7 Clever and Creative Ways to Save Money (AND fight inflation!)
It looks like inflation is going to be with us for a while, whether we like it or not. This means our pennies aren’t going to go quite as far as we hoped they would or needed them to.
In this blog, I’m going to tell you about SEVEN clever and creative ways to save money AND fight inflation - and have some fun while you do it!
I’m not a big believer in cutting expenses because you “should”. That’s just a bunch of patriarchal, scarcity mindset nonsense that doesn’t work anyway. BUT, if you think getting a deal is just FUN and it makes you feel happy and clever like you won the BIG stuffed animal at the fair? Then, girlfriend, you and I are already best friends and you’re going to love these tips!
Tip #1: Never Shop Hungry
You’ve probably heard to never go to the grocery store hungry, but did you realize that adage carried over to ALL shopping? That’s right, you should never shop hungry - for anything!
In a 2015 study at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, researchers found that individuals who shopped for even non-food items spent 64% more money than individuals who did not shop hungry. That’s an amazing number!
Researchers speculated that being hungry makes us want to eat, which puts us in a seeking mindset. A “seeking mindset” can migrate over from seeking food to seeking to acquire other things we desire and are on our task and to-do lists.
“Those acquisition-related thoughts may spill over and put consumers in the mode of getting more stuff in general, even stuff they can’t eat, such as binder clips in our studies,” says Alison Jing Xu, researcher.
So, when heading out to run your weekly errands, be sure to have a nice protein-filled snack before you go and keep those unexpected expenses under control!
Tip #2: Make “Micro” Payments to Your Credit Card
My secret ninja trick to keeping my credit cards under control is “micro” payments.
If you’ve been around a while, you know I go through My Sunday Money Date checklist every Sunday afternoon. Part of that process is paying off the previous week’s credit card charges.
I thought up this strategy a number of years ago when I was digging myself out of a mountain of credit card debt. Whenever I had a bit of extra money, I would automatically use it to pay the credit cards, regardless of the statement date due.
I knew if I didn’t get it out of my checking account, it would get spent on something else!
That’s when I discovered that you don’t have to wait until the due date to pay your credit card! I know, “duh”, but at the time it was mind-blowing. 🤯 🤯 🤯
Making small “micro-payments” throughout the month not only gets the money out of your checking account but also reduces the amount of interest you pay that month for any balance you’re carrying.
So, take a card from my deck and rethink your strategy around credit cards. If you’re just trying to pay them off, then making weekly payments reduces the daily interest you're being charged throughout the month. Plus, if you’re trying to develop good habits around credit cards, this also helps to prevent things from getting out of hand.
Additionally, this strategy of making micro-payments is super helpful If you are using your credit cards to collect points. The last thing you want to do is not pay the full balance off each month, incurring interest and basically wiping out the value of the points you accrued!
Tip #3: Detox Your Inbox
Am I the only one who avoids my email Inbox? In my case, it’s just so cluttered! 😱 😱 😱
And, yes, it’s 100% my fault that it’s cluttered because I have terrible FOMO. I mean my life is definitely going to be negatively impacted if I don’t get the fifteen J. Crew emails that I know are going to land in my Inbox this week, right? Right? Buehler?
Detoxing your inbox means unsubscribing from marketing (shopping!) emails that have no purpose other than to try to entice you to buy stuff, and in the process make you feel bad about yourself. Their job is to make you feel like you need more, you want more, you have to have it because look at that deal!!! 🤪 🤪 🤪
And, they are really, really good at what they do, too.
Taking a few minutes each week to clear the clutter from your Inbox will help you:
- unsubscribe from emails you simply archive or delete anyway
- Doing this will reduce the number of clicks you have to make each day which will also reduce your daily level of decision fatigue
- Decision fatigue is a leading cause of impulse buying
Decision fatigue is a real thing that leads to increased stress, lowered mood and, worst of all when you’re trying to save money, impulse buying.
