When I was a kid, I used to sneak in double cheeseburgers off the dollar menu for snacks every time I hit up the movie theater. My friends would laugh at me, but my wallet wouldn’t when it saw them drop $20 for tub of popcorn and $30 for a bag of skittles.
I also used to call my parents collect from payphones whenever I needed a ride home, but instead of paying the ridiculous fees of using such money gobblers, I’d get my request in for free by simply stating it in the “name” part and then quickly hanging up. (You youngin’s will have no idea what I’m talking about (“What’s a pay phone??”) but you oldies will…)
So instead of saying “J. Money” when asked to speak my name, I’d blurt out “mom-pick-me-up” instead as fast as I could and then hang up before the charges went through (since we never talked). 10 minutes later my ride would be there!
All this came back to me when I ran across an old family friend this weekend who puts my frugal skills to shame. He told me he just came across a new trick for saving money, and as soon as I heard it I immediately inducted it into the S.H.H.F. (Saving Hacks Hall of Fame)
Here’s what he said:
“You know how every year we need to get those state inspections for our cars? Well, I recently had to take mine over the other day to get it done, and it dawned on me that if I were to leave it there over night – on the last day of the month before the sticker expires – they wouldn’t be able to get to it until the next day when it was a fresh new month. Thus giving me an entire free month’s worth of inspection period equal to 8% in savings! What do you think about that?”
I told him I thought that was incredibly clever! Who the hell thinks about saving money on mandatory state inspection stickers? Haha… But my friend here is right. If you bring it in, say on the last day of this month – February 29th and leave it over night (that way you’re only “illegal” from 12am that night when it expires until the morning it gets the sticker) it’ll be a brand new month and the sticker that will go on will say March 2017 instead of February, 2017. And then if you do the same thing the following year and all future years, you’ll continue nabbing this 8% in savings! Boom!
If you’re still reading this blog, John, we salute you :)
10 More Savings Tips to Ponder…
As if the Savings Gods weren’t already being nice to me, I stumbled across 10 more kick-ass tips that same day, this time via an article by The Simple Dollar: 10 Ways to Trick Yourself Into Saving Money.
Some of these you may have heard before, but I’ll list them out anyways and see how many we’ve done, okay? I’ll go first, and then it’s your turn :)
- Institute a waiting period before you make a purchase. For all bigger purchases I do this ($50-$100+) but for littler ones I just do my best to make decisions on the fly. Which only works out okay because I now have my finances in order (so if you’re new to the game, def. think about doing this for *most* of your non-necessary purchases)
- Boost your tax refund through payroll deductions — I used to always do this! I couldn’t care less about “loaning the gov’t money” all year as the chunk I’d get back always felt incredible and was an easy way to save up cash on the side without noticing it much. Now back then I used to blow it all on nonsense, but the point is it DOES help you to save if that’s a problem you’re having.
- Transfer coupons and discounts into a savings account — LOVE!!!! And pretty much exactly what I did all last year during our Challenge Everything Mission. Any new money I came across – whether from selling something or saving on monthly expenses – all got stashed away in a totally separate saving account which only grew since I never touched it (to the tune of $5,000+!). By far one of my FAVORITE ways to boost not only savings, but *momentum*.
- Remove credit card numbers from your favorite online shopping sites – Haha… I don’t shop enough for this to be a problem, but I agree that making it annoying as hell for yourself will def. prevent some spending!
- Trick yourself with a zero-sum budget — “At the beginning of each month, you make a list of that month’s fixed and estimated expenses, tally them up, then transfer the amount of money you need into checking. All extra dollars you earn that month and the month before sit safely in your savings account.” — Beautiful! And is exactly what we do too. Although I like to think of it as the “pay all your bills a month ahead” approach, which gives you a crazy amount of padding during the times you don’t get extra money that month and actually get less. Something not all too uncommon when you’re self-employed.
- Convince yourself that you’re broke. Yes! This one’s great because it helps you set boundaries with your extra cash before it has a chance to go out the window. In a nutshell, you keep your checking account close to $0.00 or whatever buffer you need in there to feel safe, and then you divert all other money elsewhere so you don’t think of it as “free money” to play with.
