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Spend Less Without Even Trying

Jul 22, 2019 3 min read

Key Takeaways

  • ID situations that make your purchase trigger finger itch.
  • Ax any automated services you pay for but don't use.
  • Beware "flash-sale" sites that rush you to a shopping cart.


You already know you should brew your own coffee, brown bag your lunch and make your own laundry detergent. And one of these days, when you finally have a few extra minutes, you’ll actually start doing all of these things.



But for now, you need some ways to save that don’t require you to take the DIY approach to every aspect of your life. Here are some non-obvious ones that may make your boss say, “Hey, you should lead the next lunch and learn.”


1. Pinpoint your pain points

You already know you shouldn’t shop for groceries when you’re hungry but it can be hard to identify other, less obvious situations where you tend to overspend—unless you create a paper trail.

Save your receipts for a month and circle any impulse purchases. Then do an analysis. Where did you tend to fritter away the most money—snacks from convenience stores, dinners with friends at pricey restaurants, online purchases made when spending the evening on Facebook? You may be surprised at where your money is really going. By identifying the situations that trigger extra spending, it’ll be easier to avoid them—or to budget for expenses you decide you’d rather not eliminate.

It’s not just giving in to temptation that can blow your budget. Even if you shop with a grocery list, rising prices at your supermarket can take you by surprise. You can’t do anything about higher costs, but you can create your own self-defense plan.


2. Avoid automated purchases

When you sign up for services you aren’t sure you will need in the future, avoid contracts that will let the merchant ship them automatically on an ongoing basis. These arrangements may sound convenient, but they can result in a lot of wasted money—and a lot of extra stuff piling up in your home. If, say, you discover you never take those pricey vitamin supplements you put on auto-ship but keep forgetting to cancel the order, you could waste hundreds of dollars in a year.


3. Get (financially) fit

Good intentions result in underutilized gym memberships that can cost you a bundle.

Skip the happy hour routine and grab a co-worker for a stress-reducing after hours workout.

Look into free fitness tools to track calories and exercise, and seek motivation and nutrition tips via online fitness forums.


4. Make the most of frequent-customer programs

Many merchants now offer programs offering rewards points or special discounts to their most loyal customers. If your favorite stores offer such programs, concentrate more of your purchases there, so you can really max out these deals, the way you would an airline miles or hotel rewards program. If the merchants must scan a bar code to record your points, use a free mobile phone app to make sure you always have that code with you.


5. Surf before you shop

When you order products from internet stores, make it a habit to do a quick Google search for any coupons from the merchant before you check out. There's no reason to pay full price at stores that offer frequent coupons. Be careful on "flash sale" sites, though. They can create a sense of urgency by offering deals that will only last a short time. Responding to that sense of deadline pressure can get you to buy things you really don't need—and wreck your budget.


What you can do next

Virtuous ways to temper your spending jones are great—and often impossible to stick to. The good news: Simple, painless ways to save each day are easy to find—and often far more effective.


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