Impulse buying is one of the main reasons the average person blows their budget. We typically buy things impulsively because we are tired or hungry or just need a dopamine hit because we’ve had a frustrating day. Random emails in your inbox enticing you with the Best Deal Ever really don’t serve you or your budget or even your mental health.
So, in a very real way, detoxing your Inbox by removing all those emails that are only making you feel worse about your situation is good for your mental health, your personal financial wellness and pocket book AND for the overall level of joy in your life!
In January of this year, I ran a free two-week Digital Housekeeping Challenge. The challenge was to do one small five to ten minutes task each day to clear the digital clutter from your computer, your phone, and your brain! Everyone who participated was astonished at how much they accomplished over the two weeks of the challenge! If you would like to take part in our next Digital Housekeeping Challenge, Sign up for the waitlist HERE!)
Tip #4: Gas is…an Issue. Gas Apps can help!
What’s the one thing everybody can agree on right now? Gas prices are…bananas.
In some areas of the country, the price per gallon has almost doubled from last year! This is why it may be time to consider a gas app.
A gas app I just discovered and recommend is GasBuddy. What I like about Gasbuddy is that all I need to do is open the app and I can see the gas prices at all the gas stations around me and find the cheapest price.
Once I find the cheapest price, I have options. I can use my credit card for cash back or I can use Pay with GasBuddy. Pay with GasBuddy is their prepaid card. You have to apply for it and link it to your checking account. After that, it works just like your debit card. You pop into the app and find the closest gas station with the best price. You will receive a discount per gallon pumped. The discount varies by the location you select.
Save even more with GasBuddy Premium, their subscription service. This service is (at the time I’m writing this) $9.99 per month. By signing up for their subscription service they guarantee you’ll save at least 20 cents and up to 50 cents per gallon. Additionally, with your GasBuddy subscription, you’ll also receive roadside assistance with Allstate and a host of other money savings options.
GasBuddy is an amazing app and you can save money with their free app just by searching the gas prices available in your area. If you would like to take a DEEP dive into everything GasBuddy offers, check out THIS ARTICLE from The Points Guy. He explains everything in detail, going deep on all the options and perks!
Tip #5: Other Cash Back Apps
Back-to-school season is right around the corner, which means quite a lot of us will be buying school supplies, clothes, shoes, new lunch boxes, and all the other things needed at this time of year.
My go-to best tip to save money when buying stuff I’m already going to buy is to check Rakuten FIRST! Rakuten is a cash back app that pays you anywhere from 2-5% - but occasionally up to 20% - 50% (!) - on items you were going to buy anyway.
If you’re going to buy it anyway, why not get a few bucks cash back!
In the Even Better column, Rakuten’s cash back is in addition to any coupons you might have. So, if you’re like my mom who loooooves her Macy’s coupons, no problem. Install the Rakuten browser extension, click the bouncing R so you tag in Rakuten, load up your Macy’s cart and use your coupons. Your Rakuten discount is calculated after your coupons have been applied.
Double win-win on savings goal!
In addition to Rakuten, there’s also CapitalOne shopping. I don’t like this one as much because you get reward points, not actual dollars. But, still, if you’re buying things you were going to have to buy anyway you are likely to use the reward points, too.
Here’s a video where I explain how to use both:
Tip #6: Meal Prep
I love me a meal-pre Sunday! This tip is probably one of the best ones on this list after #1: Never Shop Hungry.
Taking the time to prepare your meals ahead of time each week will save you a ton of money on fast food, wasted food, and TIME!
Here’s how I usually end up eating fast food: it’s been a super long day, it’s dinner-time and I’m starving and because I am starving I have no patience to cook.
Remember decision fatigue from Detox Your Inbox above? This is another way it shows up in our lives.
Too many decisions plus hunger equals really poor choices for dinner.
