“How many hours of my life does this thing cost?” is one of the first thoughts that runs through my mind before committing to clicking the “checkout” button, as I mentally divide the cost by my hourly wage. Putting the dollar price in those terms forces me to examine whether a purchase is really worth it. Often, it’s not.
I like to keep it frugal any way I can, so here are some simple rules I live by when I’m in the mood to spend.
8 Spending Hacks I Use To Spend Less Money
1. Brand Loyalty is overrated.
Sometimes it pays to switch it up., and millennials aren’t known to be brand loyal, anyway.
One luxury I love to splurge on is meal services because they let me try new flavors and eat healthy, balanced meals at home. Even though it’s worth it to me to pay a little more per meal than I would at the grocery store, I still try to curb the cost whenever I can.
For services like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Sun Basket, you can alternate between the companies to get discounted offers. They all have a discount for first-time customers, but the deals don’t have to stop after you’ve used that up. After a few weeks with one brand, switch to a new company. Within a few weeks, the service you canceled will send you an email with another discount to try and win your business back. Switch back to them to keep the cycle going. It’s a little sneaky, but they’re still making a killing so I don’t feel too bad.
2. Subscription services.
If I don’t have to, I don’t pay full price for subscription services. I use my student status to get a discount on Spotify and Hulu, and I share the cost of Netflix with a friend (don’t worry, this one isn’t sneaky. Netflix says it’s okay!).
Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are also good ones to alternate (similar to the meal services thing). If you can live with just one at a time, cancel Hulu for a couple months and they’ll offer you a free month to come back.
3. Patience is a virtue.
After adding stuff to your shopping cart while logged into an online store, leave the cart to sit there for a week or so. Often, the company will send you an email with a discount code for the item(s) you’ve been eyeing.
Even if they never send an email, it can be worthwhile to wait. Many companies will offer free shipping if you reach a certain dollar amount, so in that time you might think of something else you want or need. Put it all in one order to save on shipping! But be careful — don’t add to your cart just to save on shipping. Make sure you would buy it anyway.
4. Browser extensions can extend your paycheck.
I use Chrome exclusively, and my favorite browser extensions are Honey and Wikibuy. Each time I’m on the checkout screen, these extensions automatically pop up and run all the possible coupon codes they have in their databases. I usually have better luck with Honey, but I always let them both do their thing to be sure I’m getting the best deal.
Specifically for people who prefer Amazon, there’s an extension called Amazon Assistant to find the cheapest price for an item, and there’s another one called Camelizer that shows the price history for an item, helping you decide whether to buy now or wait. For comparison shopping across sites, Pricescout is the way to go.
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5. Travel groups.
Traveling is really important to me, so I pay an annual fee of $25 to receive the “Scott’s Cheap Flights” newsletter with, you guessed it, lists of cheap flights. From a guy named Scott.
Every day, I get a few emails with some dirt cheap flights to international destinations. I’ve booked two flights with Scott’s help so far: NYC to Tokyo for five hundred dollars per person and NYC to Paris (during Christmas!) for four hundred dollars per person. Both of these flights are usually 200 dollars+ more per ticket. I’ve had great luck with Scott’s Cheap Flights, but there are other options, like Next Vacay.
6. Thrift it.
Before making a purchase, consider if you can find a used version first. Unless you insist on reading new releases only, there’s really no excuse to purchase a brand new book. Amazon’s option for buying used is very simple, and so is Barnes & Noble’s. For household goods, always check Craigslist for lightly used appliances or furniture. Not everything on Craigslist is in great shape, but it’s common to find people who are moving and need to sell even their newish things. I got a 10 dollar toaster on Craigslist six years ago, and it’s still in perfect shape.
For clothing, Poshmark, thredUP, and Swap are great places to update your wardrobe on the cheap.
If you need any more motivation for choosing used goods as often as possible, it’s way better for the environment.
7. Make it harder to spend.
It might sound crazy, but I regularly delete my payment information from Apple Pay and apps like Starbucks, UberEats, and Postmates to make ordering less automatic. The barrier to spending is wayyyy too low if all I have to do is press a single button. I hit “reset” and delete my info every so often to force myself to think harder about it next time.
8. Don’t let good deals fool you.
Getting a good deal isn’t an excuse to spend more, or you’ll just end up spending more than you would have without the deal. Never use rewards, like the Target Card five percent discount, as an excuse to spend more at Target, even though they’re known for getting you to buy everything in sight.
And there we have it, eight spending hacks, tips, and tricks I use to spend less money regularly. How do you keep you budget under control?