As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

10 Easy Ways to Save Money

This article was written by in Saving. 22 comments.

This year, I’ve spent more money than ever. I’ve been able to swing these extra expenses — including lots of fun new gadgets I’d put off buying for years — without hurting my budget. But now, I’m ready to pull back and start ramping up my savings again.

We all know that Americans are generally terrible at saving for retirement. But it turns out that we’re also pretty bad at saving in the short term, too. In fact, nearly 60% of Americans don’t even have $500 in savings. Yikes!

Here’s the reality, though: saving a bit of money doesn’t actually take much effort. I’m planning to use these ten low-effort ways to save money over the next year. Want to join?

1. Automate your savings

Chances are you already use direct deposit for your paycheck. If not, it’s time to get with the program. With direct deposit, your money goes straight to the bank. It’s more convenient for you and your employer. Plus, it lets you automate your decision-making about savings.

Instead of deciding how much to save each payday, you can set your account to automatically move money from checking to savings. Your paycheck will hit your account, and your savings will disappear from that account almost simultaneously. It’s much easier to save money that you never see in your checking account!

Even if you start by moving only $5 or $10 per paycheck to a high-yield savings account, you’ll have more saved at the end of the year than you would have otherwise.

2. Collect your excess coins

I enjoy looking through circulating coins, on the off chance that I discover a rare specimen, such as a silver quarter. No, it doesn’t happen often; most of the good stuff has been removed from circulation by other collectors or knowledgeable bank tellers.

But while I’m saving my daily change in a glass jar, I’m also saving myself from spending that money. Every so often, I roll the coins with free sleeves from the bank and take them in for deposit.

What if you don’t typically spend cash? If you usually swipe your card instead of spending cash, you may not have any loose change to save. In this case, check out apps like Qoins.

You can connect this app directly to your checking account. Each time you spend, it’ll round up to the next dollar and “save” the change from that transaction. Once you reach a certain threshold amount, the app will put that change towards a debt.

Other similar apps, such as Digit and Acorns, use this concept to sock away change in a savings account or investing account. These apps act like a virtual change jar, putting the dregs of your daily transactions towards important financial goals.

3. Use goal jars

You’ve seen those jars in country shops. They are short, wide-mouthed clay pottery or stoneware jars with cork tops.

On the outside of the jars, they are labeled using varying levels of wit. In these jars, you can set aside money you’d like to budget for “retirement,” “kids’ education,” “dreams,” or the “Harley fund.”

Again, these are a great option if you typically spend with cash. You can make them even more powerful if you dedicate certain “leftover” money to these jars.

Say you normally spend $125 for a weeks’ worth of groceries at the grocery store. One week, you get creative with meal planning and couponing and you only spend $115. Put the extra $10 — which you normally would have spent — into a goal jar.

You can do this virtually, too. More and more banks are offering free savings accounts, and some checking accounts offer unlimited free “sub-accounts.” Open several, then label them for specific goals.

Related: Variety of Savings Accounts: Where I Keep My Cash

You can split up your extra money at the end of the month to these accounts, or just throw in “saved” money whenever you can. For instance, if you usually spend $10 on your work lunch, but bring a lunch from home, toss the $7 you saved into one of your savings accounts.

4. Form a budget, but budget for fun

A budget can be the most depressing part of personal finance if you let it be. I tend to avoid budgets, but if my income fails to meet my expenses, I’ll have to reconsider this approach.

The key, though, is that budgets should be flexible. Budgeting isn’t about limiting yourself to only the most frugal spending. It’s about realizing that sometimes you have to sacrifice in one category to pay for another.

Want to eat out more? Great! Be a super frugal grocery shopper when you do eat at home. Want to travel? Awesome! You may have to give up purchasing some of those new electronic gadgets.

A budget that saves you money is usually one that has at least some “fun” spending built in. You can only seriously restrict your spending for so long before you make yourself more likely to go on a spending binge. So, make sure you write in some fun — whether that’s dining out, saving up for travel, or working on a hobby. Then, stick to it!

