16 Surprising Things to Do to Be Smarter with Your Money

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Between happy hours after work, travel plans, manicures and new pairs of shoes, it seems as though there’s always ample opportunity to spend and spend some more. Unfortunately, giving into our spending desires too often can seriously damage our wallets and bank accounts. Thus, it’s important to take note of your finances and prioritize expenses in order to protect yourself from financial strains and unwanted stress.

When finances are a struggle, it can build a lot of tension that can seep into all aspects of one’s life and interfere with the ability to function, work and maintain healthy relationships. Plus, if you are managing finances with a spouse or partner, there’s double pressure to be responsible and make rational decisions together.

Here are 16 surprising ways to be smarter with money, feel financially balanced in the present and start saving for the future. Trust us, once you set yourself up in a way that is sustainable, you’ll feel more comfortable and happy on a daily basis.

1. Download an App.

“If you want to be smarter with your money you need to use a budgeting tool or app,” says Robbie Doull, associate at Quantitative Risk Management. “I use Mint, but there are hundreds of similar apps, and you can track things ranging from your stock investments to just what’s in your bank account,” he adds. Doull recommends getting a rough monthly spending number and to take note of where your money is going. Apps are great for laying out all of your expenses for you, as we often don’t consider our finances in the moment we are handing over a credit card.

2. Set a Budget.

“Personal finance is a pretty good subreddit devoted to personal budgets. It could be a good place to start if you are making a budget for the first time,” recommends Doull. When coming up with a budget, think about what is realistic for you (how much groceries you need based on your diet) and get rid of accessories that are not important (such as a new bag or pair of shoes). Plus, going under budget never hurts, so don’t feel pressure to meet that requirement each month or week, depending on how you space it out.

3. Grocery Shop Wisely.

Buying fruit and vegetables that are in season is a great way to save money, as prices are lower, and there are usually sales. If you want produce that is either out of season or for a smoothie, buy it frozen, as it’s less expensive and will last longer. Check in with your app to see how much you spend each month on groceries, and try and think about it while shopping. “If I know I spend an average of $150 a month on groceries, I find myself thinking about where I am on that budget when at the store,” expresses Doull.

4. Ask for Samples.

Many stores, especially Whole Foods Market, will allow you to taste the food before purchasing. Make sure that you enjoy the foods you bring home so that you don’t have to waste your money. Plus, sometimes they will give you larger pieces for free. If you ask to try a slice of bread, and you like it, they will often let you take the remainder of the loaf home free of cost. Similarly, if the store is out of a seasoning you like, you can ask someone in the fish or meat department if there is any bit of seasoning they can spare. Usually, you’ll find yourself coming home with a small container!

5. Take Advantage of Business Perks.

“If you work for a company that matches a portion of 401k deposits, it almost always makes sense to get the full matching amount, it’s basically free money that can be used for the future,” advises Doull. Saving money for the future is so important for financial freedom and retirement, as you don’t know what expenses may pop up as you age (medical bills, familial obligations, travel opportunities, etc.). “It should be clearly stated what percentage of contributions your employer will match, and then you can decide how much you want to contribute per month,” says Doull. Figure out what works for you, but start somewhere and now.

6. Set Up an IRA.

If you do not have access to a 401K, it doesn’t mean that you cannot start saving money for retirement. There are two types: Roth and Traditional. “In a Roth IRA, you are taxed before you contribute. So you would pay taxes now, and when you withdraw later in life, you don’t pay any tax. Traditional is basically the opposite, where you are not taxed now, but are taxed on withdrawal,” explains Doull. When deciding, look at your current finances and figure out what your goals are for the future regarding employment. Think about the age you’d like to retire and the type of lifestyle you want to live.

If you need help planning your retirement or have questions about investing, we encourage you to set up a no-cost consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals. Contact us at 732.312.1564, email samantha.schertz@cunamutual.com or stop in to see us!*

7. Cook at Home More.

All those restaurant bills certainly add up. Not only is cooking at home healthier, it also help you save money, as you have the option to buy in bulk, purchase deals and save for leftovers during the week. Stock up on meats, produce and nuts to create homemade trail mixes for snacks at work and delicious dinners that can be remodeled for lunch the next day. Buying lunch and snacks during the week can be pricey, so save some money by bringing your own.

8. Change Your Daily Coffee Order.

Do you wake up with a morning pumpkin spice latte with and extra shot, whip and vanilla syrup? Each morning? That cost definitely adds up! Think about some of your habits that are not essential for your wellbeing, energy, or time. Drinking a plain brew or even brewing your own coffee at home can be just as delicious once you adapt to the new taste, and it will give you more wiggle room in your budget for other things.

