There is nothing easy about saving money. There are plenty of things to spend our money on and our income is normally quite fixed. In this early part of the new year, we thought we would put together a few of our favorite ways to stash away just $75 with minimal effort. Take a look and see if there is a trick you may not have tried before. Happy saving!
1). Hack your grocery list.
Personally, I love going to the grocery store with a blank slate and buying things that seem I would like to eat. This is probably the least responsible way to shop for groceries and has lead to me returning home with a lot of stuff that seemed like it was a great idea at the time (coconuts on sale – better buy 2!) but which are hard to make into meals. The actual hack here is to sit down, think about your week and how many meals you will have at home and then build out a list from those items. You can also check for deals at your local store before you leave so that you can incorporate those items into your plan for the week. This should take about 10 mins of work and could easily save you $20 in avoided expenses at the store.
2). Don’t buy anything on Amazon.
They completely changed commerce globally, but Amazon is also extremely good about nudging me to buy something that I might not need. Trying to go cold-turkey with Amazon can be very difficult, but my approach might help – force a good habit with the use. Amazon has great data on all of the purchases that you have made over the course of your relationship with the e-commerce site and with a few quick steps you can compile the data to show how much you have spent with them:
Step 1: Log into your Amazon account
Step 2: Select “Account & Lists” at the top right of the website
Step 3: Select “Download order reports”
Step 4: Select “2019” from the “Quick Set Options”
Step 5: Select “Request Report”
This will generate a CSV file that you can open in Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets or iOS Numbers and it will display every item you have purchased in 2019 by line with a description and cost. If you are brave you can even sum the column to figure out your total spend at Amazon in 2019, which for me was $1,823. Now, with your number in hand, write it out on a post-it note and affix it to the monitor on your computer. If that doesn’t help you second guess that next purchase on Amazon and I am not sure what will. The total time to organize this task is 5 mins and it could easily save you from buying one $50 item in a month.
3). Try Cash.
You might have forgotten about paper money amongst the sea of options out there to use for buying things, but in 2020 cash is still around! One of the simplest hacks for saving a bit of money is one I am fully stealing from my very savvy sister.
Living in a large city, it is super easy to snag an extra $5 coffee or a super fancy salad for $20 without going out of your way. If you pay for everything on your credit or debit card, the aggregate effect of those extra purchases isn’t immediately felt until you get your monthly statement (or get a smart notification from your finance app…). To fight the constant pull of premium coffee and crazy lunch breaks, my sister heads to the ATM every Monday and takes out her “weekly allowance” in cash. This money needs to cover all of her caffeine and lunch breaks for the entire week, making small adjustments on the way as she sees fit. If she makes a big dinner on Tuesday night and brings in leftovers on Wednesday for lunch the funds allotted for lunch on Wednesday can roll over to Thursday. Conversely, if she needs to grab a fancy lunch with a friend from college and overspends for the day she can make adjustments for the rest of the week to get on track.
I love this trick because of its simplicity and for the fact that it breaks the massive task of “managing your spending” into a specific group of expenses that can be controlled. The total time to organize this task is maybe 30mins over the course of the week, but you could easily save $25 in a single week. Thanks, sis!
4). Let’s sell one thing.
It has never been easier to sell something you no longer use than it is today. The trick is to first try and figure out if you have something that you can part with and if it would sell. We are aiming to put together $75 so you should aim for either two items that are in the $30-35 range or one larger/pricier item to start. Sports equipment that you haven’t used in a while can be a great place to start your search for things to sell, and items like outdoor jackets and fleeces can command great resale values. With a few items selected from among the things, you have decided that you can part with step one is making sure it’s in good shape – if it’s equipment or a hard good make sure you have cleaned it properly and if it’s clothing make sure you take the time to put it through the wash. Now it’s time to take a few photos. These don’t need to be artful – just a well lit and honest representation of the item is all you need. With the item prepped and with a few photos on file, you now just need to do some quick searching around to establish a price! I recommend figuring out which platform you are going to use to sell your item and then use that platform for any price comparisons.
Some great places to sell your extra stuff:
Craigslist – The original and still a great way to sell items locally.
eBay – Massive audience but there are fees when selling an item.
