Life is hard, so we’re going to tell you how to make it easier.
In modern life, things tend to fall into one of two categories:
Things that are easy: Watching TV. Eating vanilla ice cream. Writing your own name.
Things that are hard: Losing weight. Chinese democracy. Saving money.
Oh yeah, saving money is hard, and Americans are getting worse and worse at it. Thanks to rising costs, stagnant salaries and student loan debt, we’re saving less than ever.
Saving a stash of cash doesn’t have to be so hard — if you know the right tricks.
Surprisingly Easy Ways to Save Money
Here are some money-saving strategies we bet you’ll find surprisingly easy.
1. Invest in the Stock Market
Investing sounds hard, doesn’t it? It’s not.
You don’t have to be Warren Buffett to be an investor. You don’t even have to follow the stock market, read The Wall Street Journal or watch CNBC.
Microinvesting apps offer easy, automatic ways to start investing — the “set it and forget it” method. Check these out:
- Stash lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000. Bonus: Penny Hoarders get $5 just for signing up!
- Acorns connects to your checking account, credit and debit cards to save your digital change. It automatically rounds up purchases with your connected cards and invests the digital change into your chosen portfolio. Bonus: Penny Hoarders get $5 just for signing up!
2. Keep Track of Your Credit
Paying attention to your credit can pay off, because your credit score might appear lower than it should be. One out of every five credit reports has an error in it, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission.
I don’t have time for this, you’re thinking. Hey, let Credit Sesame handle it. You have other things to do.
This free service monitors your credit for you. It shows your credit score and explains it to you. It shows your balances on any unpaid bills, credit cards or loans. And it offers personalized tips on reducing your debt and raising your credit score.
If there’s an error on your credit report, you can dispute any incorrect information.
3. Get a Better Deal on Car Insurance
Have you shopped around for a better deal on your car insurance lately? Bet you haven’t.
That’s because it sounds hard. It’s not, though.
The Zebra is an online car insurance search engine that compares your options from 204 providers in less than 60 seconds. When you’re ready to consider your options and select a quote, you can also receive a phone call from The Zebra for additional support.
4. Save on Home Insurance
It’s easy to get a free quote and see whether you can get a better deal on home insurance, but few of us bother to do so.
We recommend the online insurance company Lemonade, where homeowners insurance starts at $25 a month. Instead of profiting extra when it doesn’t have to pay out claims, the company keeps a set 20% of your premium for itself, and 80% goes into a pool for paying claims and charity.
Lemonade is available in Arizona, California, Connecticut Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.
Another innovator, Hippo, can supply you with a quote in 60 seconds — and a new policy in less than four minutes. By modernizing homeowners insurance, it charges up to 25% less than average industry prices.
Hippo is doing business in Arizona, California, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.
5. Save on Life Insurance
Shopping for life insurance isn’t as hard as you think it is. (When you’re done, you’ll say, “Wow, that was easy.”)
Life insurance is more important if you’re married or have children. In any case, you should at least consider a basic policy that would pay off your funeral, and mortgage or other debt.
To help you save money, new competitors in the industry are updating the old model.
If you’re young and mostly healthy, consider purchasing term life insurance online from Ethos. It partners with a major A-rated life insurance carrier to provide policies for a low price. For example, $30 a month could get your family $1 million of coverage.
Anyone, including independent contractors, can secure term life insurance through Ethos without a medical exam or extensive paperwork; just fill out a digital application.
If you prefer more options, head over to Policygenius. The search engine allows you to compare life insurance with instant quotes. Once you find the right fit, you can apply right online.
6. Refinance Your Credit Card Debt
So you have thousands of dollars in credit card debt, and the burden of paying off all that — and interest — is gobbling up your income.
Take out a debt consolidation loan. It’s a personal loan at a lower interest rate that you can use to pay off your high-interest credit cards.
You can save a ton of money — and it doesn’t have to be hard.
Instead of spending hours scouring the internet, you can go window-shopping at an online marketplace that’ll help pinpoint the best loan for you.
- Credible allows you to compare rates side-by-side from multiple lenders who are competing against each other for your business. It’s best for borrowers who have good credit scores and just want to consolidate their debt.
- Even Financial is similar to Credible but allows you to borrow more money and borrow it for a longer period of time — if that’s what you want to do.
7. Start an Emergency Fund
Starting an emergency fund is easy with Digit.
This innovative app saves your money without you having to lift a finger. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.
Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.
Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, Matt Wiley put more than $4,000 into his emergency fund.
If you need that emergency money, you’ll always have access to it within one business day.
Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.
8. Keep It Cookin’ All Day
Are you spending too much at restaurants or on delivery? We get it: You should probably stop dining out so much, but you’re also not in the mood to cook when you get home from work.
Get a slow cooker. They’re so easy to use that owning one will make you more likely to prepare meals at home.
“This fine 3- to 6-quart piece of stoneware revolutionized my meal planning and gave me valuable time back,” Penny Hoarder writer Stephanie Bolling advises in this roundup of cheap and tasty slow cooker recipes. “The high yield, low effort and cost make it a prime household staple for fellow Penny Hoarders.”
You can start the cooking process in the morning, so you won’t be overwhelmed and rushed for time when you come home from work in the evening.
9. Shut off That Light!
Turn off the lights. Shut them off whenever you leave your home — in fact, whenever you leave the room.
Incandescent and halogen light bulbs are the least efficient kinds of lighting, so to maximize the savings on your power bill, you should turn them off whenever they’re not needed, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
10. Get Yourself a Library Card
Free books, free audiobooks, free Kindle downloads, free DVDs.
Free entertainment, in other words. Reading remains one of the cheapest and easiest ways to entertain yourself.
A couple tips:
- You can borrow all kinds of unusual things from public libraries, like telescopes, board games or musical instruments.
- Your library may partner with apps like Hoopla that offer digital access to books, magazines, movies and TV shows. Depending on your library system, several other apps might be available for library card holders.
11. Drink More Water
Drink more water — especially in restaurants. Skip the soda, juice and tea.
This helps more than your pocketbook. Americans are becoming increasingly health-conscious, and drinking more water is one of the simplest things you can do to stay healthy, according to WebMD.
12. Make Your Own Gifts
OK, OK, so this isn’t quite as easy as some of our other tips here. But it’s not as hard as you think it is!
Instead of heading to the store with your credit card, consider creating your own homemade gifts — candles, soap, artwork, photo collages, fresh-baked cookies, themed food baskets, etc.
13. Cut Your Monthly Bills
Let Trim work its digital magic for you. It’s a Facebook Messenger bot that will negotiate your cable or internet bills down. It works with Comcast, Time Warner, Charter and other major providers.
You sign up with Facebook, then upload a PDF of your most recent bill, and Trim’s AI-powered system gets to work. If at first it doesn’t succeed, it’ll keep negotiating until it can save you some money. (If it saves you any money, it keeps 25% of the savings tab.)
14. Save on Groceries
Did you know you can get paid cash back just for taking a picture of your grocery receipt? Here’s how it works:
- Sign up for Ibotta here (you just need a name and email address to start).
- Browse through the cash-back offers in your area and take note the next time you go to the store (the offers change every week).
Once you’ve reached at least $20 in earnings, you can request payment via PayPal or Venmo. And right now, Ibotta is giving new users a $10 sign-up bonus, just for redeeming your first receipt.
Wasn’t that easy?
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He likes it when things are easy, but they never are.
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