Note: Sezzle U is provided for informational purposes only. Sezzle and its affiliates are not financial advisors; please consult with a financial professional before making any serious financial decisions.
1. Keep track of subscriptions
Many companies have adopted a subscription payment-model because they understand seeing “$10/month” is a lot easier for a consumer to digest and agree to than “$120/year”. It’s easy to be tempted to sign up for a monthly subscription since the amount can seem pretty small at first glance – spend 10 seconds to find the yearly cost for that subscription.
So for example, if your favorite streaming service is $15/month. Ask yourself a different question: is this service worth $180/year? Use the yearly cost when you’re evaluating options – it’ll give you a much more practical way to assess its value.
Another tip – many of these companies will allow you to pay for the year upfront at a discounted rate. In other words, you can sometimes get a 10-20% discounted price for the year if you pay upfront. If you’re stuck between monthly versus yearly, my suggestion is to try it monthly for 2 months, then switch to a yearly plan. That way, you can assess the value of the service before you pay a larger sum for the entire year.
2. Buy used when possible
Just buy a car? It loses 10% of its value the moment you drive it off the lot. Just buy a new laptop or phone? It loses 20% of its value the moment you turn it on. Buy some new clothes? They can lose 10% of their value once you leave the store.
Take advantage of this – with the growing popularity of Amazon Prime, check the Used options when you’re buying an item. In many cases, people return an item just because they don’t like it – this item is then sold to you for 10-40% off the retail price, guaranteed to have all of original items, and is they have the same no reasons asked, 30-day money back guarantee.
Buy used when possible – especially when it’s been lightly/not used or returned just because of personal preference. I recently picked up a $800-dollar wireless security camera set from Amazon, and paid $600 for cameras that were perfectly functional with zero damage – they were returned just because the owner likely didn’t like the color.
There are plenty of marketplaces online, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Mercari, eBay, etc. – pay with Paypal when possible, you’ll usually be able to file a claim for your money if it doesn’t meet your expectations as the buyer, so you’re practically fully insured.
3. Understand food spoilage
One of the simplest ways to save money is through food/eating expenses – especially if you buy your own groceries. The “best by” dates indicate the last day of peak quality, not safety. Many foods are still safe to eat weeks after the date on the package, so take a second look at the food inside the package before tossing it.
If you’re buying groceries for dinner tonight or tomorrow evening, or plan to cook last-minute, it’s a great way to significant amount of money. You can find baked goods such as bread for 30-50% off, with zero safety concerns, and quality meats like steaks for 20-40% off.
If you can’t finish your fruits, veggies, or baked goods – use your freezer. You can defrost most baked goods without impacting their taste, and frozen fruits/veggies can be repurposed in smoothies/soups later on.
4. Leverage credit card rewards
Credit isn’t the best option for everyone; for most people it causes more problem than it solves, but if you’re going to use credit, do it wisely.
The best way to do this is to look at your current spending habits and figure out where most of your money’s currently going. In many cases, a majority of come from common categories like: online purchases, gas for your car, groceries, food/dining out – find a credit card for each of your major expense areas.
The standard credit card might give you 1% cash back on all purchases – if you’re going to charge the expense to a card, why not maximize your returns? There are many cards that offer 3-4% on online purchases, gas, dining – all you have to do is swipe a different card when you’re spending, and you’ll be earning 3-4x more cash back spending the same amount of money.
You can also suggest pairing big purchases with credit cards you plan to open. Many credit cards will give you a cash bonus for spending a certain amount during the first X number of days. For example, if you’re planning on buying a $1000 laptop, and you find a card that has a $200 sign-up bonus, that’s the equivalent of you getting a 20% discount on a fairly expensive purchase.
5. Use online coupon & saving applications
Honey is a browser extension that automatically finds and applies coupon codes at checkout with a single click.
PriceScout is another browser extension that will check major retailers and search on the internet if there are any other websites that currently stock the item you’re trying to buy for a lower price.
Ebates is a browser extension from a shopping rewards company that will give you Cash Back for purchases on select websites. (Cash back is available from retailers like Amazon, JC Penney, Rite Aid, Walmart and Kohl’s to name a few.)