- Maximize work-sponsored retirement accounts, and live on the rest — Yup, do that one too… I’ve maxed out both my SEP IRA (and before self-employment, my 401(k)), as well as my Roth, going on 5+ years in a row now… It’s not always easy – especially this year for us – but if you only did that (or even one of them) and nothing else you’d amass a million dollars+ over time pretty easily. And the beautiful part is that you’re not tempted to pull from any of it since you get dinged up the arse! So it’s another excellent way to hide cash from yourself too.
- Transfer raises straight into savings. Another great one! Easy to do and keeps lifestyle inflation at bay. You’re already used to your paycheck and not counting on it for anything (at least I hope) so why not funnel it away the second it hits your account? I’m a firm believer that you should always know what you’d do with extra money way before it comes in. That way you’re not tempted to blow it on something outside of your priorities and then later regret it (it’s def. cool to blow a little and have fun, of course, but hopefully not the entire thing)
- Ask yourself one important question before you make a purchase — The article says a good question to ask is, “Did I need this yesterday?” which I think is pretty good (hadn’t heard of that one before), but the two I like to ask are “Would I rather have this, or cash?” and if I’m shopping for clothes, “Would I put this on right now and wear it out?” It’s amazing how easily you can change your mind with a simple question :)
- Trick yourself with money-saving apps — We all know I love this one ;) Been rocking both Digit and Acorns for about a year now, and have $3,000+ extra to my name because of it. No shame in harnessing technology! Especially the automatic type!
So looks like I’ve done almost all of these at one point or another. Pretty cool!
How about you? Any of these new/interesting to you? Gonna try any of them out?
If I can figure out a way to clone myself, maybe I’ll put together a real Savings Hacks Hall of Fame for us one day… Instead of stars on the ground though it’ll have to be piggy banks, and instead of gold statues we’ll of course hand out plastic ones at the yearly inductions.
But what a fun event to attend! Even if it’s B.Y.O.B. ;)
[Photo by rawdonfox / Tweaked by J$]
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Great set of savings tips! How about one of my favorites: Just don’t spend money! – Use it up, wear it out, make it do, and do without.
Haha… that’s 100% savings right there!
The zero sum budget sounds like good strategy to try. When we were little kids our babysitter would have us go to the dollar store and get candy there, then sneak it into the theatre. I got a ton of anxiety and felt like I was committing a felony….It drives me nuts how much stuff my kids will never experience….Heck the concept of a payphone, a cd store, or a movie rental store are completely foreign to these kids.
Yup! Dial tones too… the other month my nephew asked what one was and it totally shocked us. No dial tones on cell phones!
Sooooo…does it drive *anyone* else crazy that they persist in playing the sound of a dial tone when people hang up CELL PHONES?
Hah – do they? I’ll have to pay attention the next time…
The payphone idea was genius! It reminds me of the “We-ad-a-baby-its-a-boy” Geico commercial (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JxhTnWrKYs) from back in the day!
I use the “trick yourself with money-saving apps” all the time. I mainly use Digit and Acorns as a way to capture additional savings but they are still helpful in increasing my savings rate each month. I also use Digit to help capitalize on the savings I get from coupons. Whenever we use a coupon, I transfer money over to Digit right away so I make sure to capitalize the savings.
Never saw that commercial before! Haha… beautiful.
The inspection/tags trick doesn’t work here. They figured it out a long time ago. They’ll just keep putting on the date that it was and you can expect to pay a fine if your past your due date.
Waiting to spend is good. The missus and I have a “over 100 bucks” rule. Call each other, decide if its immediate need or is it a want, and go from there. Sometimes waiting till the next day to see if we still “want” it.
If you’re running a budget (spreadsheet) AND keeping up with it, then you should already have everything else here listed as to what to do with your $$.
Anyway, that’s my 2 bits.
Interesting that car places have caught on there! Maybe we’re slower here ;) The “over 100 bucks” rule is a good one too.
J Money, I love you – but tell your friend he is a moron. It’s not an 8% savings if he delays the purchase 12 hours. If his plan works out flawlessly then MAYBE he recognizes 100% of this savings over a span of 12 years, but is it worth the hassle? Isn’t the inspection less than $200? Is he running home when he drops off his car? If someone follows him, that’s extra gas money to offset his “savings.”
A penny saved may be a penny earned, but it’s still only a penny.