9. Get Grooming Discounts.

Beauty departments often offer free makeovers, so head to a counter and ask for a “new look.” It’s a great way to save money on both expensive beauty services and daily products, allowing the latter to last way longer. Similarly, many beauty schools will offer free or discounted hairstyle appointments, as it complements the students’ training. Plus, your hair will probably look great!

10. Try New Fitness Classes.

Most studios and gyms offer complimentary classes or passes for new customers, so definitely take advantage of that perk! Varying up your workouts is also beneficial for your body, routine and mind. There might also be referral offers, where if you refer new customers, you’ll receive a discounted price, as well.

11. Go BYOB.

Book reservations at BYOB restaurants to save money when dining out. Alcohol can be extremely pricy, and it’s pretty easy to find BYOB restaurants that serve delicious food. Be wary of a corkage fee; if it exists, bring a bottle that doesn’t require an opener or see if you can bring your own. These restaurants are also really fun for both romantic date nights and larger get-togethers.

12. Share Media Streaming Accounts.

A great way to enjoy your media and still save money is to share media streaming accounts with friends and family. One person can pay for Netflix, another for HBO Go, another for Hulu, and so forth. It’s easy to hook up the streaming accounts to your devices, and with a bowl of popcorn and a soft blanket, it makes for a cozy night in.

13. Reconsider Expiration Dates.

Expiration dates usually indicate an item’s quality and freshness, rather than it’s safety. We often throw food out once it reaches the expiration date, and this can be a serious waste of money. Understanding how long past the expiration date food can last will help eliminate these extra costs.

14. Change Your Commute.

Biking or walking, instead of driving can cut gas costs and enhance your quality of life, as studies show that a long commute can negatively affect one’s wellbeing. If biking or walking isn’t an option, find a carpooling buddy (or two) and take turns to help decrease one another’s expenses. Plus, it’ll be a more pleasurable way to arrive to the office!

15. Align Spending with Your Values.

“Look at money from a ‘freedom’ standpoint and align your spending to your deepest values,” says certified healthy living coach Liz Traines over email correspondence with Bustle. “Money gives you opportunities to do whatever it is you might want to do in your lifetime AKA it provides freedom,” she continues. Think about what you value in life and the behaviors that you embody in order to make mindful decisions.

16. Use a Journal.

If apps and technological gadgets aren’t your thing, stick with a journal to keep track of your expenses, budget and spending goals. “Look back on a week of spending and see what seems unnecessary and what that amount of money could buy you over time (i.e. that one bedroom apartment that would make life so much more peaceful),” advises Traines. Seeing the numbers in print can be a great wake up call.

Being mindful of your spending habits can help you save money for the future and make better decisions in the present. It’s a great feeling to enjoy financial freedom and security, and such chronic uneasiness can be debilitating to one’s wellbeing, self-esteem, health and lifetime goals. By making smart, responsible steps, it’s easy to create a life that is in line with both desires and needs and can pave the way for an exciting future!

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Original article source courtesy of Isadora Baum of Bustle.com.

11 Easy Ways To Save Money

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There are few things better than realizing that an easy habit you picked up landed you an extra couple hundred dollars by the end of the month. Maybe it was finally ditching that morning cold brew from the funky coffee place down the street. Maybe it was scouring the below-eye-level shelves for some major deals from the grocery store.

Because you can never have enough tips on being smarter about saving money, we’ve rounded up a few creative ways to help loosen up your wallet from everyday people like you and I.

1. Save those Lincolns.

“I try and save every $5 bill I receive. I have an envelope full of fives that I hide away so I forget about it. I’m currently at about $900 in fives!”

Stephanie

2. Grab coffee from the office.

“For the first few months of the year, I promised myself I wouldn’t spend more than $1 on coffee. I was spending about $4 a day at local coffee shops, and instead bought street coffee or grabbed a cup of joe from the office. In three months I spent less than $90 — versus the average $360 I was spending before. KA-CHING!”

Jessica

3. Be an Amazon pro.

“Nerd alert — the app Paribus will keep track of what you’ve purchased and alert you and will automatically ask for a price adjustment if the price changes. Just got $8 back from Amazon this week!”

Meredith

4. Stock up on meats.

“I stock up on meats when they’re on sale and do a bit of pre-freezer prep work. I’ll portion things out — I can thinly slice chicken breasts for stir fry and then freeze that as a meal — and often will marinate them at the same time. Then I defrost it the day I want to use it. I’ve gotten dinners for my family of three down to about $4 per dinner this way, or $1.30 per person per dinner.”