If you need a jump start, here are the best budgeting tools to track your money.

5. Find ways to make your hobby cheaper

Hobbies can be expensive. Just ask anyone with a Faberge egg collection! Many hobbies require materials and monetary investments, and this can really add up over time.

Just like budgeting for your “fun,” though, you should budget some money for your hobbies. Of course, moderation is key here. Try not to spend too much, especially to the detriment of the rest of your budget.

Here are some tips to help you manage that hobby spending:

  • Get good at finding your supplies on sale or secondhand. If your hobby is crafting, sign up for coupons from all the local craft stores. You can often save 50% or more on your craft materials. Into biking? Consider buying your gear secondhand to save big.
  • Figure out how to make money from your hobby. Turning your hobby into a side business is an excellent way to make money. But even if your hobby doesn’t turn a profit, selling what you create can cover most or all of the expenses associated with your hobby.
  • Make the most of what you have. It’s easy to overspend on your hobby thinking you need the next big thing. If you sew, it’s tempting to upgrade your machine every couple of years, whether you need to or not. And if you hike, adding on ever more cool gear is tempting. The truth, though, is that you can probably enjoy your hobby without these things. I’d suggest instituting at least a one or two month waiting period before you can spend on pricey hobby-related items. In that time frame, you might just find that you don’t need the upgrade after all.

6. Sell stuff online

If you were thinking of having a yard sale, think again. By selling your unwanted items online, you’ll reach a much wider audience, including more of those who appreciate what you have to offer. Plus, online buyers will often pay more because they’re looking for exactly what you have.

Luckily, you’ve got a ton of options for selling online. Don’t want to mess with shipping heavy or bulky items? Check out your local Facebook sale group to make sales locally. Or list your items on Craigslist.

For smaller items that are easier to ship, you often don’t even have to take them to the post office for shipping. You can set up a package service to pick up the item from your home after you print the label. This makes selling items on eBay and other sites easier than ever.

Some sites, such as Swap.com and Thredup, will pay you for your old, lightly-used clothing and accessories. Swap gives you a shipping label to use, and Thredup will actually send you a bag for shipping your items in.

7. Start a new hobby

Are you currently working on an expensive hobby that’s draining your money? Consider starting a new one that actually makes money.

Some hobbies are great micro businesses. Maybe yours won’t make loads of money. But even if your hobby can pay for itself, you can have your leisure for free. Here are some ideas for hobbies you can turn into extra cash:

  • Building or fixing computers: This one’s easy to turn into a money-maker. Just become the local go-to guy for fixing or customizing computers.
  • Arts and crafts: Any sort of art or craft hobby likely has a market. And these hobbies can be expensive, so it’s a good idea to try selling your wares as you make them. Again, even if you just cover the cost of your materials to start, that lets you enjoy your hobby without spending loads of extra money.
  • Gardening: You can, of course, save some money for your family by growing fruits and vegetables you’d otherwise buy. But if you’ve got an eye for planning out beautiful flower beds, too, offer your services at installing and maintaining others’ landscaping.
  • Pets: One or two pets are great, but pets get expensive. If you love to spend time with animals but can’t afford to add any more to your family, consider starting a pet-sitting or pet walking business.

8. Ask for a raise

Sometimes it’s that simple. If it’s been a while since you’ve gotten a raise, or if you’ve recently taken on more responsibility, now is the time to ask.

First, put together your list of recent accomplishments. Hard numbers will often do more than anything else to actually get you that raise. Then, set up a meeting with your supervisor to talk specifically about your raise, or what you can do to earn one if you’re not quite there yet.

Of course, if the goal is to save more money, you should know what you’re going to do with that raise ahead of time. Adding it to your paycheck is a good way to start frittering away that extra money without even knowing where it’s going.Instead, consider directing that money straight to your savings account or 401(k), before it even hits your bank account.

