I’m sorry to say that I’ve always felt like most of the personal finance advice on the internet seems to be lacking in reality.
I love people like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey, but the idea that cutting out Starbucks from my budget is going to magically make me a millionaire is ridiculous. When I was rolling pennies to pay my rent, you can bet your ass I wasn’t thinking about Starbucks.
I’ve since fixed my broken budget and I’m well on my way to saving for a prosperous retirement, but I didn’t get there with the normal financial advice out there. I had to develop some new tricks to save more money.
Here are the 4 crazy ways I fixed my budget (and they still work if you want to give them a try)…
1. Hide Your Money. From Yourself.
There was a time when I sucked at managing money so much that I took to hiding my savings from myself. How’s that for will power?
And I know I’m not alone here.
I had a decent job, but it seemed that every time I would get a little extra in my checking account, I’d promptly buy something ridiculous. (“Why, yes I do need to order that “Perfect Bacon Bowl” contraption I saw on last night’s infomercial” or “I guess I should go ahead and buy these jeans. The sale ends on Sunday, after all” ). Ridiculous.
If you want to try hiding money from yourself, one of the best ways to do it is with a CD (certificate of deposit). You can head to your local bank or use an online institution like GE Capital.
The benefit here is that you’ve locked your savings into a long-term contract. Not to mention the fact that you’re earning some interest on it as well.
GE offers a 2.23% interest rate on a 5-year CD. Not enough to make you Warren Buffet, but certainly enough to make me feel good about it. Plus, you only have to have $500 to open one.
2. Don’t Freeze Your Credit Cards. Use Them.
Alright, so I’ve tried the old “freeze your credit card in an ice block” trick. I’ll save you some time — it doesn’t work. At least not for me. Unlike the CD trick, I found my money was just too accessible in the freezer.
It didn’t take too long before I had an ice pick and a hair dryer beating down on that thing so I could make it to Target before they closed.
Sad? Yes, it was. But, I’ve also realized that it was kind of stupid.
You see, my credit card is an awesome source of extra income. I have the Barclaycard Rewards Mastercard (an easy card to get) which gives me 2 points for every dollar worth of groceries, gas and utilities that I put on the card. Plus, 1 points for every other dollar. And the points can be converted to real cash (1000 points = $10).
Consider that the average family spends $1024.70/month on groceries, $368/month on gasoline and $163/month on utilities. Just those purchase alone add up to an extra $31.11 every month. So, by freezing my credit card in an ice block I was effectively reducing my take-home pay by $373/year, at a minimum. That’s just dumb.
Yes, you can’t use credit card frivolously, but you should be using it for the purchases you have to make and then you should pay it off at the end of every month.
3. Stop Being Frugal.
When I was at the height of my own personal financial crisis, I seemed to be always thinking about how to save a buck. I canceled my cable. I turned off the air conditioner (In Florida. I kid you not). I’d clip coupons until my fingers were numb.
Some of it was necessary, but overall it was demoralizing. I spent all of my time thinking about ways to sacrifice and deny myself. And inevitably, I’d end up cracking and splurging $200 on new video games at Best Buy to ease my depression.
I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of us that could stand to ‘cut’ back a bit, but I think a healthier model would be to spend 50% of your financial thinking time on ways you can save money and 50% of your financial thinking time coming up with ways you can earn MORE money.
For some reason, so many people forget to think about the other side of the ledger. You need to make more money if you’re every going to get your budget under control.
Just to toot my horn for a moment… there are plenty of ideas on this site if you’re looking for a way to bring in some extra cash. Here are some of my favorites:
4. Create Extra Income That Doesn’t Add to Your Work Day
For a lot of our readers it’s not really possible to add another job to the schedule. You’re already working 2 or 3 jobs and still aren’t making ends meet.
It’s a pretty common problem, which is why I always suggest that you look for ways to boost income passively. Income that doesn’t require you to work a ton of additional hours.
Obviously most types of passive income require you to have a huge investment, but there are also little things you can do to make money.
One of my favorites is the Media Research Panel smartphone app. If you install their app on your smartphone or tablet, they will pay you $5/month per device. And you can install the app on up to 3 devices. Plus they’ll send you a $5 bonus after the 12th week.
Their app helps media companies better under how consumers are using their device by measuring activities conducted on a device, such as sharing, viewing, clicking, chatting, and downloading.
This is one of those things that takes about 15 minutes to set up and then you never have to think about it again. You just get to cash the check every month. All told this can add up to an extra $185/year.
There’s also some other ideas on the site for passive income here:
So, there you have it. Those are some of the crazy things I did to fix my budget.
Your Turn: Do you have any weird tricks to save more money? Would you give any of these a try?