Facebook Marketplace – Sell stuff to people you know!
thredUP – The largest online thrift store for clothing.
Poshmark – A great place for selling high fashion items.
The procedures for selling on each platform differs slightly but if you took good photos and priced your item appropriately based on the pricing of similar items in the space, you should be able to sell those few items in under a week – often from the comfort of your own home. The total time to sell something online (or in-person) shouldn’t be more than 1.5hrs but you could possibly hit your entire $75 target without doing any of the other tasks!
5). Use shopping carts.
I advocate of shopping carts whenever you are shopping for the reduction in stress on your lower back, but here I would like to talk about virtual shopping carts. If you are like me, you often find yourself cruising your favorite vendors online, maybe with a purchase in mind, maybe just to look around. Maybe they finally have that item in stock that they never seem to have in your size and you just need to snag it. You add it to your shopping cart and then you are hit with a momentary realization that although it might just be the finest sweatshirt ever made and it might sell out if you don’t buy it this minute – you actually probably don’t need it. You leave that site and grab something from the fridge. Sweatshirt sale a complete failure. This is where the trick comes in. In 2020 there are entire companies built around the idea that a person who has placed an item in a virtual shopping cart can be convinced to buy that item. These are the heroes of the Abandoned Shopping cart and they are here to use the full suite of technological magic to turn that abandoned item into a sale if it’s the last thing they do.
It will start with an innocent “reminder email” normally something with a subject line like:
“Hey! Did you forget something?!”
This email might make you think that, Yes, maybe I did mean to buy that sweatshirt in the moment and completely forget. If the non-purchase decision was intended however, this “favor” they are providing probably won’t bring you back – and it shouldn’t. The trick here is that sending you emails to remind you about a purchase that you almost made but didn’t but could costs the company almost nothing. After giving those first few emails the cold shoulder you will probably start seeing an email like this:
“20% off your first purchase at XYZ!”
The trick here is that holding out on making a purchase that you have already told a vendor you are interested in can yield meaningful discounts. From the vendor’s standpoint they knew you were close to making that purchase and if they have to lose a bit of margin to make that sale happen – it’s still a sale. Converting you to a sale is far cheaper and easier than trying to find a brand new customer, so let the discounts roll in and keep saving! The total time to sell something online (or in-person) shouldn’t be more than 1.5hrs but you could possibly hit your entire $75 target without doing any of the other tasks! If we are honest, you are probably already doing this savings hack without thinking about it. But know that this rule is on your radar, spend a few minutes thinking about some purchases that you know you want to make and add them to your virtual shopping carts and see what happens. It might take a few total minutes of your time but could easily save you a big part of your $75 savings goal.
Protip – If there is a large list of things that you would want to buy but only at certain price points, you should check out the Honey chrome extension which does that price tracking for you.
6). Round-Ups via Astra.
Spending money is part of our everyday lives but saving money isn’t. The diligent amongst us try and set aside money every month for long term savings and for use in case of emergencies, but that sort of financial organization can take a bit of planning. At Astra, we are working every day to build clever software solutions that leverage automation to make the management of your cash flow simple and intuitive. Through our free mobile application, you can link your financial accounts together to see balances and create rules that move money between accounts based on triggers. One of the routines offered through the application is Round-ups where you specify an account that is to be tracked for spending activity, an account where funds should be sourced and then an account where funds can be sent. Your routine might look like this:
You keep spending like you normally do, coffee here, sandwich there and for each of those transactions, a small amount of money (the difference between the cost and the next whole dollar) is calculated and added to a running weekly balance of Round-ups. Then at the end of the week, that total Round-Up amount is transferred from your source account to your destination account. Savings on autopilot organized between the accounts you already have! Setting up an Astra account takes as little as 3 mins and setting up the Round-Ups routine is even faster. Depending on your spending habits you could be well on your way to your $75 savings goal in a few short weeks!
Hopefully, we have highlighted a few new ways that you can painlessly put aside $75 in as little as a few weeks, without making massive changes to your lifestyle. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year and if there are things that Astra can do to further help you with your finances please let us know!