9. Negotiate to work from home

More and more businesses are allowing or even welcoming their employees to work from home. And working from home can help you save loads of money.

Here are just some of the expenses that you can cut back by working from home, even one or two days per week:

  • Gas and car maintenance
  • Parking, if yours is paid daily, and toll roads
  • Dry cleaning or other clothing expenses
  • Less wear and tear on your more expensive work clothes
  • Eating out for lunch, work coffees, etc.
  • Time is money — if you cut out your commute, you have more time for side hustles or hobbies, and less time with the kids in childcare.

Plus, when you work from home, you can often find time to get extra things done around the house, which is just an added bonus!

Resource: Ten Tips For Cutting Car Expenses

10. Cut back on your monthly bills

Saving on things like groceries and dining out is great. But it takes a concerted effort and planning month after month.

An easier way to save right away is to cut back on those recurring monthly bills that you barely think about paying. This includes things like car and home insurance, phone and internet bills, recurring monthly subscriptions, cable, and more.

These are the types of bills that you should price shop at least once a year. So if it’s been more than a year since you last made sure you were getting the best possible rates in these areas, take a few hours to shop around. Start by calling your current providers and asking what they can do to lower your bill; sometimes, you can get a new discount just by asking for one.

Saving on these bills will save you money month after month. Just be sure to keep a running total of how much you’re saving, and then direct that amount to your savings account each month!

Learn More About Cutting the Cord

How else are you saving? Let us know in the comments.

{ 22 comments }

Bank of America has a long history of supporting the arts through philanthropy and raising awareness. But they’re stepping up their game in 2017 with their Museums on Us program.

This program allows qualifying Bank of America members to get into local museums for free on certain weekends, through the rest of this year! Here are some details of the program:

Who is Eligible?

Anyone who holds a Bank of America credit or debit card or a Merrill Lynch debit or credit card can participate. You’ll just have to show up at the right museum on the right weekend with both your card and a photo ID.

Here’s the catch: this is only good for one free general admission ticket. It doesn’t apply to special events or exhibits. And you can’t bring guests with you.

However, if you have a Bank of America credit card with an authorized user, that person can get into the museum for free, as well. It sounds like an excellent option for a free date night to me!

Resource: The Best Cash Back Credit Cards of 2017

Plus, many of these museums already allow children under a certain age to get in for free, so it could make for a great family adventure at no cost. Even if the museum does charge for your children, the little ones are usually at a very discounted rate, making the adventure definitely worthwhile.

When Can You Go?

Do you fit the bill? Or have you been considering a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit card, anyway? Here’s when you can take advantage of this free museum admission:

  • August 5th and 6th
  • September 2nd and 3rd
  • October 7th and 8th
  • November 4th and 5th
  • December 2nd and 3rd

You’re responsible for figuring out if the museum is actually open on those days, of course, but most participating museums should be.

Related: Which Credit Card Should Be Your First?

Where Can You Go?

Here’s another catch: the list of participating museums is fairly short, especially if you’re outside of a major metropolitan area. But if you’re traveling to a larger city, you could have loads of options.

In Chicago, for instance, you have a long list of options. These include:

  • The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Chicago History Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art
  • National Veterans Art Museum
  • Shedd Aquarium
  • The DuSable Museum of African American History
  • The National Hellenic Museum

New York City has an impressively long list of participating museums, of course, as do Miami, San Antonio, and Charlotte, NC.

You can check out the full list of available options here. Just keep in mind that it could be a good idea to call ahead and confirm participation before you count on those free tickets!

Should You Get a Bank of America Card for This?

In short: probably not. There’s much more that goes into choosing a credit card than a random one-off perk that you might use once per year. The benefits or lower interest rate on another card might easily outweigh the free museum tickets.

With that said, it’s one perk to consider if a Bank of America credit card is already in your wallet or on your to-apply-for list!

