If you have a limited amount of time and energy to devote to frugal hacking, and let's face it, nobody is walking around with an excess of either of those resources, it's best to use them on the bigger savings strategies. Sure, the little things absolutely add up here and there over time, but clipping coupons requires more effort per dollar saved than snagging a better interest rate on your mortgage, for example.
Rather than driving to grocery stores all over town to cash in on small savings from various clippings or driving to the Best Buy two towns over just to utilize a $10 off promo, think bigger. Don't let the excitement of scoring a deal or freebie cloud your judgment as to whether the pursuit of those savings are truly worthwhile. After you factor in time, gas and wear and tear on your vehicle, how much are you really saving anyway?
The small frugal hacks of daily spending are a great way to develop a habit of savings and conscious spending. Utilizing coupons and cashing in on deals when the opportunity present itself is a resourceful way to save an extra buck or two, but for the bigger, longer term savings, consider these "ultra" hacks.
Save on interest.
Securing a favorable interest rate is a prime way to maximize savings. On a major loan repayment like a mortgage, a little upfront effort can save you considerable amounts of money for years to come. To cash in on this frugal hack, you need to get your credit in shape. That means checking your credit history, making payments on time (and in full) and reducing your debt to available credit ratio as much as possible. That means paying down your balances on all your credit card accounts. The higher your credit score, the lower your interest payments and the higher your savings.
Forego the tax refund.
Adjust your withholding exemptions so that your payments to Uncle Sam match your actual tax liability, and you won't wind up with a big refund come April. As exciting as it is to get that big check in the mail, that's money you've been loaning to the government for free rather than having it accrue interest in your own savings and investment accounts. As of the start of April this year, the average tax refund was $2,831. That's $235 a months' worth of money that could be working for you .
Ten to twenty minutes on the phone with your cable company, cell phone rep, or any other service provider can result in recurring monthly savings through a little old fashioned negotiation. If you're not getting anywhere after asking for a lower rate, ask for the cancellation department and see what offers start to come in. If you're unable to haggle down to get the savings you want, you can always shop providers to get your service elsewhere, probably with a new customer discount rate, too.
Buy in bulk.
While bulk buying can sometimes lead to unnecessary purchases and overspending, it's a great strategy for savings on non-perishable essentials like paper products and cleaning supplies. Other non-spoiling staples like alcohol that you can always use are great to stock up on in large quantities, not only so you save on the unit price, but also to cut back on the amount of trips to the store to restock.
Other than the obvious benefits of reduced healthcare costs over time, exercising and living a healthy, smoke-free lifestyle can provide some more immediate savings on your insurance premiums.
More stuff equals more to maintain, clean and devote time and energy to. From the size of your home to the size of your clothing collection, more "stuff" generates more expenses. Downsize and watch your savings soar.
Hold off on retirement.
For each year after full retirement age that you delay taking benefits, you accumulate a permanent increase in your benefits of 5 to 8 percent a year until age 70. This one strategy can increase your social security retirement income by more than 25 percent! It would take a lot of penny-pinching to add up to that kind of income increase.
Stefanie O'Connell is a New York City based actress and freelance writer. She chronicles her struggle to "live the dream" on a starving artists' budget at thebrokeandbeautifullife.com.
More From US News & World Report
- Banking & Budgeting