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19 Mini Money Hacks To Save You A Lot of Money

I am the last of 4 kids who grew up in South Texas raised by blue collar parents. My spending/saving habits today are informed by my experiences growing up. Going from the 'have nots' to 'haves' gives a certain kind of perspective and comes with a particular brand of tight fist. Inspired by the article by Kalen Bruce, I have put my take on Mini Money Hacks, and of course a little Texan inspired Kiwi flavour for good measure.

1. Put your savings on auto-pilot

Saving has never been easier, but yet some of us don't do it. Just automate it! It's easy and takes the weight off your shoulders and frees up your time. Saving is easy to automate with online banking – simply set up an automatic transfer from your cheque to your savings each month… Or check out options like ASB's Save The Change. You can set up your savings option to round up to $1, $5 or $10 on all electronic transactions. All you have to do is use your EFTPOS or Debit card. Reality check- I use my debit card everyday more times than I can count. We did this a couple of years ago and used the money towards a family holiday. Perfect way to get a nest egg growing or saving for a rainy day.

2. Make a meal plan

Planning your meals will save you heaps. It helps eliminate buying extra food that isn't on your list or that you don't need. It also helps you plan ahead for making more affordable meals, rather than buying what looks good when you're at the grocery store.

3. Plan meals around sales

I sat down and made a list of every meal I cook. Separated them out by type ie. chicken, pork, beef, etc. You don't have to spend hours going through sale papers to find the best deals on everything. Just know what meals you make and what you need to make them. We eat a lot of chicken in my house, so when chicken is on sale, I stock up because I know it's going to get used. Sometimes I plan the week out and then when I go to the grocery store the meat is just too expensive. Alter the plan. For example, one of your meals could be a stir-fry, so you need meat, veggies and a grain. When you get to the store, buy the best-priced meat and veggies. Then look for a grain, like rice or quinoa and buy whatever is the most cost-effective, weighing the price and health benefits.

4. Drink more water

This may seem obvious but the statistics show that it isn't. You'll save a lot of money if you stop buying the 24 packs of soda and bottles of juice. Bottled water is cheap – tap water is cheaper. There are many great options for filtering if you're not a fan of the tap taste. Weigh the cost and consider all the options. Maybe even get a watercooler in your home. We did this and it was only around $35 a month with a sink filter fitted. (We drink a lot of water and didn't have the fridge space to keep it cold the way we like it.) When you're eating out, a family of four can easily save $12-$20 per meal just by drinking water instead of soft drinks.

5. Set an automatic budget

There are plenty of services like Sorted, MoneyLine, and even within your online banking facility that allows you to link your accounts and automatically track your budget. Whether you want to set your budget or manage it, having all facts of your spending is vital. No secret spending. If you want to have $100 discretionary spending, factor that in. Again, ASB have a great track your spending tool that is really easy to use and generates a pie chart of your spending. Categories set up include, motor vehicle, dining out, etc or you can set up your own unique codes. Occasionally something will go into the wrong category, but it's easy to switch it and change the category for all future transactions.

6. Set a plan to pay off debt

If you want to get out of debt, you need a plan. There are a few options, but the two most common are the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. How do they work? For the debt snowball you simply write down all your debts from the smallest balance to the largest, then you use any extra money to pay off the smallest balance first. Once that's paid off, take that payment plus any extra money, and put it on the next smallest balance until you're debt free. With the debt avalanche it's the same idea, except you sort by interest rate (highest to lowest) instead of by balance. The debt avalanche will save you more money in interest, but you may prefer the small wins that the debt snowball provides in the beginning. (Ok I totally plagiarised all of this, but it is good stuff right?)

7. Challenge everything

Challenge every single expense you have. Do you really need to go to the grocery store or could you make a meal from what's in the pantry & fridge. My momma use to say, "If you have an egg, you have a meal."Do you really need SKY? Do you really need to eat out twice a week? What about those magazine subscriptions that you don't read? Odds are you can cut something out. Perhaps you've been paying for a service so long that it's second nature? It's time for a challenge and here's how to do it:

  1. Write down every single expense you have
  2. Look for expenses you can fully cut out
  3. Find ways to save money on the remaining expenses

8. Compare insurance rates

When was the last time you checked insurance rates? This is something you should be doing annually. The cheapest isn't always the best, but usually you'll find that you can get the same coverage for less money if you shop around. Once a year take a look at all your insurance policies. We know a few good guys we could refer you to who can help you take a fresh look at what you're paying for vs what you're getting and how both of those compare to what you need.