So, how about you? Will you be taking advantage of this Bank of America perk?

{ 0 comments }

I created my small business in 2010. One of the very first things I did was sign up for a business checking account.

Living in Miami at the time, there was a brick-and-mortar Citi location just a half block away. So, that is the bank I signed on with.

The “green” business checking account was their basic package. It offered no interest rate but free service. Correction: the account was free as long as I kept a $5,000 average daily balance.

Compare that account to the Capital One Spark Business Checking Account now available to consumers? Well, the differences between a good business checking account and a bad one are obvious.

Capital One Spark Business Checking Interest Rate

One of the immediate attractions to the Spark Business Checking Account is that it pays an interest rate.  For the first year, all new account holders will receive an APY of 1.00%. After the first year is up, the ongoing APY will change to 0.40%.

On the surface, the APY compared to high yield savings account stinks.  The fed is slowly and steadily raising interest rates, though, and now banks are following, finally offering account holders interest rates above 1%.

However, for checking accounts, you’ll find there are very few that offer an interest rate… let alone one that can compete with a savings account for the first year. And for those that still think the interest rate isn’t very good, consider that there are better places to hold your business funds than in an online checking account.

There is no minimum balance requirement to earn the APYs listed above, and there are no restrictions or caveats.

Spark Business Additional Features

In addition to a very competitive interest rate, the Capital One Spark Business Checking account will offer the following perks:

  • No monthly account maintenance or service fees
  • Free online bill pay and online invoicing
  • Access to the Spark Mobile Checking App
  • 40,000 fee-free ATMs nationwide

No monthly account maintenance fees. Monthly maintenance fees are the fastest way to hate your checking account. This is especially true for small businesses, when you review your statement each month to find a charge you did not expect, because of a rule you did not remember. Oh, the RAGE.

Well, Capital One is offering this business account with no fees and no strings attached. The only fee you’re going to receive is a non-sufficient funds fee if you attempt to overdraw your account or write a check that your bottom can’t cash.

One of the annoying parts of my initial Citi Business checking account was that I had to make at least 12 debits each month, otherwise I would be charged a $9.99 monthly maintenance fee. That’s not the case here.

Free online bill pay and invoicing. Everybody offers free online bill pay, so no big deal. But online invoicing? Now, that can be expensive.

A lot of companies I’ve worked with and/or requested work from use things like Freshbooks or Quicken to invoice. Those services are not free. And they add up. Opening a Capital One Spark Business Checking Account and using the invoicing feature can save you the $20+ a month from outside invoicing services.

Spark Mobile Checking App. For the technologically-advanced (AKA not my parents), Capital One offers a great app for download. It assists in tracking your balance, making deposits, setting up bill pay, and scheduling other payments.

Currently available in the Google Play shot, it has a very good rating of 4.5 stars. Looking through some of the most recent one star reviews, the common theme is that the app can kick you out while taking a picture of your check to deposit.

40,000 Free ATMs. Capital One runs on the Allpoint network, so any ATM transaction from one of these ATMs is fee-free. If, however, you decide to withdraw money from your account on an ATM not in the network (think Casinos, for example), then the ATM you use will charge a fee and Capital One will charge a fee.

In the United States, there are just over 38,000 ATMs on the Allpoint network and another 2,000 Capital One-specific ATMs. So, a quick online search is likely to point to an ATM nearby.

Spark Business Checking Snapshot

Capital One has created a very strong offering here, promising not to draw on the account of its customers for everyday transactions.

Compared to other online checking accounts, that’s already a win. When you add the quality interest rate and additional features, though, any business would likely benefit from keeping their checking account with Capital One.

{ 0 comments }

Sales tax holidays are a surprisingly great way to save money, especially during the back-to-school shopping season.

On specific dates, states do not require merchants to charge customers sales tax. Even if sales tax seems like a minor line item in your budget, it can make a big difference.