Mallory

5. Check the far aisles.

“Whenever you go to a store like Target or Walmart, check the end caps, especially those along the outer perimeter of the store. That’s where they put deeply discounted items on clearance. It’s sort of a catch-all, but it’s where you can grab a box gift set of Old Spice bathing and deodorant products for $5.”

Tyler

6. Co-ops are your best friend.

“Shop at a co-op! I do all my grocery shopping at a co-op once a week and eat lots of organic and otherwise happy food for a ridiculously low price. My partner and I usually spend less than $400 on groceries a month. Bonus: You get to witness the occasional throw-down over food politics.”

Also: If you are very, very broke, most of the CSAs and farm shares in New York have tiered plans for different incomes!

Irina

7. Keep the change.

“Carrying around change is a universal hatred, and most of mine used to go absentmindedly into tip jars and in between couch cushions. I now keep an empty jar on my counter in which I dump all my change at the day’s end every day. Yes, simple trick, and nothing you haven’t heard before, but at the end of two months I end up with an extra ~$100 I would have literally given away.”

Lauren

8. Get money for your old clothes.

“H&M is currently trying to rehabilitate its image as one of the worst offenders of fast fashion. As such, H&M offers a coupon to customers who bring in a bag of clothing, and it’s worth 15 percent off their entire next purchase. They take anything, too. What does that mean?  When the consignment store like Beacon’s Closet, Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange won’t take your used clothing, put it in a bag and give it to H&M for that coupon. It can be old t-shirts from Dollar General, for all H&M cares — they just want to recycle.”

Double tip: “When you’re at H&M using that coupon for 15 percent off your entire purchase, text to sign up for their newsletter to get 20 percent off of one item. They let you use it on the most expensive item too, and in conjunction with the 15 percent off coupon. Then to avoid getting their annoying texts, immediately reply “STOP” to the newsletter to unsubscribe. Then you can use the discount again next time with the same process.”

Tyler

9. Tag along to a friend’s gym.

“I go to Crunch Fitness with my friend, as her guest, for free — which eliminates paying for a monthly gym membership.”

Stephanie

10. Ride for free.

“Bike to work instead of using subway! A 30-day fare card in New York is $116. I still use the subway sometimes, so I save about $80 per month.”

Roque

11. Go cash-only.

“If I don’t want to spend frivolously, especially that week before my next paycheck, I’ll go cash-only. I know mentally that I have breathing room in my account, but if I only take out $100 for the week, I’ll be smarter every day when going out to get lunch or run for coffee knowing that I want to make those specific, tangible, in-front-of-me dollars stretch. This curbs a lot of impulse spending too.”

Mallory

*Original article courtesy of Jenny Che of the Huffington Post.

7 Surprising Ways Summer Will Cost You

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We all know that summer comes with expenses — higher-priced fuel fill-ups, increased electricity bills from running the A/C nonstop, and sky-high hotel rates. But there are other items that see an uptick during vacation season that you might not immediately recognize. Here’s a list to watch with your wallet.

1. Bottled Water

We love to wag our fingers at others for buying bottled water — because get a reusable bottle already! — but we also understand that sometimes it’s necessary. Like when it’s hot as lava outside and you’re about to have a heat stroke because you forgot your reusable bottle at home. While it may seem innocuous enough to pick up a bottle at your local convenience store now and then, that’s not usually how it goes down — especially if you have kids.

According to money-saving expert Nedalee Thomas, who also happens to be CEO of a water-filtration company, a family of four will spend a whopping $1,600 on bottled water a year. Uh, come again?

“Consumption is higher in the summer just because of heat and dehydration, but families tend to buy more bottled water when heading out for the day’s activities, spending on average $12 a day for a family of four,” Thomas says. “Theme parks and many venues cost much more.”

The best way to save — if you haven’t already heard it a million times — is to refill BPA-free bottles with your own good filtered water.”

Chanson Water USA provides a comparison chart of annual costs of various types of bottled water versus what it costs to filter your own water at home, and it’s a doozy.

2. Iced Coffee

Drinking more iced coffee during the summer to give yourself a jolt and beat the heat? Well, it’s gonna cost you.

Grub Street did some digging a few years back to find out why iced coffee costs more than hot coffee, and their findings may make your temperature rise. Save yourself some gas on a trip to the java joint, and pocket the extra money you’d be spending on each cup of cold joe, by making your own watered-down pick-me-up at home.

3. Car Maintenance

Another unexpected way summer will cost you extra money is through car maintenance.

