These are our top tips EVER to save even when you don’t have money to save. Get ready.
Saving when you don’t have money to budget
Chain your payments
When you’re ping-ponging your credit card limits and bank balances, keeping up with minimum payments and other bills can be a bear. Spice up your budgeting with some creative chaining and save the day. First, you’ll want to sleuth the details on all your credit cards and bank accounts. Which ones charge fees for withdrawals, and how much? Which ones have the lowest trasaction fees and interest rates? Then use one card to pay off another, and vice versa. For instance, if the minimum payment for the credit card is $200, and the mobile phone bill is $100, and the internet is $50, pay the minimum payment on the credit card first, then when that goes through, use the credit card to pay the mobile phone bill and the internet bill. Magical.
If you have a credit card that doesn’t charge fees for cash withdrawal (credit unions are great for that), you can take this a step further and pay your card down and then immediately deposit the money back into your bank account, keeping the interest lower since any new “purchases” typically fall under the 30-days rule, meaning they won’t accrue interest if you pay them off within that period.
Minimize recurring expenses
You can save a considerable amount of money by reevaluating your monthly expenses. Many subscriptions and services offer significant discounts for longer plans (quarterly or yearly vs. monthly), which is one great way to save, but you can go even further by getting creative with free trials, especially if you have a few different emails and credit cards. Not necessarily the best way to go, but if you’re super tight, it is a way to cut corners. (Use your best judgement when applying this tactic, we don’t by any means recommend unlawful activity in the name of “budget hacking.”)
Beyond that, find alternative ways of restructuring any subscription-based services you do have. Instead of cable, do Netflix or a similar service. Instead of home phone, do a next-gen VoiP like the Ooma Telo (totally revolutionary and awesome). Instead of “normal” mobile phone service plus data, do a data plan only with that VoiP, too. There are lots of creative ways to majorly reduce the amount of payments going out every month.
Purge and replace
Go through your things every so often and determine what stuff just isn’t getting enough use. Resell those things, or give them away. Just having less clutter can be a major head-clarity kind of thing, but if you can make some cash in the process also, more power to you. Amazon and Craigslist are your friends (and the local charity, too). You can even go so far as to do a “capsule wardrobe” (if you haven’t heard of these, do a Google–they’re awesome).
Also, find cheaper brands of consumables that do a close enough job to be worth switching to. For instance, store brand cereal is sometimes HALF the price of name brands. However, some versions are just plain disgusting, and ain’t nobody got time for that. It may take a little trial and error (or sourcing friends), but switching a few consumables out for cheaper alternatives can have quite a positive impact on your budget.
Budget in happiness
I know, that sounds really cliche. But here’s how. Every year, we get family memberships to places like the local zoo and aquarium and children’s mueseum, places that have lots for all of us to do and see. This is a benefit because 1) we don’t have to keep paying entry fees every time we visit, and 2) we have something really epic and fun to do anytime we want, regardless of our financial status on that given day. The only cost is getting there (we pack sandwiches and drinks if we’ll be out over a mealtime).
If you can’t even afford memberships, research your area. Find some new parks or malls or wooded paths to explore together. Just getting out somewhere you haven’t been before (or haven’t been in a while) can be an adventure, and the change of scenery is always a morale boost for the whole clan.
One of our favorite budget hacks as of late has been the Ooma Telo. Sounds crazy, but this little countertop gadget can save you hundreds on bills just by restructuring your phone system a bit… And it’s so much smarter than your normal home phone, too. Blacklist unwanted callers so you never hear from them again, take your calls with you everywhere (Ooma has an app that acts as an alternate phone), and integrate with smart home products you already own. So much intelligence in such a small package.
It would have been awesome if the Ooma Telo was around a few years ago when we first started budget hacking–it would have made so many aspects of our transition to cheaper living SO much easier.
We love that this sleek, inconspicuous base can transform your entire home communication system. One of our favorite features is the ability to send calls to the app. Since we do most things mobile, streamlining this part of our lives is key, and Ooma does it brilliantly.
Ooma is doing a sweepstakes right now to give one lucky winner an Ooma Telo, one year of Premier Service, a Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector and one LIFX and Philips Hue smart light bulbs. If you’d like to enter, click this link to calculate how much you could be saving on your phone bill, and leave the answer as a comment below. We’ll be submitting the entries to Ooma at the end of the campaign on July 18, and they will contact the winner.
Good luck! And feel free to add your best budget-hacking tips, we’d love to extend our repertoire! :)