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I Tried 6 Money-Saving Hacks And Here's What Actually Worked

Two apps, a money jar, and a new bullet journal addition actually saved me a whole lot of cash in just one month.

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Back in 2016, I decided it was time I started taking my finances a little more seriously. So, I tried a series of spending and saving hacks, and wrote about them.

Some of the things I really liked (making coffee at home, scheduling "no spend" days, and using rewards cards) and some I really didn't like (earning money doing surveys, and selling my old clothes online.) I incorporated all of the habits I enjoyed into my life and now, a year and a half later, I do a lot of these things without a second thought. But after a long holiday that drained my savings and a big relocation, I decided it was time to check and see if there was more I could be doing — specially, more ways I could save money without really noticing.So again, for an entire month, I decided to try new ways to save money without trying particularly hard. Here's everything I put to the test:
J. Kelly Brito / Via unsplash.com

Some of the things I really liked (making coffee at home, scheduling "no spend" days, and using rewards cards) and some I really didn't like (earning money doing surveys, and selling my old clothes online.) I incorporated all of the habits I enjoyed into my life and now, a year and a half later, I do a lot of these things without a second thought. But after a long holiday that drained my savings and a big relocation, I decided it was time to check and see if there was more I could be doing — specially, more ways I could save money without really noticing.

So again, for an entire month, I decided to try new ways to save money without trying particularly hard. Here's everything I put to the test:

1. The tip: Estimate how much money you're going to spend each weekend on Friday afternoons.

I got this idea from The Billfold's Friday Estimate. Each week, Nicole Dieker estimates how much money she's going to spend during the upcoming weekend and encourages readers to do the same. I love this idea because personally, one of the worst feelings is getting to Sunday night and realizing that I've unexpectedly blown my budget for the month. Doing a Friday Estimate eliminates the surprise of expensive weekends and instead prepares you for what's to come — or simply shows that you've made more plans than you can afford. I've started writing my estimates in my bullet journal and already know this will be a habit I continue, especially as we move towards summer, aka a time when I don't just want to stay indoors eating pasta and reading, like I do now.Did it work? I wouldn't say this actually saved me money, but it's definitely a nice habit.
Gyan Yankovich

I got this idea from The Billfold's Friday Estimate. Each week, Nicole Dieker estimates how much money she's going to spend during the upcoming weekend and encourages readers to do the same. I love this idea because personally, one of the worst feelings is getting to Sunday night and realizing that I've unexpectedly blown my budget for the month.

Doing a Friday Estimate eliminates the surprise of expensive weekends and instead prepares you for what's to come — or simply shows that you've made more plans than you can afford. I've started writing my estimates in my bullet journal and already know this will be a habit I continue, especially as we move towards summer, aka a time when I don't just want to stay indoors eating pasta and reading, like I do now.

Did it work? I wouldn't say this actually saved me money, but it's definitely a nice habit.

2. The tip: Save every single $5 note you come across.

One of the tricks I tried in my original money-saving post was saving every coin that found its way into my purse. At that time, I lived in Australia where $1 and $2 coins are abundant, so this hack worked a treat. In the US, where the value of coins is much lower, this same trick wouldn't work nearly as well.So, I tried another variation on this idea and began filing away every $5 note that came into my hands. As with the coin-saving hack, this trick only works if you withdraw and spend cash. I had fallen out of this habit but picked it back up for the sake of this experiment, and once again found that I actually love spending and saving cash. By the end of this month I had $70 saved in my little money jar.Did it work? Yes, but only when I actually have cash on me, which can be rare.
Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

One of the tricks I tried in my original money-saving post was saving every coin that found its way into my purse. At that time, I lived in Australia where $1 and $2 coins are abundant, so this hack worked a treat. In the US, where the value of coins is much lower, this same trick wouldn't work nearly as well.

So, I tried another variation on this idea and began filing away every $5 note that came into my hands. As with the coin-saving hack, this trick only works if you withdraw and spend cash. I had fallen out of this habit but picked it back up for the sake of this experiment, and once again found that I actually love spending and saving cash. By the end of this month I had $70 saved in my little money jar.

Did it work? Yes, but only when I actually have cash on me, which can be rare.

3. The tip: Download the saving app Digit and let it take money from your checking account every day.

Digit / Gyan Yankovich

The premise of Digit is that the app has access to your checking account and "learns" your spending habits, before working out how much money it can save for you. Each day, Digit will take an amount from your account and put it in your "Rainy Day" account within the app. You can withdraw this money at any time — but the idea is that you don't.

My relationship with Digit started off great! On the first day it saved $1.14, then $6.50, then $1.05. For two weeks, I enjoyed it a lot — I didn't notice the cash slowly dripping from my account but loved opening the app and seeing I had saved money! Without even trying! But then, things started to go a little haywire. After two weeks of saving, Digit started taking much larger chunks of money from my account: $16 one day, $18 the next. It was too much. The rise in saving didn't actually reflect any influx of cash in my bank account and within a few days, Digit had almost drained my account — I had to press pause. A lot of coworkers mentioned having similar experiences, even after they repeatedly told Digit to save less.

