Getting More Bang for Your Buck: Top Money Hacks for 2021!

12 money hacks & money saving tips to help keep more dollars in your pocket this coming year! Save, Spend & Invest More Wisely!

1) Eliminate Impulse Purchases
2) Get Out of Debt as Quickly as Possible!
3) Cut Back on Cable TV, Internet & Cell Phone Expenses
4) “Recycle” Some Money Using Facebook Marketplace/Craigslist/Ebay
5) Get a Fidelity Rewards VISA Card
6) Use Online Bill-Pay
7) Maximize Matching Contributions to Your 401(k) Plan
8) Fund Your HSA (Health Savings Account)
9) Save on Prescription Drug Costs
10) Use a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit)
11) Use the Equity in Your Car
12) Start a side-hustle that can generate passive income

1) Eliminate Impulse Purchases & Return Items Within 2 Weeks If They Don’t Live Up to Your Expectations

This may be one of the most important things you can do to improve your financial life, and it should be taught to children early!  Institute a self-imposed, mandatory waiting period before you make any non-essential purchases.  We would suggest something between a week to 30 days.  You may find that after waiting for the prescribed period – that the urge to make the purchase may have subsided, and you will have saved yourself some money. 

Additionally, even if your desire to purchase the item survives the waiting period, and the purchased product does not live up to your expectations – force yourself to return the item for a full refund within set period of time (maybe 3 days or so).  You may be surprised at just how effective this strategy can be at keeping money in your pocket and clutter out of your house!


2) Get Out of Debt as Quickly as Possible!

Debt is a tool that should only be used with extreme caution and should really only be used, if ever, for large purchases like a home, or maybe a car! Paying high interest rates (15% and greater) on credit cards purchases is really foolish and a incredibly destructive force with regards to financial freedom! Be very aggressive in reducing your debt and make it a game to pay it off as quickly as possible. Track your progress – to keep it at the very top of your mind! Rather than making an impulse purchase – put that money towards debt reduction. You will be amazed at how quickly you can make a significant impact on reducing your overall debt load when you really focus on it and put your mind to it. As you kill off each debt don’t forget to celebrate your victory with a little reward!


3) Cut Cable TV, Internet and Cell Phones Expenses

Examine your cable TV, Internet and cell phone bills in detail.  Chances are, you will find that you could probably prune back most of these services, resulting in significant savings on your monthly bill. 

Consider what you really need and use as opposed to what you actually pay for.  Do you really need unlimited data on your cell phone?  You may also find that there are other cheaper providers.  For example, if you are a customer a large national carrier – you should investigate using Consumer Cellular and/or Republic Wireless for cell phone service.  They are probably a lot cheaper than what you are paying now! Likewise, go to Amazon and look at Ooma Telo as a way to save on your home landline – if you still have one. 

If you are a cable TV customer you should consider streaming services, or just cutting the cord completely.  Most cable packages include 100+ stations that you will never watch.  And then when they find out what the most popular stations are that people are watching they will change their packages to make you upgrade to the package that includes your favorite TV shows.  And of course this will cost you more!!  Again – go to Amazon and look at the Fire TV Recast – which is a cord cutter’s dream!  It is a really neat and inexpensive DVR for recording Over-The-Air (OTA) broadcast for the main networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, etc.  Oh, and it integrates really well with your Fire stick!


4) “Recycle” Some Money Using Facebook Marketplace/Craigslist/Ebay

These are all great ways to turn trash into cash!  It is an easy way to sell items you no longer need or want, free up some space in your garage/basement/family room, and generate a little spending money!  As the saying goes, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure”! I have been truly surprised at the stuff that people are willing to buy.

As I see it, and like to tell my kids, it’s a “Win / Win / Win” scenario! 1) Someone gets a great price on some lightly used stuff (Win). 2) I free up some space in my house and get a little cash (Win). 3) The stuff is used rather than making it into the landfill – which makes Mother Earth very happy (Win)!


5) Get a Fidelity VISA Rewards Card – To “Reclaim” Some Portion of Each Purchase

  • You can earn 2% cash rewards for every purchase you make and have your reward proceeds automatically swept into your Fidelity brokerage account!  If you are eligible to make a ROTH IRA or Traditional IRA contribution – you would be able direct those rewards to either of those accounts as well. 
  • It’s a great way to save a little extra towards your retirement!  You are really only paying 98% of the cost of any purchase and reclaiming 2% – which you should have directly deposited into a Traditional or ROTH IRA. Ignore it for awhile and you will be surprised to see how it accumulates!
  • Currently, there’s no annual fee and you’ll see your VISA details on Fidelity.com when you log-in to see your Fidelity investment accounts.  
  • I like this better than cards that have cash rewards that vary by the type of purchase (for example 5% for restaurants, 3% for gas, 1% for everything else….). I like to know that I am getting back 2% on everything! I also like it better than cards that only offer non-cash rewards (airline miles, for example) that may be difficult to equate to a cash value.
  • I don’t use the card when a place charges me extra for paying with a credit card. For example – the school our children go to charges a 2.75% service / convenience fee for paying their tuition with a credit card. Since the service /convenience fee is obviously greater than the reward – we don’t pay their tuition with the credit card. Instead it is more prudent to pay by check.
  • I don’t use the Fidelity Rewards VISA card at stores like Target – where we get a 5% refund on all items purchased there using our Target REDcard.

