The year is coming to an end. That means we can reflect on our successes and wallow in our mistakes. This last year was one of our most intentional in terms of saving money for us both. Writing here regularly and producing YouTube videos (we need to be better at that) gave us more awareness about where our money is going, what we can do better, and how we can prepare for life financially.
Throughout the year, there were things we did to make more money. Other actions helped us save money.
In these final weeks of the year, it’s time to reflect. What practices can we continue to implement in our lives to save and make more money next year as well? These 8 stand out as the simplest and most practical.
1) We made money by taking advantage of bank promotions
Banks often have promotions they want you to sign up for. Don’t get in the habit of doing this constantly. Otherwise you’re going to have a wallet full of credit cards. Things can get out of control quickly. Things like transferring money into a certain account is much safer and a benefit to reap when you have the liquid available.
In recent months, interest rates have been going up. It hasn’t been kind to our retirement funds. However, with our savings placed in a high-yield account, we’ve actually been able to do pretty well in bank interest. There isn’t a thing you have to do other than park your money there. Bank interest rates will eventually go down so take advantage while you can.
2) We saved money by keeping the heat down
Our home is heated by oil. This isn’t cheap. It might literally cost less to buy a home near the equator and stick it out for a few months. Heating oil is outrageously priced. To not go broke because we’d prefer our pipes not to burst, I’ve been keeping the temperature a little lower.
How low can we go? At night, I’m turning it down to 62 degrees. When I wake up, if there’s a chill in my bones, it goes up to 65. It stays there until one of us cannot tolerate it anymore. At its zenith, I’ll put it at 68 degrees. In the final week of November and early December, it has curiously stayed at 62 all day on some occasions. Have we finally gotten used to the frigid temperatures? Our wallets hope so.
3) We made money by using our credit cards appropriately
Don’t give me this “cut your credit cards up” garbage. You’re going to have expenses. Why not put everything on there and benefit from the rewards? The only one we ever use is cashback. I’m thankful for it.
We had both planned and unplanned expenses this year costing much more than we’d like to spend. Fortunately, a little kickback in cashback helps ease the pain. It might only be a few hundred dollars in an average year. When you put every grocery, every medical bill, and every purchase on your credit card, the cashback points do add up. Make sure you’re aware of which credit card pays a better percentage at different stores or types of purchases. One of ours is better for online purchases. Another makes shopping at Walmart more of a party even if many of the customers are people we’d never invite.
4) We saved money by joining a Buy Nothing Group on Facebook
There is no better way to save money than by not spending anything at all. A local Buy Nothing Group on Facebook gifted us with a couple of different items. I can recall our dirty clothes hamper and a plant Jenny picked up on my birthday as two of those items.
Buy Nothing Groups are great outside of the drama which inevitably crawls into every social media page. Although, that can be fun to watch from a distance for some guilty pleasure voyeurism. It’s an online community where you can always turn to when you need something or have an item you want to part with, has no resale value, and is too good to trash.
5) We made money by taking on new responsibilities at work
Getting a raise at work is always good news. It does, typically, require some new responsibilities. We were fortunate to each see our pay increase this past year. It did come with more responsibility. I’m still waiting for the great power. Spider-Man taught me they come together.
In addition to this, I was able to make more money by taking on additional responsibilities as a freelance writer. It’s cringy to say. It’s true, though. I did make a good amount more money this year than I ever have in the past doing something that used to be only a hobby. I’m just not excited when I find out how much I owe because I didn’t do my quarterly taxes correctly. I’m still learning.
6) We saved money by cooking more and rarely eating out
The only restaurant we may have eaten at this whole year is a buffet. We got take out a couple of times. As far as sitting down at a restaurant goes, there were only a small number of times when it wasn’t at an all-you-can-eat venue. We’re big, bloated fans of those.
There is no hard and fast rule about how often we eat out because that’s too limiting on life. I’d estimate we might do so once a month. This includes fast food which isn’t so cheap anymore. Avoiding restaurants is the easiest way to save money. A meal for two people will easily top $30. That might be if all you do is share an appetizer and a glass of water.
7) We made money by paying off extra on the mortgage
Here’s a twist. We saved money by spending more now. Our method toward paying off extra on the mortgage has us throwing 25% of our monthly savings at the principal payment. Because our interest rate is actually less than what we have at the bank right now and extra mortgage payments are money you can never get back, it’s not a huge priority yet something we like to take big bites out of whenever we can.
This might not technically qualify as saving money this year. However, our future selves will thank us. If all you can do is cut down one year of the mortgage each year, you’ll pay it off in half the time.
8) We saved money by continuing to do things ourselves rather than hiring a professional
Are we handy? Not necessarily. We are much more daring with our home now. We don’t pay people to clean up our leaves. We wouldn’t dream of forking over cash to have anyone deliver something to our home we could carry ourselves. When the project can fail without disastrous consequences, it’s usually cheaper to try it yourself.
The difference between doing it yourself and hiring a professional can sometimes blur. When one minor mistake can cause things to go haywire, we’ll hire the professional. When the reason a professional does it is because of the grit and grime associated, we tend to do it ourselves. No maid is ever coming into our home. We’ll put on a mask, a pair of gloves, and douse ourselves in rubbing alcohol after if we need to.
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The book that convinced us to start investing and being more proactive with our money and lives: The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need by Andrew Tobias
The gear we use to make our YouTube videos at the Practically Humans YouTube Channel
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