Because fast food is super expensive in both calories AND money, and, let’s face it, is just not that JoyFULL to eat, I try to do what I call “meal-pre Sunday” at least once a month.
I have five recipes that I like and that I can make in bulk and I rotate through those recipes. By having a meal waiting for me in my freezer I reduce my decision fatigue for the day, I make sure I’m eating healthy and I don’t blow my budget eating out at a restaurant or picking up fast food.
PLUS, I have to go to the grocery and buy all the ingredients and then USE THEM. This means I’m actually eating the groceries I buy! #winning 🤣 🤣 🤣
So once a month-ish, I take a Sunday afternoon and I make anywhere from two to three of those recipes, package them up and toss them in the freezer. I usually just cook in big pots on the stove, but you could absolutely use a Crockpot or slow cooker if that’s your jam.
Personally, eating out of “containers” does not make me feel like I’m living my JoyFULL life. So, while I store and freeze each portion in reusable containers, I’m quite picky about which ones I use. I like these because they are glass (yay no plastic melting into my food!) I also quite like these because they are round containers and I’m weird and only like to have soup in round containers. 🤷♀️ 🤷♀️ 🤷♀️
But, whatever containers you decide on, make sure to stick to one brand so you don’t have to deal with that whole “so many lids that fit nothing” problem!
Additionally, because they are rather nice glass containers, rather than cheap plastic containers, if I have to eat out of them I don’t mind, too much.
Making a dozen or so meals ahead of time saves me money on those days I just don’t have it in me to make one more decision. In five minutes, I can have something defrosted and plated and I can collapse on the couch and Netflix and chill!
I’m eating a good meal, I’m not wasting gas to drive anywhere and I’m not paying for food I mostly don’t even like anyway!
Tip #7: It’s Time to Think About the Holidays. Yes, really.
Believe it or not, now is the perfect time to start thinking about the holidays looming a scant six months away. Companies like Target, Walmart, Macy’s, and Kohl's have all come out and said that they overbought inventory earlier in the year and will need to discount it to clear the way for new products.
This could be a huge boon for you and your holiday shopping!
Think about the gifts you gave to family and friends last year. Were they holiday-themed? If they were, was that because you thought it was the best gift or because that’s all that was available at that time of year?
I did this exercise a few years ago and discovered that the gifts I gave were almost NEVER holiday-themed or even “Winter-ish”. Sure, I gave an ornament here or there, but mostly I gave candles, gorgeous pens and journals, and a LOT of books (I know, shocker 📚 📚 📚).
NONE of which have to be purchased between November 15th and December 24th!
That means as I’m shopping for summer sales I can start looking out for gifts now, instead of waiting for Black Friday sales.
Another Pro Budgeting Tip: I HIGHLY recommend making a list of people you want to buy for and two to three gift ideas. Attach a budget for each person and then keep a look out for bargains. I keep a list exactly like this in Evernote and simply update it each year. You could easily use the notes app on your phone to do the same.
Buying holiday gifts throughout the year has been a game-changer for my budget during the holidays. The secret silver lining I wasn’t expecting, though, is that by buying early, I’ve actually bought more thoughtful gifts. Which feels awesome!
I am a firm believer that frugality for the sake of frugality simply does not work. It’s the crash diet of personal finance because, just like a crash diet, it’s not sustainable.
But, being clever and creative with your money is just FUN. Try out of a few of these tips or think of some of your own. And then, pop over to LinkedIn or Instagram and tell me!
Need 20 more Money Tips & Hacks? Grab my Free ebook 28 Money Tips & Hacks! Be sure drop me a DM and let me know your favorite!
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**I am not a licensed financial advisor. I am a money expert and I offer education, tips, tricks and my opinions around money. You should consult a professional who understands your needs in order to make the best decisions for you! Additionally, some links in this blog may be affiliate links, which means if you click the link and buy the product I may earn a small commission - at NO COST to You! It’s one of the ways I keep the lights on around here so TYIA! 😉
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