First Person: The 10 Ways I Maximize My Money

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Last year, I noticed that manufacturers started packaging less product for the same price. This year, they are charging more for that smaller package. Inflation is officially with us, and having the responsibility of my family's budget on my shoulders, I take care to maximize my money any way I can.

Cash Notebook

Cash is bad for me because I spend it like water. To bring some order to this chaos, I now keep a small notebook in my wallet and force myself to note my cash purchases. This act alone has helped maximize my money by preventing me from making silly, spontaneous purchases that I don't wish to have on record.

Cash-Back Points

I keep only one credit card in my wallet. It offers excellent cash-back points on purchases (between 3% to 5%), and though the interest rate on the card is high, I make a point of paying off the balance before the end of each cycle, and so I never pay any interest. Best of all, I can claim the cash-back points in dollars, which really maximizes my money.

Frozen Meals vs. Going Out

I always long for a warm meal after a long day at work, but I rarely have the patience to start cooking at six or seven in the evening. I've discovered that having high-quality frozen meals at home, like those from Claim Jumper's or Boston Chicken, can be just as tasty as eating out or ordering takeout, and, of course, they are far cheaper.

Free Entertainment Venues

Parks and lakes offer great weekend and evening outings from hikes to cycling and strolls—and they don't cost a penny. I love to pack sandwiches on Wednesday, right in the middle of the work week, and go picnicking at a local park. Even a cheap fizzy wine will taste delicious in that starlit setting. Maximizing my money is more often about mood than substance.

Smart Grocery Shopping

Gone are the days of inspirational shopping. I plan the menu for the whole week and I go shopping with a list. To maximize my money, I'll shop at wholesale stores like Costco and only supplement things I can't find there by visiting my neighborhood supermarket. And because packaging is large in wholesale stores, I've bought a backup freezer to help with long-term storage of perishables.

Baking Parties

Buying cakes, pies or even breads is so much more expensive than baking them. But baking can be boring if you hang about the kitchen all day by yourself. To maximize my money without dying of boredom, I have baking parties on Saturdays. I invite friends or family, and we bake goodies for the week. You can imagine the tea break we have that afternoon.

Gas Prices

I no longer get in the car and go for a drive. I first consider what I'm trying to accomplish, then I look for the nearest location. This especially maximizes my money on weekends when, instead of driving to a distant lake, I'll go hiking on a local mountain or strolling in the neighborhood park.

Higher Deductible

I'm a cautious driver and, with the change in my driving habits, I now spend even less time on the road. I, therefore, decided to take a risk on increasing my car insurance deductible. I've never been in an accident, so this step helped reduce my premium (and maximize my money) without changing my coverage in any way.

Interest Costs

I sat down one bleak evening and took a look at the interest I was paying on my credit cards. Then I checked for balance transfer offers and chose the best ones. In this way I maximized my money by reducing the interest I was paying and, with it, my minimum payments.


I'm not a believer in clipping twenty-five-cent coupons, but online coupons are a different matter. I maximize my money by shopping for gifts or major purchases online with stores that offer valuable coupons, like 20% off with free shipping.

More from this contributor:

Smart Moves for a Lower Car Payment

What I Learned by Refinancing My House

Making the Most of My Free Annual Credit Report


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