After my next pay day, I un-paused the app and let it do its thing once again — but I've been keeping an eye on it. I love the premise of Digit and it's definitely helped me save money I otherwise would have spent — probably on over-priced work lunches — but it definitely need monitoring.

Did it work? Yes and no. Yes in that I saved money, but no in that I don't trust the app. This would probably work better for someone with more disposable cash than me.

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4. The tip: Unfollow and unsubscribe from everything that makes you want to spend money online.

I moved to the US with two bags, so naturally need to buy a lot of shit: furniture, linens, and you know, actual winter clothes so I could survive January in New York City. And as someone with an eye for discounts, this meant I signed up to a lot of retail newsletters in my first few months of living here because so many brands offer that sweet 10% discount if you do. I also found myself following local stores and brands on Instagram.For a few months, I loved the deals, newsletters, and sale alerts, until slowly my phone and inbox became spending triggers. But once my wardrobe and home were both comfortably full, the constant emails and shopping posts started to exhaust me and my bank account, so unfollowing them really helped.Did it work? YEP. It's so much easier to avoid shopping when you're not being bombarded by sale alerts every few days.
@everlane / Via instagram.com

I moved to the US with two bags, so naturally need to buy a lot of shit: furniture, linens, and you know, actual winter clothes so I could survive January in New York City. And as someone with an eye for discounts, this meant I signed up to a lot of retail newsletters in my first few months of living here because so many brands offer that sweet 10% discount if you do. I also found myself following local stores and brands on Instagram.

For a few months, I loved the deals, newsletters, and sale alerts, until slowly my phone and inbox became spending triggers. But once my wardrobe and home were both comfortably full, the constant emails and shopping posts started to exhaust me and my bank account, so unfollowing them really helped.

Did it work? YEP. It's so much easier to avoid shopping when you're not being bombarded by sale alerts every few days.

5. The tip: Download the Clarity Money app to seriously track your spending and see what you spend the most money on each month.

Clarity Money / Gyan Yankovich

When I downloaded this app I found out I had already spent $390 (!!!) on delivery food this year and almost $100 on Amazon. Granted, I'd had a group of friends visiting from Australia and I put a lot of group dinners on my Grub Hub account — especially since the weather this January was so awful — but still, I was SHAKEN.

Before downloading Clarity Money I truly thought I had a good idea of where my money went each month, so these figures really got to me. The following month I'm proud to say that I spend a total of $0 on delivery food. It turns out, all I needed was a painful little reminder that it really does all add up. Instead, during February my "food" tab was mainly grocery stores! A win for my bank account and my health.

Did it work? HELL YES. I needed a wake-up call and man, this app served me one.

6. The tip: Be vocal about what you are and aren't spending money on at the moment, even when it feels awkward.

I don't buy a lot of clothes or makeup, and I don't have a car that needs maintaining, nor a pet I have to feed. What I do spend a lot of money on however, is catching up with friends. But the thing is, there's a big difference in the cost of a coffee on a Saturday morning and the cost of a Friday night dinner at a nice place with a bottle of wine, followed by a cocktail somewhere. It doesn't sound like much of a hack, but this month I practiced saying "no" and "actually, can we do this instead" more. I said "no" to going to a show I couldn't afford (and wasn't overly interested in) and caught up with a friend for a mid-week movie instead. I moved a drink that would have turned into dinner to a breakfast at an affordable spot by my apartment. For me, learning to live within a budget means working out ways to do the things I like (i.e. see my mates) in ways that won't leave me with the money guilts. I don't know how much money I saved thanks to speaking up this month, but I do know I wasn't as stressed as I can sometimes get, trying to keep up with with everyone else's social spending.Did it work? I think so. I still spend a large chunk of money eating out and drinking with friends, but I'm trying to remember that I am allowed to speak up if something's not in my budget for the week.
Taylor Miller / BuzzFeed

I don't buy a lot of clothes or makeup, and I don't have a car that needs maintaining, nor a pet I have to feed. What I do spend a lot of money on however, is catching up with friends. But the thing is, there's a big difference in the cost of a coffee on a Saturday morning and the cost of a Friday night dinner at a nice place with a bottle of wine, followed by a cocktail somewhere. It doesn't sound like much of a hack, but this month I practiced saying "no" and "actually, can we do this instead" more.

I said "no" to going to a show I couldn't afford (and wasn't overly interested in) and caught up with a friend for a mid-week movie instead. I moved a drink that would have turned into dinner to a breakfast at an affordable spot by my apartment. For me, learning to live within a budget means working out ways to do the things I like (i.e. see my mates) in ways that won't leave me with the money guilts. I don't know how much money I saved thanks to speaking up this month, but I do know I wasn't as stressed as I can sometimes get, trying to keep up with with everyone else's social spending.

Did it work? I think so. I still spend a large chunk of money eating out and drinking with friends, but I'm trying to remember that I am allowed to speak up if something's not in my budget for the week.

Find more of my money-saving hacks here!