If you have a few minutes to spare, you can literally save money. And that sounds like a good way to start the new year, right?
Of course I’m sure a lot of us have some version of “get my finances in order” on our list of New Year’s resolutions, or “be wealthy beyond my wildest dreams” on our vision boards. Well, I think both of those things are a stretch for me (let alone creating a vision board), but as a realist with limited free time, there are a few things I can recommend.
Maybe these are things you’re already doing but can check in on. Maybe they’re things you’ve been meaning to do.
Well, let’s do them!
These are not major to-dos (“find a financial advisor and completely rework my financial life!”); just a few fast, easy things, and wow, what a weight off your shoulders.
– This post has been updated for 2023 –
7 quick things (really!) to do right now to help you better make, manage and save money in 2022.
1. Set up a monthly transfer from checking to savings.
“Pay yourself first” may be the best financial tip I ever got (thanks, Dad!) and it always stuck with me. In other words, think of your own savings like a bill that you have to pay each month, then set up a monthly (or bi-weekly) auto-transfer from your checking to your savings account, no matter how small the amount.
You’ll start to forget about it as it becomes just another monthly “expense” and it’s really nice to see where you end up at the end of the year.
2. Schedule monthly transfers to your kids’ college fund, or increase the current amount.
I am currently staring at a gaggle of soon-to-be college students and…oof. That happened fast.
Whether you’ve got a 529 tax-deferred college savings fund for your kids, (there are several sties that suggest the best 529 plans right now) or a savings account for each of your kids, it’s a great idea to contribute even a little each month. Just like tip #1…only for your kids.
If you’re saving $500 a month, awesome. If you’re saving $5 a month, awesome. If you can increase it by a bit, do it; a little goes a long way over 18 years, or hey, even five years if you’re starting later. Plus, because you’re not taxed on the contribution (up to a certain amount per kid, which differs by state) you can save hundreds in state taxes each year. On savings! That belong to your family!
It’s literally keeping more money that’s yours, instead of paying it to your state in taxes.
And by the way, you can tell friends and family that a college fund donation is a great gift for birthdays and holidays, in any amount. They can even write the check directly to your plan if you check the plan’s site or app.
3. Set up auto-payments for monthly bills, from your credit card…if possible
Only if you’re able to do this responsibly, use your reward card to auto-pay monthly bills — phone, cable/internet, insurance, rent or mortgage, utilities — then pay off the credit card each month from your bank account.
This way you’re getting rewarded for everyday expenses while helping to build responsible credit, too.
Just be sure to pay it off immediately each month. If you don’t think that’s a good idea for you, or you have credit challenges, no worries; just schedule those auto-payments from your bank account. You’ll save so much time and energy, and potentially save money in the long run if you’ve ever been stuck paying late fees on a bill that completely slipped your mind. (We’re all busy, it happens to the best of us.)
4. Double-check your monthly subscriptions, right on your phone
You may be paying for a service you no longer use, so…why not cancel! It’s actually super easy.
If you have an iPhone: go to Settings > Your Name > Subscriptions. Right there, you’ll see anything you used Apple Pay or your iPhone to subscribe to, from streaming services to apps with monthly or annual fees. (Bonus, it also shows you your next billing date should you want to set a calendar alert to remind you to cancel it before the next one.)
If you have an Android phone: Go to the Google Play app, click your Profile Icon > Payments & Subscriptions > Subscriptions to see all your services. You can also pause payments through Manage > Pause if you want to take a break, or save a little money — say, you’re away for a month and don’t need those streaming subscriptions.
You can also just give your credit card statement or monthly bank statement a quick once-over to see what crops up; not everyone looks closely at their statement details and you’ll be surprised at the savings that could be hiding in there.
5. Visit your credit card provider website and sign up for every relevant offer. Every. One.
Go! Right now! Log on and do it! I’ve written for years about why an Amex Platinum Card has paid for itself for me in benefits, but there are plenty of cards with outstanding benefits and partnerships that suit your own lifestyle. Over the past two years since Covid, even brands you’d least expect are teaming up with credit cards.
You may be able to access monthly credits to ride services like Uber and Lyft, get hotel and car rental upgrades, double points on take-out and delivery app orders, even earn free statement credits for shopping at stores you already buy from, flying certain airlines, fueling at certain gas stations, buying from Instacart, or eating at your favorite local restaurants where you already go.
That is literally free money.
It’s also a good idea to take a moment to read through your automatic credit card benefits. There may be benefits you didn’t even realize you had access too, like a purchase protection plan or automatic travel insurance. Those can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars each year.
6. Install a deal-saving browser extension or two.
This is such a quick money-saving tip and really makes a difference! A few favorites money-savings browser extensions of mine that I’ve shared include Honey, Priceblink and Retail-Me-Not, which automatically search the web for discount codes or lower prices as you shop, and offer cash back. Kristen is also a fan of Rakuten (formerly eBates), which even works on Etsy. Sweet!
I have saved hundreds of dollars and earned cash back doing absolutely nothing different at all — and that’s my favorite way to save money.
7. Make a quick call to your credit card provider or bank and ask for a better deal.
Yes, you can spend time researching better credit cards (and probably should) with lower interest rates if you carry a balance, but we’re talking quick tips here. So try this first:
If you’re a cardholder in good standing, but you have a high-interest credit card carrying a balance, make a short (friendly!) call to customer service and ask if you can have your rate lowered by a few points.
You may get it — or you may even get a short grace period to skip a payment.
While on the line, ask if the company has any other cards that might be better for your needs — like rewards card, frequent flyer card, or a card with zero-interest balance transfers.
The same goes for your bank by the way. You might find that they have a different checking or savings account for you that could cut out overdraft fees, pay slightly higher interest on savings, or save you money in other ways.
Here’s to keeping more of our own money this year.
Top photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash