1. Save money automatically: set up an automatic transfer to move money from your checking account to your savings account every month. Then forget about it. Or use an app like Acorns to round up your purchases to the nearest dollar, saving and investing the change.
2. And lest we forget this one, earn more money. I recently wrote a post about this one, so you can learn more here. When you do get a raise, designate a certain percentage of it to be saved rather than spent (automatically, natch).
3. If you have a 401(k) plan, contribute at least enough to get your employer match. Ideally, you will max out your contributions every year, meaning that you contribute the maximum the IRS will allow and still give you a tax break.
4. If your 401(k) plan has an auto-increase option, take it. This means that you can set your contributions to automatically increase by a certain percentage every year. You probably won’t even notice it.
5. Change banks: if you paid anything at all in bank fees during the past year, switch to a credit union or online bank with no account or credit card fees.
6. Make sure you have emergency reserve on hand, in cash. I recommend at least 3 to 6 months’ worth of your expenses, but any emergency reserve will help you avoid using credit cards and paying interest if something unexpected comes up.
Get Smarter About Your Money
7. Track your spending: I wrote a whole post on creating a spending plan. Read it to see why you need one and some easy ways to get it done.
8. Track your net worth: this will keep you motivated, as you (I hope) see your net worth grow over time. Chances are your spending tool will also have a net worth tracker, so this is an easy one.
9. Set some financial goals and track them: generally speaking, I don’t recommend setting goals to spend more than you earn, tank your credit score, and go down in a ball of flame. Pay off debt, build emergency reserves, save for retirement, track spending and net worth…then increase the travel budget or save for a house or a Maserati. Write down your goals, set timelines, and prioritize your list. Then go!
10. Spend less than you earn. OK, this one isn’t rocket science. It may be simple, but it’s not easy. If your debt balances are going up or you’re dipping into savings, you’re spending more than you earn. Review your spending and see what you can cut.
12. Get intentional about expenses in general: once you’ve started tracking what you spend, you can make sure your expenditures are in line with your values. I’m not telling you to stop collecting vintage clown paintings. Just make sure you are spending on the things you enjoy the most and see if you can cut back in areas that aren’t as important to you.
13. Unsubscribe from email newsletters: it’s hard to cut back on shoes and purses when I get that fabulous Bernardo email spread every week. You probably receive regular emails from retailers, too. Unsubscribe to remove the temptation.
14. Shop your insurance once a year: for car, home, and personal umbrella policies, I recommend that you see an insurance broker once a year. It doesn’t cost you anything, and they can look across companies to get you the best deal for your particular situation.
15. Get rid of credit card debt by paying off your highest-rate card first, then the next-highest, and so forth. This puts interest costs back in your pocket every month.
16. Try buying stuff used (or pre-owned, as the car dealers say…they crack me up!): check Craigslist, eBay, consignment stores, and so forth. You can save a lot of money over time with this strategy.
17. Do a no-spend challenge: this one can be really good for chronic over-spenders and comfort shoppers. Decide that you will stop spending on stuff you don’t need for a week or 30 days or whatever time period you like. You can still buy what you need, but no “fluff” purchases. This challenge will force you to stop, examine your choices, and get more intentional about them. And you may just decide you’ve had enough of all that consumerism, anyway.
Don’t Wait Until You’re “Retired” to Have Fun (and Save Along the Way)
18. Cookies are bad when buying flights: open a new, private browsing window if you revisit an airline site more than once before you book. Yes, they are using cookies to track you and they might increase the prices if you demonstrate interest by coming back.
19. Move to your happy place: a lot of people can work from anywhere now, right? If you can work remotely, why not move somewhere cheaper? Of course, I’m assuming your happy place is cheaper…if not, just put it on the vacation list.
20. Explore the world via rentals: a lot of people can work from anywhere now, right? Why not work from a beach in Croatia or a cabin in Montana? You know the usual suspects like AirBnB and VRBO, but also check out Nomad Stays. They vet longer-term rentals for wi-fi acceptability and co-working opportunities, and focus mostly on smaller, less-expensive cities to keep costs down.
22. Learn something new: try Coursera or other online learning institutions to take classes in everything from Philosophy to Astronomy to languages. Yes, it costs money but it might make you a more well-rounded person and give you some joy.
23. Hang out with people whose financial lives (and lives in general) you want to emulate. This can reduce the pressure of keeping up with the Joneses, since you have a model for how you want to live. You could even ask a close friend to be a financial accountability partner. You can keep each other on track and provide support and encouragement when that classic Moorcroft vase crosses your path.
24. Make a date with your money: yes, schedule time to sit down with your money once a month. Have a relationship with it. Invite your partner and kids, if you have them. Make it fun: dress up like your favorite billionaire, make a cocktail, and go through your financial goals, budget, worries, gratitude, and how you feel and think about money. Trust me, the more you do this the easier it will get.
I hope you’ll try at least a few of these hacks and let me know how it goes below. Bon voyage!