but don't read them. This week, take a look at what's on sale and plan meals that include discount items to cut your grocery bill substantially. You can eat healthy for less just by shopping more strategically.
27. Consider a side hustle
Your day job doesn't have to be your only source of income. Offer tutoring, edit college admissions essays, think about driving for a ride-sharing company, take on some consulting work in your industry or brainstorm other opportunities to find a lucrative side gig.
28. Look into term life insurance
You may not have a child or elderly parent depending on your caregiving services or income right now. You probably will one day, though. Consider cheap term life insurance while you're still young and healthy. "Buying life insurance as a single 25-year-old who plans to have children one day can be more affordable than waiting to purchase the insurance," according to US News & World Report.
29. Switch to cloth rags and napkins instead of paper
"The average family uses two rolls of paper towels per week, and at $14 for an 8-pack, you could be spending up to $182 a year for that convenience," AOL Finance warns. Stop throwing away money. Pick up shop towels at $3.47 for a 10-pack to pay less than $0.35 power towel. Consider cloth napkins too!
30. Open a savings account for something fun
Saving for retirement or an emergency is important, but hardly exciting. Open an account specifically for something fun, like an awesome vacation. You'll be more motivated to save for a goal you're looking forward to, and can enjoy doing Instagram-worthy activities — without going into debt.
Sign up for The Payoff — your weekly crash course on how to live your best financial life. Additionally, for all your burning money questions, check out Mic's credit, savings, career, investing and health care hubs for more information — that pays off.