How to Find Extra Money at the End of the Month: 9 Tricks You May Not Have Tried
According to William Feather, "A budget tells us what we can't afford, but doesn't keep us from buying it." Following a budget is like following a diet: sometimes you stay on track, and sometimes you cheat. Unfortunately, cheating the budget means not enough money at the end of the month to pay all the bills. The purpose here is not to discuss long-time methods of reducing your debt or paying off your bills. Instead, presented here (in alphabetical order) are nine tricks that can save or generate cash at month's end to save or spend.
Cancel Features and Monthly Subscriptions
Cell phones, cable and internet services, land line telephones, and so on offer premium features, but do you need them? Analyze your services to decide which premium services you can live without and which are non-negotiable, must-haves.
While you are doing your research, think about whether switching a service provider will save you money or offer you better services or features at a lower cost. Your budget and your month-end bank balances will be healthier, and you will be happier.
What About Those Little Monthly Payments?
What monthly expenses could you reduce or eliminate? Could you cancel monthly subscriptions you no longer use? Small monthly expenses add up quickly and sometimes, you don't realize how much you are spending. As an example, a Kindle Unlimited subscription is around $10 a month; Pandora Premium is $4.99 monthly. If you cancel these, you put around $180 a year back into your budget. What monthly subscriptions can you cancel today to give you more money at month's end?
Consignment Buying and Selling
Online consignment selling and buying is hot trend and a thrifty way of dressing like a fashionista on a frugal budget and having a better cash flow. You just clean out your closets and turn clothes you rarely wear into cold, hard cash. Check out consignment stores in your neighborhood or consign items online:
- Tradesy: Offers a free kit for shipping your consignment items to them; charges a 9% commission. The target market is the shopper looking for mid- to high-end brands like Arizona Jean, Charlotte Russe, Louis Vuitton and Tony Burch.
- Poshmark: Listing is quick and easy using their free app. Snap a photo, list and sell. Commissions on sales under $15 are a flat $2.95; higher sales generate an 80% commission for you. The target market is label conscious buyers looking for bargains. Look for labels like Gap and Old Navy playing nicely with Dolce & Gabbana and Jones New York.
- thredUP: Order a free bag for shipping your items. (Shipping is free in a prepaid envelope.) You'll find an online calculator so you can estimate your earnings and be sure to look for items that qualify for upfront payments. Payments are based on a percentage of the thredUP selling price and range from 10% to 80%. The target market for this site is moms and you'll find labels like J. Crew, Free People, Gymboree and Baby Gap.
Which is Better: Online Auctions or Online Consignments?
Which do you think is a better source of extra money?
Eating In Instead of Out
Eating out is expensive; do you realize just how much it costs? It is sneaky and incremental; "...the average meal outside the home costs a person $12.75" says Trent Hamm in an article in The Simple Dollar.
If you eat out three times a week, your tab runs around $38, but wait. What if you spent that much each week for the next year?
What could you do with the extra $1989 you save by eating at home or taking your lunch to the office? In addition to having a better cash flow, reducing the amount of fast food or processed food in your diet improves your health.
Here's some scary statistics from Dr. Mark Hyman, who reflects that in the 1900s eating out was a rarity and only about two percent of meals were eaten outside the home. By 2010, 50 percent of meals were eaten outside the home. He goes on to discuss the ways eating our meals at fast food establishments and restaurants is hijacking our health.
With better health, you'll probably spend less for health insurance or medical expenses, which translates to more money freed up each month. Overall, if you can work this one tip into your lifestyle, you will be ahead of the game.
Movie Nights at Home
Movie nights at home are great ways to cut down on expenses without feeling as if you are sacrificing. Here's some ideas of how you can make it work for you and keep more money in your pocket:
If you want to be hardcore about reducing expenses, most public libraries have extensive movie collections, and a library card is free or low cost in most states. Renting the movies is free and most libraries have liberal policies about how many movies you can borrow at a time.
Almost Free Movies
The following are almost free movies because in most cases, you'll need to have internet access to watch the movies, which means you are probably paying for internet services. If you are using a free internet service, then these are free movies, original programs, and TV shows to watch.
- Crackle Movies: Crackle is free to join, and you can watch movies on devices like TVs and Smart TVs, tablets and mobile devices. Their movie library covers a wide range of genres—action to martial arts to horror and more—and you can filter your selection by era ranging from the 1920s to the 2010s.
- Free Moovies Online: If cult classics and classic movies are your thing, check out FMO. All their movies are in the public domain, and you'll find classics like "Night of the Living Dead," "Laurel and Hardy's The Flying Deuces," and "The Real Bruce Lee." Pick from movies, TV shows and series, cartoons, and animation. It's really easy - just click for access. No registration, no commitments, no hassle.
- Hulu: Watching movies on Hulu is free and as a bonus, if you want to share what you are watching with friends or on social media, you can do that as well. Like the other services mentioned here, you can browse TV show and series, movies, original programming, and children's programs. They do offer a premium service—Hulu Plus—for $7.99 a month.
