18 Budget Hacks That Can Help You Get Your Finances on Track

MarketsMotley Fool

Source: Getty Images

1 of

Try these and watch your cash accumulate

Though Americans are doing a better job of saving today than in years prior, many of us still have work to do. In fact, only 39% of U.S. adults have the funds on hand to cover a $1,000 emergency. If you need a savings boost, then it’s time to rethink your approach to how you manage and spend your money. Here are a few budget hacks that’ll help you seamlessly bank more cash.

ALSO READ: 12 Months of Smart Money Moves to End 2018 Richer

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

2 of

1. Set up an automatic savings plan

It’s hard to spend money you don’t get access to. If you set up an automatic savings plan, a portion of each paycheck you receive will go directly into your savings account, thus eliminating the temptation to blow that cash needlessly. Set up that plan upon getting a raise, and you won’t even come to miss that money in the first place.

Previous

Next

Continue Reading Below

Source: Getty Images

3 of

2. Use the envelope system

Many of us who maintain a budget do so electronically, such as on a spreadsheet. But a good way to keep your spending in check is to utilize the envelope system, where you designate individual envelopes for your various expenses and fill them with cash at the start of each month. Once you see your cash supply dwindle in a given category, you’ll know to go easy on spending to avoid running out of money completely. Want to take things a step further? Don’t let yourself transfer money between envelopes so that you learn to better manage your expenses on an individual level.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

4 of

3. Barter for services rather than pay for them

We all have services we’re used to paying for, whether it’s having our homes cleaned or our pets groomed. But if you’re willing to give up a bit of your time, you can save money on certain expenses by bartering for them instead. For example, if you’re a graphics design wiz and your friend has a hair-styling business, update her website in exchange for a free cut. You’ll both save money, making it a win-win.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

5 of

4. Read your supermarket circular

That grocery circular you get in the mail isn’t just meant to take up space; its purpose is to alert you to sale items that could save you money. So rather than toss that circular, comb through it each week and see what’s being offered at a discount. If it’s items you were planning to buy anyway that don’t expire, stock up while you can.

ALSO READ: 5 Grocery Hacks to Save You Big Bucks

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

6 of

5. Start planning your meals

How many times a week do you find yourself stopping at the supermarket to pick up a few missing ingredients for dinner when your fridge is otherwise loaded? Many of us shop for food without putting much thought into what we actually want to eat in the coming days, and as such, we buy needless items that end up expiring. A better bet? Figure out a weekly meal plan in advance, create a shopping list around that plan, and stick to it.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

7 of

6. Keep a grocery inventory at home

Buying items you already have on hand is not only frustrating, but a waste of money. Unfortunately, it’s a trap many of us fall into frequently. After all, it’s hard to remember which cereal boxes you have stashed away in the back of your food closet, or which spices you’re running out of. To avoid doubling up on groceries and wasting money in the process, create a digital inventory of your pantry and fridge, and consult it before you buy things. Apps like Google Keep let you store such lists on your phone so that they’re accessible at all times -- even during an unplanned supermarket stop.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

8 of

7. Get walking

If your office is 20 miles away from your home, then you have no choice but to drive or take the bus. But if walking to work is a reasonable endeavor, do so, at least on a part-time basis. Not only is the exercise good for you, but you stand to save money on gas, parking, bus fares, and taxi or rideshare costs.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

9 of

8. Find a savings buddy

It’s hard to save money when everyone around you is spending their cash like there’s no tomorrow. But if you enlist a like-minded friend with similar goals to save money with you, you can challenge and encourage each other every step of the way. You might even make it interesting, where the first person to bank $500 gets treated to their favorite (cheap) restaurant by the other.

ALSO READ: 5 Ways to Save Money Painlessly

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

10 of

9. Cancel rarely-used subscriptions or memberships

Most of us consistently pay for items we don’t really utilize, whether it’s the gym you go to once a week or the video streaming service you watch twice a month if you’re lucky. If you examine your budget, you’re likely to find at least one thing you don’t actually need and won’t come to miss, and the sooner you slash that cost, the more cash you’ll free up.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

11 of

10. Unload a vehicle you don't use for commuting

AAA says it costs $725 a month to own a car when you factor in payments, fuel, insurance, and maintenance. If you don’t use that vehicle every day, but rather, on weekends or for the occasional shopping trip, you’ll probably come out ahead financially by renting a car as needed, or using a rideshare service multiple times a month. Not only that, but having your own vehicle can be a huge liability, so unloading it could save you from having to cover a major unplanned repair.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

12 of

11. Carpool to work

The benefit of driving to work on your own is getting to pick up and leave on your own schedule. But if you’re willing to be flexible, carpooling with fellow coworkers could save you a bundle over the course of the year. Besides, if you commit to driving together, you’ll be more likely to show up on time, which is a good habit to uphold at the office.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

13 of

12. Bank your savings when expenses go away

Maybe you finally paid off the car you were financing, or got rid of those nagging student loans that were otherwise draining your bank account. But rather than start spending that cash freely, it pays to keep that now-gone expense in your budget as a designated savings category. In other words, if you got used to forking over $250 a month in student debt, start paying that money to yourself by putting it in the bank. Or, spend a small chunk of it as a reward of sorts, but save the rest.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

14 of

13. Automatically save your change

We’re all used to purchases that generate change -- you pay $10 for a meal that costs $9.32, or spend $3 on a $2.50 latte. But did you know that there are several apps out there that let you round your purchases to the nearest dollar and put the change in savings? Sign up for one such app, like Acorns, and you’ll build up some nice additional savings, albeit over time.

ALSO READ: Saving Money Was Never Easier With These 10 Mobile Apps

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

15 of

14. Buy prescriptions in bulk

If you have a medication you take regularly, ordering it in 90-day supplies could wind up being cheaper than renewing month after month. In some cases, you might pay less for a three-month supply than you would for a single month’s batch, so review your prescription benefits to see what makes the most sense.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

16 of

15. Go generic

Whether it’s the medication you take or the supermarket products you buy on the regular, avoiding brand names is a good way to save money across the board. For example, 90% of generic drug copays cost less than $20, compared to just 39% of brand-name copays. It makes sense to shop around for generics or other such low-cost alternatives, because you’ll typically get the same benefit, just at a lower price.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

17 of

16. Wait 24 hours before buying anything out of the ordinary

When you're on a diet, a good weight loss trick is to drink a glass of water when you think you're hungry, wait half an hour, and see if that urge to eat still exists. The same holds true when it comes to the things you don't usually buy. If you're thinking of purchasing something out of the ordinary, whether it’s an article of clothing or a new electronic, commit to waiting 24 hours before pulling the trigger. Chances are, you'll come to realize that some of those items aren't worth your money.

ALSO READ: You Won't Believe What the Average American Spends on Impulse Buys

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

18 of

17. Ask for discounts

Sometimes, the best way to snag a better deal on an existing expense is simply to ask for it. Whether it’s your cable provider or your local dry cleaner, if you’re a customer in good standing, it never hurts to request a price break. Even a small discount could go a long way over the course of a year.

Previous

Next

Source: Getty Images

19 of

18. Examine -- and cut -- your budget quarterly

As life evolves, so too do our habits and needs. That’s why you should pledge to examine your budget every three months with the goal of finding at least one expense to reduce or eliminate. You might, for example, cut your driving costs during the spring or summer, when it’s nice enough to get places on foot. During the winter, you might curb your leisure costs by planning at-home movie nights rather than hitting the town. There are tons of options to play around with, so keep checking that budget and get creative.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Previous

Next