That’s what I was going to say. I’ve thought about trying it, but it doesn’t work in Virignia. You can delay whatever inspection is for the windshield sticker, but you can’t with the license plate stickers since that’s through the DMV and you’ll get hit up if you’re late. I guess it might work if you’re willing to do the inspections separately, but I don’t have time for that. Getting my car inspected is the thing I hate the most about having a car. Takes so freaking long!
That’s why it’s good to leave it overnight and not have it take up your time during the day :) But Hunter’s right – you need someone to drop you off or make it not that annoying in order for it to be worth it.
I need to try the double cheeseburger trick. It just so happens, the theater as frequent is right next to the Golden Arches! Cha-Ching! I love figuring out new ways to save a buck to propel me towards early retirement just a little bit faster. I’ve been considering the Acorn app for quite some time now. I think you’ve convinced me to actually give it a go!
Let me know what you think if you do! :)
While I’d frown upon sneaking in food at the theaters, I’ve also noticed the shamelessly high prices they charge there. I mean, come on, you’re not selling gold there, you’re selling junk food. :D
My brother-in-law had a college roommate that I would nominate for the SHHF. He would mix a little bit of flour into water and convince himself that since it was a white liquid it was the same thing as milk. He would also go to McDonalds for the $0.49 cheeseburgers Tuesdays (this was back in the mid ’90’s) and get a few dozen and fill his freezer with them and only eat those for the week until the next Tuesday.
I wonder why he didn’t buy actual powdered milk? And, wow!
Wowww haha… now THAT is crazy!
Pay Phones and collect calls, you are talking old school. :) We always bring our own candy and water into the movies. I have done this trick with my car inspection before, but not every year just be it hasn’t always been convenient.
The biggest threat to my budget is my laziness. There are so many nights that I don’t feel like cooking and take-out would ruin my budget. Now, whenever I do cook I make a double batch of whatever it is and freeze half. That way I always have something in the freezer I can throw in the oven for dinner. So far so good!
That’s a great system! It takes advantage of those nights of high motivation. We all go through the ups and downs. I love this idea!
Our biggest one is to actually talk about future purchases. We nearly never get caught off guard and have a few months notice before some big purchase. We are able to plan and be flexible (less towards this next month since we need to pay for X).
So true! Just being about to plan and mindfully spend can have a huge impact! It’s those unplanned expenses that really cause problems.
In VA, the inspection gimmick saves you $1.33 per year, in theory, (1/12 of $16) assuming there is no cost to doing it that way. Since many people wait to the last minute just out of disorganization, it will almost certainly take hours longer to get the inspection done than it would in the middle of the month. I don’t know about you guys, but my time is worth way more than that. I’ll keep getting my car inspected when it’s convenient for me.
HAH! True that…
Like the list…found a few things for me to add to mine. Found another one this weekend…a friend and his wife buy grocery gift cards and gets reward points for them (he gets in line to purchase) and then turns around and uses them to pay for his groceries and gets reward points (his wife gets in line to purchase). Those points go to saving on .10 on gas for every $100 spent. I thought to myself…priceless :0
Crafty! I’d feel embarrassed going right back in line for some reason so I’d use them on the next trip, but good for them for owning it :)
I recommend using discounted gift cards for everything you buy: groceries, gasoline, movie tickets, pet products, chain restaurant meals, home repair items, etc.
Go to GiftCardGranny.com, type in the name of the store/restaurant/whatever you want, and look for the biggest savings.
My partner and I saved a little over $400 between Sunday and Tuesday. Discounted gift cards played a role:
Please refer to me by my Latin name: illegitimus frugalis. ;-)
Morning J$…. I love “money challenges”. My latest challenge is the all about the coffee. Every morning that I brew my cup of joe at home, I transfer $5 into savings….been doing it since December 28th. If I keep it up all year, that’s an extra $1825.00 that I’m paying myself, instead of Starbucks. Right on!!
Awesome! I remember the “Come pick me up”, collect calls! haha, the good old days. It’s crazy to think about how different the world is now with cell phones. It’s hard to imagine a world where you couldn’t get in touch with someone immediately. I’ll leave it up for others to determine if it’s better or worse. :)
Love all the savings tips, especially #3 “Transfer coupons and discounts into a savings account” – that’s one of the most common saving money “tips” we’ve seen so far for early Tip Yourself members. They love being able to separately see their savings grow in their tip jar. To some degree for many it’s “found” money. Tip Yourself, You earned it!!
