"A penny saved is a penny earned."
- Benjamin Franklin
"There are plenty of pennies out there just waiting for you to pick them up."
- David Rae
Fulfilling any meaningful financial goal means saving a lot of pennies, true, but it really can be easier than you think. One of the first tips I give my clients is to look for ways to save money that don't actually require you to cut back. It's really just a matter of honing your financial radar and learning how, where and when to pay attention. Put more bluntly, ignore these valuable tips because they initially seem to be "too much trouble" and you're throwing away cash.
Here are a few tips to help get you financial house in order, and on your way to financial security.
1) Return or sell crap you don't need. I happened over to one of my clients' homes (yes, homes) whilst they were in the middle of a closet purge, a splendid exercise I recommend to everyone. In this case though, piles clothes still had tags on them that could be returned or exchanged. I not so gently suggested they return what they weren't going to wear, a move that saved them several thousand dollars. Now even if you're not in a demographic where you can forget what you've purchased, I'm sure you have tons of stuff around the house that you don't need, want or will ever use. And I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that a hefty percentage of that are things that someone else does need, want or would love to use. And these folks are trawling Ebay as we speak looking for it. So get snapping and get posting. If it's too much hassle to pack and ship, there are plenty of places that will do it for you so no excuses.
2) Look at the specials, make the call. True story: I saved $300 this year with just one call to my cable provider. I saw a special advertised from a new cable provider with a special intro rate. I wasn't under contract to my old provider anymore, so I made a call to see if they had any retention special. Without any hesitation they gave me $25 off per month just to keep my business. Pretty good return on a 10-minute call, yes?
3) Get into digital coupons with money saver apps. My husband jokes that my idea of a good time is to clip coupons and yell out, "Look honey, I can save us 99 cents on a mega-mondo-colossal carton of Tide!" He on the other hand, would rather eat glass. I get it. I'll admit I'm a bit of a money nerd and I clip coupons, and always have some special deal or coupon to save money on many a purchase. At the same time, I've learned in over a decade in the financial planning realm, some people won't use coupons to save their lives. But even if you are coupon-averse, you can save substantial amounts using the equivalent of digital coupons via a money saving app. My favorite is the one from our regular grocery store. The app syncs with my rewards card, and the store loads up all kinds of discounts based on things I buy regularly. A few clicks and few minutes per month and we're saving a ton.
4) Price match on major purchases. Our television died right before Black Friday. Heaven forbid I have to go a few days without a big screen in our bedroom, so I went out and bought a TV at Best Buy. (I found a great deal, and used a credit card that gave me an additional 10% cash back, BTW.) But to my chagrin I opened the newspaper the very next day and found the very same TV was on sale for an even better price at another store. Luckily, Best Buy has a price-match guarantee (way to go, yay!) and when I contacted them, they quickly refunded the difference to my credit card. That's $130 saved in just a few minutes. Also keep in mind many credit cards have price protections as well, on the chance that there is price drop on an item you have recently purchased. But to get those refunds, you have to, 1) Be on the lookout for them; and 2) Make the call.
5) Buy your wine in bulk. We all know that buying staples in bulk (hello, Costco!) makes good sense. But did you know that you can also purchase luxury items such as wine in bulk as well? Here in Los Angeles, the discounts range from 10 to 30% off when you buy six bottles or more at one time. And it doesn't even have to be of the same vintage! One of my more fabulous clients with expensive taste in wine has saved a ton of money with this simple strategy. Before I clued him into this, he always bought four to five bottles of pricey wine at a time. By just adding a cheap bottle to the mix (hence hitting the six-bottle benchmark minimum) he ended up saving $25 to $75 a week, enough over a year to buy him a ticket to France where he could sample even more vintages.
There are many ways of being careless with money, and I'm going to be writing quite a lot about this in the future, but one of the fundamentals is laziness. Paying attention does take some effort and does involve some degree of hassle. But it's not a lot and in most cases means mere minutes. I've done an extremely unscientific rundown of my suggestions here and though your results may differ (could be more, could be less), a year of doing all of the above could equal something in the neighborhood of over $2000. Now that is something worth paying attention to.
DAVID RAE, CFP®, AIF® is a Los Angeles-based retirement planner with Trilogy Financial Services, a firm managing over $2 billion of client assets. He has been helping people reach their financial goals for over a decade. Follow him Facebook on FACEBOOK or via his website at www.davidraefp.com
Securities and advisory services offered through National Planning Corporation(NPC), Member FINRA, SIPC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Trilogy and NPC are separate and unrelated entities.