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Saving money does not have to be difficult. It doesn’t even have to take effort. If you establish the right money saving habits, your savings will start to compound over time.
The key to saving money is the budget and keeping track of your cash flow. Remember this equation and apply it always:
Income – Expenses = Savings
If your expenses are more than your income than you have negative savings and you will live eternally in the rat race. However, if you are able to rise above it and spend less than you make, then you can free yourself to enjoy life to the fullest.
To that end, here are 5 distinctly unusual ways to hack your budget and save $1000s.
1. Buy Through eBates
eBates is an awesome shopping portal to save money on the shopping you are already doing. If you buy things online, then you should always be checking through eBates to see if there are cash back opportunities.
Essentially, eBates allows you to share a referral fee for making a purchase through their link. So, you get a few extra percent off of your purchases from Amazon, Target, eBay, etc. Keep in mind that you should not be doing extra shopping to save money. That goes with the saying I heard a lot growing up:
You are saving me broke!
Let eBates be a tool in your arsenal for saving. If you buy $1000 worth of things online in a year, you could be making $50+. And really, these days, who spends less than $1000 online in an entire year? I know I spend upwards of $3000 easily.
If you sign up through this link, you’ll get a $10 bonus to boot!
2. Ditch Cable TV for the Antenna
Cable TV is a thing of the past. Who really needs 100+ channels of TV?
There are many ways to get rid of leech that is cable TV.
Today, I would like to focus on the TV antenna. This is not the antenna of our parents’ age. The massive antenna in our attic or on our rooves that picked up analog signals and streamed crappy quality TV.
Since 2009, television channels have been running on digital broadcasting as opposed to analog broadcasting. This is a distinction in the type of signal that is sent out over the airwaves. The new digital transmission allows higher rates of information to be sent resulting in better quality television over the antenna and also received over a longer distance.
The house I grew up in received only 15 channels of analog TV, but since the conversion to digital and my parents’ readoption of antenna (cut the cable), they now have 40+ channels of TV. Still, way more than they could possibly watch. Check out AntennaWeb.org to see the digital TV channels available in your area.
Looking for a digital antenna? Check them out on Amazon. They cost as little as $15 and come in ranges of 30 – 150 miles of reception.
Gas is a major expense when driving to and from all of our varied destinations. While I lived in the US, I traveled almost every weekend to race my bike somewhere. We drove anywhere from 2-8 hours each way to go race. During this time, one of my good friends introduced me to the concept of hypermiling while driving.
Hypermiling is the idea of maximizing your fuel efficiency. There are many aspects to hypermiling, including:
- Drafting off of semi-trucks on the highway
- Coasting on downhills, so your vehicle is in neutral and not slowing due to the engine
- Using engine braking on steep downhills, which uses 0 gas.
- Turning your car off at long stop lights or train crossings.
- Making sure your tires are pumped up full.
- Incessantly decreasing the weight of your car to decrease the energy required to move it.
- Turning off the A/C to increase gas mileage
You get the idea. There are lots of tricks to increase your gas mileage. I became obsessed with it when I purchased my Honda Fit and was able to monitor my fuel efficiency while driving. It was always a contest to see if I could eek out 40 mpg from it. Normal driving was only in the 32-35 mpg range.
Test yourself and see how much you can eek out of your vehicle. Implement these tricks and you will be well on your way to 25% less fuel cost. At $200/month in fuel cost ($50 savings), that would be $600 per year in fuel savings!
For much more information on hypermiling, the master himself, Mr. Money Moustache, wrote about it.
4. Calling In
Never forget the power you hold as a customer. Most companies will bend over backward to keep you as a customer. As the saying goes:
The customer is always right.
This is actually bullshit, but there are plenty of corporations that believe it anyway. So let’s exploit it for our own benefit.
When you have a contract and it comes time to renew, many companies will jack up your rate in the assumption that you will absorb it and not complain. Don’t be one of those guys.
Give the company a call and ask if they have a better rate. You can also threaten to leave for another company or say you were able to get a better offer from company X. Most of the time, the company you are talking with will bend over backward to keep you as a customer. I have been able to negotiate lower internet and insurance costs by the simple act of calling and asking.
Bills you should be calling and negotiating with include:
- Cable (if you didn’t follow hack 2)
- All insurance bills
- Credit card fees if you are working on travel hacking cards
Is it worth 15 minutes of your time to save $100+?
5. Buy Forever Items
This last one may seem counter-intuitive. A forever item is one that you probably spend more up-front on so that you never have to fix or replace it.
My mom has a Cuisinart food processor that is 30+ years old and still going strong. If she had bought a cheap one from Walmart, it would have broken in a year and had to be replaced. There is a time and a place to spend a little extra to get the quality that will last.
It’s like my dad talks about tools. If you are a master mechanic and are using your tools every day, then you should buy top-end tools that will never wear out. However, if you are buying your tools on the off chance that you will one day use them, then cheap tools will never wear out.
Each individual case is different. Look for times and situations where it makes sense to spend a little more, so you don’t have to replace your item in the future.
If you end up not needing it, you can always sell it on eBay or Craigslist for near the same price you bought it for. I have even resold items for more than I found them for.
Items that can qualify as forever items are listed below. It is by no means an exhaustive list, just the things that I have personally bought as forever items.
- DSLR / Mirrorless Camera
- Quality Camera Lenses
- Kitchen Appliances
- Workshop Tools
- Good quality bikes
- Sporting gear of choice
Just keep in mind there is a line that is crossed between buying quality and buying luxury. Its not a problem to spend a little extra on yourself for luxury, but do not fool yourself into thinking you are doing it for the long term savings.
This final budget hack will not save you money now, but it will save you money in years to come from its longevity.
There are as many ways to save money as there are to spend money. And the same number of opportunities. The world is focused on spend, spend, spend. We have to “keep up with the Jones’s”, right?
Add these 5 highly unusual budget hacks to your growing arsenal of budget and saving hacks and you will be well on your way to financial freedom.
What other unusual budget hacks do you use? I would love to hear about them.