A perfect match for y’all ;)
Yeah absolutely. The Target cartwheel app has been the most common savings referenced in tips.
While the overnight trick will save you some money this year, it’s similar to the trick about paying your January mortgage in December to get one more month of interest deductions on your taxes that year. The problem with tricks like these is that it’s something you have to continue to do year after year to reap the savings. Otherwise, the next year, you end up paying that extra money back. For example, with the mortgage trick, if you don’t do it the following year, you end up only making 11 payments during the year, so you get a smaller interest deduction that year that offsets the larger one you got the year before with the extra payment. Same with the inspection tag. And with that, it gets pushed out one month further each year. Eventually, you’ll hit December. Inspection offices will be closed Jan 1. You probably wont want to leave your car there for 2 days (or more, depending on how the weekend falls), so you’ll end up paying early. Savings lost.
True true… though it’s automatically lost if you don’t try at all too :)
I like the idea of pretending your broke even when you’re not. I got that idea from the book The Millionaire Next Door about “creating and economic environment of scarcity.” With a better job, I’m fighting that urge of lifestyle inflation because I went without so many thing for a long time…well, #firstworldthings, but it’s kind of hard mentally now when I know I can afford something. But I’m trying to stick with this tip I got from the book.
Try maybe setting aside like $50 of “blow money” every paycheck? That way you get to indulge a little but don’t have to worry about it jacking your budget?
Ha, I had a friend who pulled the collect phone call thing. They’d ask her to state her name, and she’d say “It’sAmyandI’moff!” and hang up. Kind of brilliant.
And yep, a couple of years ago I realized that all of the money we were “saving” wasn’t really ending up in savings. So I started an account and transfer money there. Cutting Dish, switching to Ooma, getting a better deal on Internet and one or two other things means an automatic $140 gets set aside immediately each month. The rest comes in dribs and drabs.
Yep — same here. It doesn’t matter when you get your car inspected, the sticker you get has the same month. I’m ALWAYS due in August no matter when I actually do it. In fact, our state has coupled the inspection and registration/taxes so you have to get your inspection done then pay your vehicle taxes/registration in order to get the new year’s sticker to put on your license plate (we don’t have a separate windshield sticker).
But that sounds like an awful lot of work for a very small gain once a year.
Awesome post – for #8, I’ve got a variant – put all your raises into prepaying your mortgage. I wrote a whole blog post on this last month with all the juicy math involved:
Using some pretty “standard” numbers, you can turn a 30 year mortgage into a 12.4 year one and save almost $70k in interest. Best part? When you’re done with the mortgage you have an extra $30k per year that you’ve trained yourself not to need – I’m guessing that bumps up your FI/RE date by quite a bit :)
Hell yeahhh!!! Would be an incredible habit to get into for sure!
Nice trick with the inspection.
I’m convinced that we are broke. I show the missus our latest rental home repair bill and she changed her mind about buying a new purse… We have assets, but not a lot of cash. I don’t want to buy anything in this situation.
The inspection sticker/ date can vary state by state. My wife’s car was registered in Virginia and they put the new date on whenever it is inspected. If you got it inspected 2 months early, your new date was 2 months early… So your first inspection was only for 10 months essentially. If you were late though, even if dropped off over night on the last night of the month, you *could* get fined for being late.
When I lived in Pennsylvania though, you could get your car inspection up to 3 months early and you would always keep the same inspection date. No savings, but not losing like other states, and gives you a bit more flexibility.
Interesting about paying it *early* – you don’t hear about that too often, haha…
What I’m finding out is that having too much cash makes me want to spend it!!! So I started automatic investment contributions every month.
I do implement most of these savings tips, although I could probably be stricter with them. Setting up Digit and Acorns accounts is on my financial to-do list. The car inspection savings trick is genius and hilarious!
Love the “Convince yourself you’re broke”! Don’t have to do any ‘convincing’ at the end of each month and I generally am skint lol. The way I shop does actually change dramatically though, generally I don’t look at the price of things when food shopping etc and could save a fortune.
We definitely get any income into retirement accounts, savings, or debt payoff ASAP, and “pretend to be broke” the rest of the month (almost). It’s a great trick and has helped us get ahead of financial goals because you can’t spend money that isn’t liquid. The other hacks are great, too!
HAH! It’s almost literally in your blog name! :)
Correction–any “extra” income–obviously we don’t live off of nothing.
