This post comes from David Ning at partner blog Wise Bread.
Things may seem a little better than a couple of years ago, but we are kidding ourselves if we think everything is hunky-dory. The media outlets can talk all they want about a recovery, but chances are good that your family can still use some help.
Here are five ways you can gain $50. You won't be rich overnight by doing any of what I've outlined below, but the money saved is nothing to sneeze at. (See also: "10 monthly bills you can slash.")
1. Pause your memberships for part of the year. Chances are good that you can live without some of your memberships and subscriptions. Even if you do use them, it's likely you don't need them every month of the year. Consider canceling them for part of the year and reactivating them when you most want them.
Take your gym membership, for instance. Do you really need a gym during the summer when it's more enjoyable to stay active outdoors? Can you cancel your membership before the Thanksgiving weekend and start it back up in January if you won't be thinking about losing weight during the holiday season? (Post continues below.)
If so, why not cancel your subscription a few days before you go on that annual vacation? Since you will be gone for a week or two, you won't be needing the service anyway. When you come back, you'll likely want to take a few days to recuperate. Add another week or two to give Netflix a serious try, and you are looking at one less cable TV bill, even if you hate not being able to channel surf.
3. Start using your credit card to pay for everything. My friends used to make fun of me when I whipped out my credit card for tiny purchases, but it's a smart move if you are responsible with your spending. Using your credit card to pay is actually faster, and the rewards from just your small purchases can add up to big bucks after a few months.
You should be thinking about how to put everything on your credit card, from bills to lunches out to candy bar purchases. Always ask whether you can use your credit card. Last time I bought a car, the dealership allowed me to put $5,000 on the credit card and pay the rest with a check. Since my card offers 1% cash back, I got $50 just for asking.
4. Refinance. If you still haven't refinanced your 6% 30-year fixed-rate loan, you owe it to yourself to get this done. Work out the numbers, because refinancing can be more complex than you might think. But you may come out ahead even if you're underwater and need to borrow money to refinance.
Your savings, 0% balance-transfer credit cards, and even family members could be potential sources of funds. Though this is more work than the other suggestions, the reward is potentially much greater than $50, too.
5. Get rid of redundancies. We often pay for the same thing in different ways. Take Internet access, for instance. You have it at work, there is free Wi-Fi in many stores, everybody in your family has that data plan, and you have Internet access at home. Sure, it's convenient, but do you really need to be paying for so many different types of access?
An alternative way to think of spending is to ask what benefit you are actually getting out of an expense. You may not like mowing your lawn, and paying for someone to do what you hate is perfectly fine. But if you pay for a gardener just so you can go sweat at the gym, it seems like a waste of money.
It's your money, but spending a little time to optimize how you spend it will let you live the life you want much more easily.
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