To help dig you out of the broke hole, we looked to finance guru Kelly P. Hernandez, the founder and CEO of FinanceChic.com, a personal-finance site for women. A follow-up to another of Hernandez’s stories, the Lazy Girl’s Guide to Saving Money, this collection of tips and tricks is specifically tailored to gals whose nest eggs are more quail-sized than ostrich-level. Read on, and save big.
Make Your Memberships MORE Exclusive — When you were younger, you probably spent a lot of time worried about whether you belonged to the right social groups. And, considering how that oftentimes generated more stress than sleepover invitations, try to avoid them when it comes to your finances. Go through your credit card bills, review the charges to find those automatic-billed memberships and services, and figure out the ones you really need. Maybe your gym and Netflixkeep you healthy and sane, but do you really need those three beauty subscription box brands as well as that premium radio membership when you only listen to Beyoncé? Free trials have a habit of sneaking their way into your regular monthly expenses. Reviewing these charges and canceling the ones you don’t use will save you lots over time.
Get On An All-Cash Diet — Spending cash is the easiest way to enforce a budget, especially for expenses you incur while away from home. But, while building up your credit history is important if you’re planning on taking out loans or applying for more lines of credit in the future, it sometimes counts to take a hard look at whether credit cards are worth it if they’re only causing you to spend more. Tally up how much you can afford to spend every two weeks, and withdraw that amount. Use ONLY that cash to pay for items in those categories, and when it’s gone, you’re out of luck until the next withdrawal date! Tough love gets results.
Spring-Clean When There’s Still Snow On The Ground — Call all your girlfriends — this one is more fun with their help. Organizing your closets and drawers can be an incredible money saver, and it could even be a money maker if your clothes are in good enough condition to sell. Clean through the clutter, and re-acquaint yourself with everything in your wardrobe. This will help you spend less because you’ll know what you have, so you don’t buy duplicates, and you’ll also know what you don’t want any more, so you can sell or donate those pieces… Try Threadflip, Tradesy,Twice, or Poshmark to earn cash for all those items in your discard pile.
One-Day No-Fun Day — Commit to one day a week (or every two weeks, if that sounds too harsh) when you don’t spend any money. Meet your girlfriends out for a walk, host a leftovers potluck at your apartment, clear your Netflix queue — get creative. Your no-spend day may end up being one of the most fun days of the week! If you do this regularly, the habit may seep into other days as well, and you can have fun watching all the savings pile up.
Be Clever About Paying Off Your Student Loans — Besides making your payments early, the easiest option to lower your outstanding balance is through a surprisingly simple (and free!) service offered by Upromise. Before you make any online purchases, visit this site and then use a link from Upromise to access the original site you wanted. Just that extra click will give you a percentage of the money you spent back in the form of a reduction on your student-loan balance. For example, you’ll get 6% back from TOMS, 5% from Banana Republic, 5% from Bloomingdale’s, and up to 8% back from certain restaurants. Upromise has partnered with more than 30,000 vendors to help you make saving those hard-earned dollars a reality. Paying off your student loan while shopping? Dreams really do come true.
Consolidate Your Bank Accounts & Credit Cards — We all know that two heads are better than one, but most of the time, one bank is better than many — especially if you’re not the most organized accountant in the world. Consolidate your accounts into one bank and your credit cards into one card, and you are more likely to avoid common, sneaky savings sappers: late fees, penalties, service charges, and annual fees. You also have a better chance of negotiating lower interest rates and occasional fee waivers with this strategy. Check out bank promotions to take advantage of any offers for cash incentives to bring in new money — Money Crashers has a good current list here. Same goes with credit cards: New-card bonus offers can increase the benefit you see when consolidating cards, and you can easily compare offers at CreditCards.com.
Be Your Own Tax Pro — Don’t be intimidated into spending hundreds of dollars on a tax professional. Prepare and file your own taxes, and you can save money in the short term on the tax prep and likely save much more in the long term as you better understand your financial profile and learn how to lower next year’s tax bill. If you earned $58,000 or less in 2013, makeMyFreeTaxes your first stop, where you can prepare and file federal and state returns at no cost. For most other scenarios, use tax-prep software, which will cost between $0 to $70 depending on your needs. Finally, a caveat: If you’re freelancing, running your own business, or have another complicated financial situation, spending cash on an accountant or tax pro may be helpful as you learn the ropes. But, if your taxes are pretty straightforward, just do them yourself.
Pretend Your Raise Never Happened — You worked hard. You kicked butt. You got a raise. You go, lady! Now, capitalize on those savings by immediately putting the difference into your bank account. You’re used to living off of less, so saving the increase shouldn’t cramp your lifestyle. Work with your payroll department or your bank to make this savings split automatic, and your account balance will increase faster than you might expect.
Click HERE to read more from Refinery29.