Rent DVDs and Blu-Rays
It's hard to beat the price of a Redbox rental (currently it's around $1.50 for a DVD and $2 for a Blu-ray rental).
Streaming videos from sources like these are another option:
- Amazon Prime Instant Video: Amazon Prime Instant Video is one of the Prime benefits that comes with Amazon Prime. It entitles you to unlimited video from the Amazon Instant Video library. An Amazon Prime membership costs $99 and entitles you to other benefits like free shipping on qualified orders and access to the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
- Netflix: Choose from a video streaming only plan or combine it with a plan to rent DVDs and Blu-rays. Expect to pay around $7.99 to $11.99 monthly for streaming depending on how many devices you want to stream on. DVD plans range from around $4.99 to $15.99 per month; Blu-ray rentals range from around $5.99 to $19.99 per month.
Just add some popcorn, drinks and snuggle up with family or friends.
Move to Another State or Residence
Admittedly, this is a radical solution; maybe one you cannot consider because of your job, friends, or family. According to Josh Briggs, the states with the lowest costs of living are:
You can use this handy calculator from Bankrate to see how moving would affect your cost of living. For example, if you move from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Amarillo, Texas, you decrease your cost of living by almost 13%.
How About a Different Living Arrangement?
If moving to a different state does not suit your lifestyle, how about moving to a different residence. If you are in a large apartment or home, can you move to a smaller one? Are there ways to make your current residence more energy efficient - new windows, a programmable thermostat, newer appliances? How about sharing your home with a roommate to cut expenses?
'The Frugal Girl' Shares Some Money Saving Tips
Selling unused or unwanted items at an online auction can be a good way to generate extra cash, and some individuals do so well with it they quit their full-time jobs and work at home.
Beth Marbach, who made $4 million on eBay (yes, you read that right, four million dollars) is an example of this, but of course, not everyone will do that well.
eBay is probably the best-known online auction site, but some others to check out are OnlineAuction, eBid or ePier.
While each auction site will have its own unique features and benefits, some general advantages of all these are:
- You reach more potential buyers.
- They are great venues for small sales on items like brand name fashions and accessories, collectibles, and items that are new in package or with tags.
- They offer seller tools and perks.
- It's a low cost way to set up a virtual store or sale environment.
- You get paid quickly.
The downside is the fee structures, it's difficult and expensive to sell large items, and if your customer service is not stellar, you may find yourself banned from a site.
Renegotiate Interest Rates
Mailboxes—snail mail and email—overflow with offers to reduce credit card interest by switching to another card company. Evaluate the overall expense, including any transfer fees or hidden charges, and if it makes good financial sense, transfer balances.
Conversely, you can try calling your current credit card company and renegotiating your finance charges.
Lastly, in this era of low interest rates, you could save lots of money by refinancing your mortgage. The key here is to be alert for hidden fees or pre-payment penalties.
Reduce Gas Expense
Depending on where you live and work, carpooling may be a gas-saving option. Using apps like GasBuddy.com to find the cheapest gas keeps that expense in line.
GasBuddy is a crowdsourced app; individuals report gas prices as they pump and pay for their gas. If you report enough prices to qualify, your name is entered into a weekly drawing for a $100 gas card. Other good apps to try are Gas Guru, and Waze.
If entering your prices into an app sounds like too much time and effort, give Gas Guru a try. Gas prices are usually current as the information is taken from Oil Price Information Service. In addition to providing information about the best gas prices, you can use Waze for real-time traffic information or as a navigational aid.
Save Your Change
This is so simple, it seems like cheating but it works. Simply empty your loose change into a container each night. Store the container in an inconvenient location, and only dip into it for emergencies. You will be surprised how quickly the money adds up.
Whether you decide to make major overhauls to your lifestyle, consolidate your debt, or just eliminate some of the drain from your cash flow, you'll find that using one or two of these tips is a good way to have more disposable income. Whether you spend it or save it, it's always nice to have an emergency stash of cash, and these are good ways to achieve that.
William Feather Quotes, Brainy Quotes, accessed 12/31/2014, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/williamfea130795.html
Briggs, Josh, "10 U.S. States with Lowest Costs of Living," howstuffworks, accessed 12/30/2014, http://money.howstuffworks.com/personal-finance/for-new-adults/5-us-states-with-lowest-cost-of-living.htm#page=1
Hamm, Trent, "Don't Eat Out as Often (188/365), The Simple Dollar, July 31, 2014, accessed 12/31/2014, http://www.thesimpledollar.com/dont-eat-out-as-often-188365/
Fritz, Ben, "Redbox Raises DVD Rental Price by 25%," The Wall Street Journal, accessed 12/31/2014, http://www.wsj.com/articles/redbox-raising-dvd-rental-price-by-25-1416834062
Hyman, Mark, M.D., "How Eating at Home Can Save Your Life," HuffPost Good News, January 9, 2011, accessed 12/31/2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/family-dinner-how_b_806114.html
Undisclosed author, "How to Make $4 Million on eBay (Really), the delicious day, accessed 12/31/2014, http://www.thedeliciousday.com/earns-living-online/how-to-make-4-million-on-ebay-really/
© 2014 Donna Cosmato