Sales tax holidays are an excellent time to purchase big ticket items that are on your list, or to get the kids’ clothes for the school year. Retailers often make this time even more enticing by offering additional sales and discounts during these tax holidays.

Not all states offer sales tax holidays. The ones that do set their own dates and rules. For instance, in some states, only certain school supplies count. In others, weather preparedness items, Energy Star products, and more are eligible.

Before you go purchase a new fridge or school uniform, check this list to see if your state has a sales tax holiday this year:

StateDatesEligible Items and Limits
AlabamaJuly 21-23

  • Clothing - $100/per item

  • Computers, Software, and School Computer Supplies - $750/purchase

  • Noncommercial School Supplies - $50/item

  • Noncommercial Books - $30/item
ArkansasAugust 5-6
  • Clothing and Shoes - $100/item

  • Clothing Accessories - $50/item

  • School Supplies and Instructional Materials
ConnecticutAugust 20-26Clothing and Shoes - $100/item
FloridaJune 2-4Disaster Preparedness Items, Including:
  • Reusable Ice - $10

  • Portable, Self-Powered Lights - $20

  • Gas or Diesel Fuel Containers - $25

  • Batteries, Coolers, Ice Chests - $30

  • Tarps, Sheeting, Anchor Systems, Tie-Down Kits, etc. - $50

  • Portable Generators - $750
FloridaAugust 4-6
  • Clothing, Footwear, Wallets, Bags - $60/item

  • School Supplies - $15/item

  • Computers - $750/item

IowaAugust 4-5Clothing and Shoes - $100/item
LouisianaMay 27-28Hurricane Preparedness Items, Including:
  • Portable Light Sources
  • Portable, Self-Powered Radios
  • Tarpaulins, etc.
  • Anchors and Tie-Down Systems
  • Gas or Diesel tanks
  • Batteries
  • Nonelectric Coolers
  • Portable Generators
  • Storm Shutters
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  • "Blue Ice" Products

Lowered state sales tax rate on the first $1,500 of the sales price of each item.
LouisianaAug 4-5Sales tax reduction on "most items of tangible personal property." Available for the first $2,500 of sales price of the item.
LouisianaSept 1-3Items Exempt from Local Tax and with Reduced State Tax Include:
  • Archery Items
  • Off-Road Vehicles Designed for Hunting
  • Airboats and Pirogues
  • Hunting Accessories
  • Animal Feed for Game
  • Hunting Apparel and Safety Gear
  • Other Hunting Supplies
MarylandFeb 18-20EnergyStar Items, Including:
  • Air Conditioners
  • Clothes Washers and Dryers
  • Furnaces and Heat Pumps
  • Boilers
  • Refrigerators
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Programmable Thermostats
  • CFL and LED Bulbs
MarylandAug 13-19Clothing and Footwear - $100/item
MississippiJuly 28-29Clothing and Footwear - $100/item
MississippiAug 25-27Firearms, Ammunition, and Hunting Supplies
MissouriAug 4-6
  • Clothes - $100/item
  • School Supplies - $50/item
  • Computer Software - $350/item
  • Computers and Accessories - $1,500
  • Graphing Calculators - $150/item
MissouriApril 19-25EnergyStar Certified Appliances, Including:
  • Clothes Washers
  • Clothes Dryers
  • Water Heaters
  • Dishwashers
  • Air Conditioners
  • Furnaces
  • Refrigerators
  • Heat Pumps
Up to $1,500 Per Appliance
New MexicoAug 4-6
  • Clothing and Shoes - $100/item
  • School Supplies - $30/item
  • Computers, Some e-Readers, Tablets - $1,000/item
  • Computer-Related Items - $500/item
  • Bookbags, Backpacks, Maps, and Globes - $100/item
  • Handheld Calculators - $200/item
Note: Not all retailers participate
OhioAug 4-6
  • Clothing - $100/item
  • School Supplies - $20/item
  • Instructional Materials - $20
OklahomaAug 4-6Clothing and Shoes - $100/item
South CarolinaAug 4-6
  • Clothing and Accessories
  • Footwear
  • School Supplies
  • Computers, Printers, and Printer Supplies
  • Computer Software
  • Certain Bed and Bath Items
TennesseeJuly 28-30
  • Clothes - $100/item
  • School Supplies - $100/item
  • Computers - $1,500
TexasApril 28-30, 2018Less than $3,000:
  • Portable Generators
Less than $300:
  • Emergency Ladders
  • Hurricane Shutters
Less than $75:
  • Axes
  • Batteries
  • Can Openers - Nonelectric
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  • Coolers and Ice Chests
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • First Aid Kits
  • Fuel Containers
  • Ground Anchor Systems
  • Hatchets
  • Ice Products
  • Portable, Self-Powered Light Sources
  • Mobile Phone Batteries
  • Portable, Self-Powered Radios
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Tarps
TexasMay 26-28, 2018EnergyStar Products:
  • Air Conditioners
  • Refrigerators
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Incandescent and Fluorescent Light Bulbs
  • Clothes Washers
  • Dishwashers
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Programmable Thermostats
TexasAug 11-13
  • Clothing and Shoes - $100/item
  • School Supplies - $100/item
VirginiaAug 4-6School Supplies, Clothing, and Shoes:
  • School Supplies - $20/item
  • Clothing and Footwear - $100/item
Hurricane and Emergency Preparedness Items:
  • Portable Generators - $1,000/item
  • Gas-Powered Chainsaws - $350/item
  • Chainsaw Accessories - $60/item
  • Other Items - $60/item
EnergyStar and WaterSense Products:
  • Qualifying Products for Home Use - $2,500/item

