So much of the personal finance advice out there is about how to restrict your lifestyle to save money. They want you to cut your cable, make dinner at home seven nights a week, and wait for retirement to travel.
That may work for some, but I’ve tried it before and it just made me depressed.
I’ve written before about how over fixating over frugality can actual have the opposite affect on your budget. I subscribe to the theory that by making small, but meaningful changes to the way we handle our money, most of us can save a ton of money!
With that being said, here are seven easy ways to save $4,000/year without cutting back on anything.
1. Go Out to Dinner, But Pay Half the Bill
We all know that Groupon is a great way to save on going out to eat. They have 100’s of restaurant gift certificates that you can purchase for 50-80% off. But, if you’re just using Groupon… you’re losing out on some easy cash.
Get this – the folks over at MyPoints will give you a 5.4% cash rebate on every Groupon you buy through their site. MyPoints is free to join and it only takes about 15 seconds to sign up.
Think about this for a second. If you buy a $40 gift card on Groupon for $20, plus you get 5.4% cash-back from InboxDollars, you and your significant other can go out to eat for only $18.82. How awesome is that?
Yearly Savings: Do this 1x week and you’ll save $1,300/year
2. Tell Your Bank to Take a Hike
I hate to be the one to break it you, but chances are your bank is ripping you off. The top 10 banks in the US charge an average of $7.50/month for an account. That’s insane!
You should try switching to an online bank. They have lower overhead costs and are able to pass those savings along to consumers. There are a bunch of great online banks, but my favorite is definitely Chase because they’re currently offering Penny Hoarder readers $250 just to open an account.
Yearly Savings: Eliminate the fees and save $90/year.
3. Get Cashback on Your Filet Mignon
You don’t have to cut back at the grocery store if you know the right tricks. Have you heard of rebate apps?
My favorite is the Ibotta app — it gives you a cash rebate on your grocery store purchases if you take a picture of your receipt with your smartphone.
Many of the rebates are for things like steak, ground beef, bread and eggs. Plus, you can shop at your normal grocery store. There’s no need to run clear across town to save money.
And right now, Ibotta is giving new users a $10 sign-up bonus, just for redeeming their first receipt.
Another way to get rebated for your groceries is to signup to be a Nielsen grocery family. Nielsen will ask you to scan your groceries every week to provide data to their marketers. In exchange for your participation, they will give you points which you can redeem for gift cards and free electronics.
Yearly Savings: Get $5/week in grocery rebates and you’ll save $260/year
4. Get Your Cell Phone for Free
The average household pays around $102/month in cell phone bills! Try switching to a free carrier like FreedomPop.
They offer free talk, text, and 4G data.
There are a couple of caveats thought. First, customers will have to provide their own Sprint-supported smartphones. (The company does offer one phone itself, though it is the extremely outdated HTC Evo from 2010.)
Second, your free usage is comes with a cap. You receive 200 minutes of talk, unlimited text and 500 MB of data to use on your smartphone each month. If you want more data, you’ll have to pay more — and if you want faster speeds, you’ll have to pay for that, too.
Yearly Savings: Eliminate your cell phone bill and save $1,224/year.
5. Who Wants Free Internet?
There’s no need to cancel you internet connection to save money. If you’re willing to share some data about things like how long your spending on Facebook, these three companies will help pay for your internet bill…
Smart Panel – If you install their free app on your smartphone, they’ll pay you $15 after only two weeks of it being installed. And they’ll continue to pay you $5/month.
Nielsen Digital Voice – When you sign up to be on their panel, you’ll be automatically entered to win money every month. The lowest prize is $25 and the top prize is $1,000, and you’ll be eligible to win every month (in fact, I’ve heard from a couple of readers this week that got $25 checks already).
Yearly Savings: At least $295/year
6. Travel, But Make Your Credit Card Company Pick Up the Bill
I love leveraging my credit cards to earn airline miles. In fact, in the last two years, I’ve earned more than a million miles!
For example, the Barclaycard Arrival™ Plus World Elite MasterCard® will give you two miles for every dollar you spend. Plus, you’ll earn 50,000 bonus miles (worth $500) when you spend $3,000 in the first three months, and the $89 annual fee is waived for the first year.
Another strategy is to earn free miles on the airline’s site by taking surveys, shopping online, etc. We’ve got a huge roundup of ways to get free miles here.
Yearly Savings: Put all of your daily spending on a rewards card, and you could bank more than $800/year in free travel.
7. Shop Til’ You Drop, But Do it Online for Rebates.
Are you familiar with cash-back shopping sites like Ebates? They’ll give you a cash rebate if you do your online shopping through their site.
You just need to create a free account and then use their site to shop at your favorite places like Target, Amazon, and Kohl’s (there are 1000s of stores on there – those are just a few). Ebates will then give you up to 25% cash-back on whatever you purchase! Crazy, right?
I use this year round, but it’s especially helpful at Christmas time. Consider that the average family spent $801 in gifts last year and you can see how fast this would start to add up.
Yearly Savings: Use this at Christmas, average around 10% in cash-back rebates, and save at least $80/year
Remember, you don’t have to make huge changes to save a lot of money. It’s about making small changes that make a huge differences…
Your turn: Would you try any of these ideas?