9. Use coupons wisely

Checking out popular services like Groupon or Living Social to look for a coupon has become a pass time for some. All the time we spend on social media doesn't help. We see an ad for something we never knew we needed and suddenly the money is spent. So, yes use these services, but use them wisely. When there is a big spend coming up, special occasion or something like that, see what's on offer then, but don't get suckered into spending money because the cost is low, when it is something you wouldn't be spending money on in the first place.

10. Review your card statements

Whether you use a credit card or a debit card, review your statements each month. It's not uncommon for random or bogus charges to appear on your account. It's easy to overlook these charges when you're not checking your statement each month.

11. Start an emergency fund

Emergency funds are something you should set in place to avoid using a credit card in an emergency. When a crisis hits you don't want to turn to a credit card and pile on the debt. Debt can turn a crisis into a catastrophe. Dave Ramsey popularized the idea of having an emergency fund instead of a credit card. Dave recommends getting it to $1,000 quickly; but I am a firm believer that a little something is better than a big nothing. Even if you can just put $20, $50 or $100 in your emergency fund each month, you're still making progress. Baby steps count.

12. Use the 30-day rule

When you're considering making a large purchase, use the 30-day rule. If it's still calling your name after 30 days, consider making the purchase. You'll probably find that you no longer care about whatever it is you wanted. This helps eliminate spontaneous purchases made out of excitement or emotion.

13. Open up or close it

If you have a heat pump, DVC system, or ceiling fans sometimes just opening windows or closing them can help get your house to optimal temperature without the extra cost. And use that clothes line and clothes horse every chance you can. Save the dryer for when there is no other option. If you do use the dryer it is usually more efficient to do 2 smaller loads than 1 big one. (Just the opposite for the washing machine.) In the kitchen, if the oven is on, use it. Add some baking after the roast and save the cost to reheat the oven.

14. Don’t replace, repaint

If you're planning to replace an item in your home, such as an appliance, cabinets or bathroom components; consider painting before replacing. If you're only replacing it because of the appearance, painting may be your best bet. Anything from appliances and cabinets to sinks and bathtubs can be painted. You just have to buy the right paint. Always make this consideration before buying something new. If you do decide to buy, check out Trademe and bargin stores. You'll be surprised what you can find.

15. Know your options

Mitre 10 and Bunnings aren't the only places to buy home items, just like Noel Leeming isn't the only place to buy electronics. Know your local and online options. We almost all know to look online before deciding on a purchase, but you may also be surprised at your local options. Overstock, wholesale and liquidation stores are a few of the places you should check out. Sure they're hit or miss, but when you find some deals that save you hundreds it will all be worth it. Shopping out of season is also a great way to save money.

16. Keep up with maintenance

Maintaining your home and your vehicle can save you thousands down the road. Regular oil changes, replacing air filters and checking tyre pressure will all lead to savings in the future. Be mindful and pay attention to general maintenance. Staying on top of maintenance will stop other problems before they happen. A fence at the top could prevent the carnage at the bottom.

17. Reduce your interest rate

If you have credit card debt, you know interest can be a killer. Call your credit card company or the bank and ask for a lower rate. You don't need some amazing reason to ask. There is a lot of competition with banks offering 0% for balance transfers. You could consider transferring the balance and getting it paid off before the interest starts. You can get anywhere from 6-12 months interest free. Just be careful not to amp up the balance. Remember, you want to reduce the debt.

18. Give up the expensive habits

If you're trying to save money, your habits may be working against you. For example, the cost of cigarettes, alcohol, fizz and energy drinks can be insane. If you don't want to completely cut it out, try cutting back. When you count the costs of your habits, it may open your eyes to another benefit of quitting.

19. Get paid to spend

Maximize your credit card rewards by using the right card for your purchase. Some cards offer cash back on gas, while others offer airpoints or even grocery store credit. Credit card rewards are a great way to earn while you spend, which in return saves you money. It's like putting a certain percentage of every purchase into a savings account.

Spending and saving go hand and hand. Whether you're doing new things or making a positive change in your spending thoughts & behavior, stay mindful. It's your money. You might not be able to control your teenagers (no one can) but you can control your spending. Stick to your budget, follow these tips and save some money!