{ 9 comments }

Are Cash Back Websites Really Worth the Hassle?

by Adam Luehrs

You’ve probably seen at least a few of your friends brag about their coupon-clipping triumphs and bargain-hunting victories all over social media throughout the years. However, it suddenly seems like everybody has moved past sales and coupons into the world of cash back websites. What’s the hype? These websites offer a very tempting service by […]

0 comments Read the full article →

How to Get the Best Deals on Amazon Prime Day

by Stephanie Colestock

Starting last night, Amazon’s 3rd annual flash sale, called Prime Day, went live. The big event runs for 30 hours, ending at 3am EST on Wednesday, July 12. So, shoppers still have plenty of time to take advantage of hundreds of huge deals on the site. So, what is Amazon Prime Day, and how can […]

0 comments Read the full article →

How to Travel On a Budget

by Stephanie Colestock

Travel is the one thing you can buy that makes you richer.   -Anonymous Do you dream of sandy white beaches and daquiris in the sun? Maybe your ideal getaway is a cabin in the mountains, instead. Or perhaps you’re the type who would rather backpack through Italy, eating your weight in pasta and visiting the […]

5 comments Read the full article →

Do You Really Need to Buy Travel Insurance?

by Adam Luehrs

Traveling to another state, or even to a foreign country, means experiencing a new culture, meeting new people, and making memories that can last a lifetime. It can also mean visiting a hospital in a place where you don’t have any type of medical coverage or being stranded at an airport without your luggage. This […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Why Schools Should Teach Personal Finance: A Rebuttal

by Abby Hayes

We recently updated an article here on Consumerism Commentary, arguing that high schools should not require students to take personal finance classes. The article, written by the site’s original founder several years ago, makes some compelling arguments. But I don’t buy it. As a parent, I sure plan to teach my kids personal finance. In […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Current and Historical Checking and Savings Account Rates

by Rob Berger

Since many banks are constantly updating their interest rates offered on savings, money market and checking accounts, this chart should come in handy. On the 1st of every month, this page is updated to show the most accurate rate information available. This list is organized in two sections. The first section includes FDIC-insured savings or […]

4 comments Read the full article →
Page 1 of 32712345···50100150···Last »