6) Use Online Billpay – To Ensure You Are Paying Your Bills On-Time – ALL the Time!

Consider using on-line bill pay for your monthly bills that you can’t pay (or it doesn’t make sense to pay) with your Fidelity Rewards VISA.  This is a quick & easy way to help make sure that you are paying all your bills on-time! Whether or not you pay your bills on-time will impact your credit score – which determines how much it costs you to borrow money – if you need to.

Many credit unions, banks and even Fidelity offer on-line bill pay services – for no charge.  You can save time, postage, envelope costs and avoid late payment fees/interest charges by using this type of service to pay your bills. 


7)  Maximize Matching Contributions to Your 401(k)

This is stating the obvious, we know, but be sure to take full advantage of your employer matching contributions in your 401k or other retirement plan at work.  For example, if your employer matches 50% of your contributions of the first 6% of your pay–contribute at least 6% or more of your salary into your plan.  A “guaranteed” 50% return on your investment is hard to beat!


8)  Fully Fund Your HSA (Health Savings Account) If You are Already Maxing Out Your Retirement Accounts

HSAs are a great way to pay for out-of-pocket health expenses on a tax-free basis, both before or after retirement.  If you have a high-deductible insurance plan – you may already have an HSA, or be eligible to open one.

During retirement, most of us will continue to incur health expenses.  An HSA provides an additional source of tax advantaged funds to help meet those needs – without tapping into an IRA or other retirement account.  

Additionally, if you are one of the fortunate people who has no, or very few, health related expenses during retirement – the accumulated HSA funds can be used to augment your income during retirement.  There is no requirement that HSA funds be used for solely for medical expenses.  However, distributions from an HSA account for non-health related expenses do become taxable as ordinary income.  In essence, the funds will have the same tax treatment as funds withdrawn from a traditional IRA.  If such distributions occur prior to age 65 there may also be a penalty. 

So if your cash flow is good and you are already maxing out your contributions to your retirement accounts – consider funding the HSA up to the maximum amount allowed each year and paying for any current health related costs out-of-pocket rather than from the HSA account. It’s just another way to accumulate a little more money for those golden years.


9)  Use a Comparison Service to Shop for Prescription Drugs

It is no surprise that prescription drugs can get extremely expensive.  However, as technology progresses, distribution and price comparisons services in the pharmaceutical field have emerged as a means to save consumers money.  Check out GoodRx.  They survey prices and discounts from over 70,000 pharmacies in the US.  They provide you with a card and/or coupon that you can take to your local pharmacy to get your discounted price – of up to 80% off!  Their service is free, but they also offer premium services and discounts with a paid membership.  Go to GoodRx.com to learn more.


10)  Use a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) to Consolidate Debt or For Funding Major Repairs to Your Home

If you are paying high interest rates on any outstanding loans or credit card debt and own a home with equity built up, you should consider a Home Equity Line Of Credit (HELOC).  The HELOC is a line of credit secured by your home that gives you a revolving credit line to use for purposes of consolidating higher-interest rate debt and/or use for large expenses.  It often has a lower interest rate than some other common types of loans and the interest may be tax deductible if you itemize your deductions.


11)  Use the Equity in Your Car Rather Than a Personal Loan for a Short-Term Loan

If your car is free and clear of any debt and you are in need of short-term cash – you may be able to utilize the value of your car to secure a short term loan through your bank or credit union at an interest rate significantly better than the interest rate for a personal loan.  Short-term usually means you would pay it back in 2 to 3 years or less. The process is usually no different than that to buy a new or used car, and significantly less involved than obtaining a HELOC.  I did this one time when I needed some cash for a project I was doing and was in and out of the bank in just about 15 minutes! The interest rate on the car loan was 2% as opposed to the 7% rate for a personal loan. Most banks will also shave a few basis points off your interest rate if you auto-pay.  Shop around for the best rates.


12)  Set Up a Passive Income Side Hustle

I use the term passive income in the sense that your compensation is not necessarily dependent on you being someplace for a certain number of hours – where you are trading hours-for-dollars. Don’t get me wrong – setting up a passive income side hustle can take a lot of time and energy for sure! But if you put in that time and energy on the front-end you should be able to grow the income and reap significant rewards down the line.

Passive Income can be a powerful source of income and very liberating! However, most passive income endeavors take either a lot of cash to set up (think real estate) OR a lot of time and energy up front to set up (think blogging or vlogging). In addition to the initial time to set things up – there will be some maintenance time required and it is many times like planting a tree – where the time to build the recognition and presence to something significant may take years. So the sooner you start the better! Check out TheBlogIncomeProject.com for some resources an specific information on setting up a blog or niche website.

Individually, you might not find any of these too compelling at affecting your monthly budget.  However, doing several of these, collectively, will probably make a bigger impact on a monthly basis than you might be inclined to at first believe!

Sincerely,

Chip

This is an article I co-authored with one of my business partners – Kevin Ekstrom.

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Chip
Blessed father of 4 wonderful children & trophy husband to 1 lovely wife. Part-time blogger, full-time nerd & aspiring Renaissance man!
Articles: 181

One comment

  1. I love these money tips; definitely tips we can keep in mind any time of the year! I love your thoughts on impulse buying; I know that I never regret it when I sit back and think about my attachment to having something. Most of the time, I do not buy the said item and then I have money to buy something I actually need. 🙂

All constructive comments are welcome!

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