These are just examples but there are three categories here – finding the lowest price, applying discount coupon codes, and earning cash back from your purchase. This simple trifecta is a great way to stretch your dollar further when you’re shopping online, and most browser extensions will run in the background to find the best prices for you – there’s no additional work, paperwork, or time involved, but a good amount of potential savings.
6. Use a high yield savings account
If you already have money saved up – inflation alone is destroying the value that cash every single year. In other words, each year that passes, that same dollar effectively buys less than it did in the year before. For that exact reason, time alone will erode the value of your cash holdings.
The average savings account pays 0.1% APY, and many of the country’s biggest banks pay less than that.
High-Yield savings accounts, like ones offered by Ally are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000 so your money isn’t going anywhere.
And historically, these accounts can offer an APY of 1%-2%, if not more. Meaning that in most cases, your savings account will grow 10-20x faster rate than the average savings account. Protect the money you have from losing value with zero work/maintenance just by switching savings accounts.
7. Don’t be afraid to buy generic/off-brand
Medicine can be a pretty substantial expense – if you’re constantly buying allergy medicine, or preparing for cold/flu season, or buying medication to recover from feeling ill, it’s not uncommon to spend hundreds of dollars every year on medication alone.
Generic drugs are copies of brand-name drugs that have exactly the same dosage, intended use, effects, side effects, route of administration, risks, safety, and strength as the original drug. Why spend 20-40% for the name brand if the effects are going to be the same?
This same logic also applies to household items, which can be a major expense for households – toilet paper, napkins, laundry detergent, trash bags, sunblock, batteries – there are usually generic versions of all these goods for 20-40% less than name brand.
Think of it like this – 20% in savings is nothing to scoff about. If you buy 5 items for 20% off, that means you’ve saved enough money to a get a 6th item for free.
8. Optimize for the lowest rent possible
Rent is usually the largest out-of-pocket expense for anyone that’s leasing an apartment or room to live in. If you’re paying $1,000/month for rent, that’s a total annual cost of $12,000. That’s enough for the down payment for on a car and the first 1.5 years of payments, just to give you an example for scale.
When you’re searching for an apartment, consider paying someone to keep a close watch on message boards, forums, marketplaces, and online lists so you don’t miss out on a good deal.
Even if you’re paying them $15/hour, at 30 minutes a day, the cost to you is only $7.50/day. Keep in mind – this doesn’t also potentially help find you cheaper rent, but it can help you find a place to live faster.
If it takes them a month to help you find, you would’ve paid your assistant $225 total.
But keep in mind, if they find a place to rent and can save you just $200/month, that’s an extra $2400 in savings per year. You’ve paid for the cost of your assistant in just the first month alone and will still have over $2,000 in cash savings at the end of the year – enough for an all-expenses paid vacation, a new computer, or 2 new phones.
9. Buy gift cards at a discount
Keep an eye on sites like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist – many people will receive gift cards to places like Amazon and would instead like to exchange them for cash. It’s not uncommon for a person to sell a $100 gift card for a 20% discount (you’re paying $80 for a $100 of store credit).
There’s a whole community dedicated to selling/buying gift cards for major retailers (Amazon, Starbucks, Macy’s) over on Reddit at r/GiftCardExchange (buy/sell at your own risk). This is especially ideal if you’re spending a lot on purchases with specific retailer – a 15% discount on Amazon means you could buy a $1000 laptop for just $850 out-of-pocket.
10. Develop strong relationships with local services
Car maintenance is a great example of it being easier to prevent a problem than solving an unexpected issue. In other words, it’s well-worth it to spend an extra $200 every year to bring your car by the local mechanic for a check-up than figure out there’s a broken car part that’s going to cost you thousands.
If you’re going to use a service frequently like a mechanic – first, ask for a cash discount. Many places might be willing to take 5-10% off your bill if you’re able to pay with cash instead of credit.
In addition, try to work out a long-term relationship if you’d like to work with them regularly. So for example, ask if they’d be willing to honor a 10% service discount the next you stop by or if you stop by on yearly basis. Over time, even 10% adds up, and if there ever comes a time when there’s a much more expensive repair (in the thousands), 10% can be an extra $500+ in your pocket.
You can do this with your local locksmith, repairman, HVAC, plumber, electrician, etc. – in many cases, developing a strong relationship can built on trust not only can save you money, but give you peace of mind.