I’m glad our state doesn’t inspect our cars! Also, we wouldn’t be able to slide on the tag trick because our tags renew every year on our birthdays. But we have a three-month window that we can renew our plates: the month before your birthday, the month OF your birthday, and the month after. So, while we can’t scoot the date forward each year, we do get an extra month’s leeway in case we forgot about plating our cars. It is actually helpful, because my birthday is on the 31st and my husband’s is on the 28th of their respective months, so if we waited until our birthdays to think about plates, it would almost be too late.
I like your tip about convincing yourself that you are broke. I think, since my husband and I started out pretty much broke, as we have eased our way out of it we still have the same mindset. It also helps that some money moves automatically into savings, HSA, and retirement accounts, so the money dropped in our account still seems like we aren’t making as much as we really are because of what we see going into the check account.
And if you keep up those habits/mindset over the next couple of decades and not get sucked into lifestyle inflation you’ll have soooooo much $$$$ banked up! Without much effort at all!
Number 9 is totally working for me. I used to buy immediately without even thinking if I really needed it, but now I know how to control and ask myself before making a purchase.
Favorite savings hack is automating it, every month, direct transfers leave my joint account to savings accounts……Also if you have dual income AND you afford too, to keep that account separately in another bank for savings/investing. This is money that you rarely touch unless it is for investments or emergency or retirement money or education money..
Also simplicity works: each income has a purpose, then it makes it easier to spend and save. Because of all the above, I feel broke all the time !
Mom also taught a valuable lesson in buying stuff: always ask yourself is this something you need or want? Helps every time!
I love your tips, I’ll try number three and get my kids to add it to their piggy bank stash so they see it for real and hopefully learn from it:)
The saving 1 part of the dual income is INCREDIBLE if you can pull that off… I cannot wait for my wife to go back into the work force and we double up again! Been over 6 years without one, ack! (On the plus side, we now know we can afford to just live off one – even if it’s not always optimal ;))
My financial-related habits drastically changed in a better positive way when I used money-saving apps like Digit. This app is just amazing and has helped become a saver and financially responsible.
Glad to hear that!
Love the inspection trick! I don’t go through the hassle of leaving the car there overnight — I just drive it in the next day instead.
Ready for my super cheapskate to come out? My car has started to burn oil, so I can’t make it to my next oil change without putting more in. So … I go to Jiffy Lube halfway between oil changes and they’ll top it off (up to 2 quarts) for free! (well, included in the cost of the last oil change).
HAH! I didn’t know they did that??
Mine is always leaking transmission fluid and I have to remember to top off or else who knows what will happen… But a fine trade off for no car payments, right? Go old cars!
Haha totally guilty of the collect call payphone hack! Love it :) Things the kids these days will never know :)
Good classic tips. I don’t think this works in my state, they print out the original month sticker even though you might arrive a month later.(Slackers I tell ya) Savings those coins really goes a long way bud. Yeah I remember doing the pay phone trick as well.
I love digit! In the past I bought a DD latte EVERY DAY! Now I transfer $4 into digit every day. When I get to $100, I transfer it back and make an extra student loan payment!!
BOOM! Beautiful way to harness Digit!
I definitely do 1, 4 and 9. I can’t do the employer match stuff…given I don’t have an employer ;).
We also shop for bargains, both when we shop and when we invest. We’re opportunistic and only buy when the price/moment is right. Patience, we find, is just about the best saving tool there is!
Great post. This reminds me of the saying that dieting begins in the grocery store. If you don’t buy your trigger foods and instead set your kitchen up for success, you are more likely to eat healthily. Ditto this.
Some people think saving money is drudgery but I think it can be fun if you get yourself in the right mindset and make it into a game or challenge. For example, I’m doing a year of frugal challenges on my blog (http://www.ladyfrufru.com/blog-1/2016/1/5/2016-a-year-of-frugal-challenges) Embarking on a different challenge each month helps me sharpen my skills. I also am trying Acorns–like it so far–and also do the Mason Jar Savings and the $5 bill savings as fun little ways to stash more cash (google these. They are every where)
Nice! Challenges all over the place – def. fun!! :)
You have a lot of great tips. And I hate to be the pedant in the comments, but well…
It’s “I couldn’t have cared less” not “I could have cared less”. If you could have cared less, that means you cared.