“Many dealers and mechanics want to service cars more frequently than the manufacturer recommends, especially during weather transitions, which is both unnecessary and costly,” says car expert Richard Reina. “While hot weather absolutely takes a toll on our vehicles, the best way to cut these costs is taking proper precautions and doing the simple repairs yourself.”

He offers a few DIY ways to avoid the mechanic this summer.

  • Replace wiper blades: A winter’s worth of clearing slush and ice from the windshield takes its toll, resulting in streaking and chattering that you don’t want in spring/summer downpours as it could severely hinder your vision and cause an accident.
  • Check coolant hoses and belts: It’s also important to check coolant hoses and belts for deterioration and wear, and be sure to check all fluid levels. Just as you checked your antifreeze to make sure the freezing point was well below anticipated winter temperatures, check it now to ensure you won’t have a boil over during hot summer driving. By performing this basic auto tuneup yourself, you would save $250, as it only costs $100 to DIY compared to a dealer cost of $350.
  • Test your battery: As much as the winter is harsh on batteries, summer is, too, with the constant running of the cooling fans and the pull on your alternator from driving with the windows down. Test the battery to make sure you don’t get stranded with a no-start on a summer trip. Check the battery connections for tightness and clean away any dirt and corrosion. If it’s time for a new battery, I suggest buying them at local “buyer’s club” (Costco, Sam’s Club) to save money, and change it yourself. You’ll save $120, with DIY costing $80 versus dealer prices of $200.
  • Change your engine oil and filter: Cold weather is tough on engine oil because it doesn’t get a chance to come to normal operating temperature necessary to get rid of moisture and contaminants, which can cause sludge. If you buy the oil yourself, make sure that you are certain that you are using a high-quality oil of the correct viscosity. Often, chain-store oil-change outfits may be using the same oil for different cars. If your car is older with high mileage, it can be very helpful to switch to a heavier oil with different detergent. Higher temps require higher oil weight/viscosity, and since the seals on the engine of an older car have likely started to wear, switching will help keep your engine protected. Also be sure to check the brake/steering/washer fluids while you’re under the hood. This will save you $35, as DIY costs $25 compared to dealer cost of $60.

4. Dining and Drinking Al Fresco

Warmer weather means more opportunity for eating and drinking outdoors, and if you’re not careful, it can get out of hand, financially. Nobody wants to cook indoors when it’s hot out — I get it — so think of alternative ways to eat at home, like by using the outdoor grill more frequently or making meals that don’t require a heat source, like salads, cold soups, and slow-cooker meals. If you’re drinking with your dinner, have a glass of water between adult bevies to reduce the risk of overspending, and tomorrow’s pounding headache.

5. Home and Apartment Rentals

Rental season is at its busiest during the warmer months, from May to October, for several reasons. For starters, this period is a time when many people are in transition, especially students who are looking for housing after the school year ends or before it begins. Plus, this time of year is more conducive to moving, because who wants to haul furniture around during a blizzard? Nobody, including those begrudging friends you’ve enlisted to help you. Because of these factors, and the laws of supply and demand, rental prices may be at a premium during the summer. If you have a choice, wait until the weather gets a bit cooler to make your move.

6. New Cars

According to USAA via TrueCar, you can expect to experience more sticker shock on vehicles during the summer than you would while everybody’s hibernating and generally steering clear of walking around car lots in a foot of snow. Prices increase as the weather warms because, again, of our old friend supply and demand. More people are out and about when things thaw out, and their tax refunds are burning holes in the pockets — an incentive that car dealerships fully take advantage of.

7. Ice Cream

You might think ice cream costs more during the summer because everybody is eating it, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s sort of the reason why you may see higher prices this year, but it’s mostly because there’s a vanilla shortage in Madagascar because of poor harvest quality, and that means less mint chocolate chip for you, me, and the rest of the cone-loving U.S. population. Hey, at least we still have freeze-pops.

Have a great summer – spend wisely!

*Original article courtesy of Mikey Rox of WiseBread.com.

How to Save Money Without Disrupting Your Lifestyle

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What if you could save an additional $1,500 each year? After 30 years you would have $119,000, assuming the money was invested and you got a 6% return. That $1,500 each year — just $125 a month — can add up to quite a bit of money.

Of course, to save more money each month you likely need to cut your spending. But if you are like most people, you probably don’t want to drastically change your lifestyle. Fortunately, there are smart and simple steps you can take to trim spending without a major overhaul.

Use the 72-hour rule for purchases

How many purchases have you made on Amazon or at the store that you later regretted? Limit your impulse purchases using what personal financial author Carl Richards has called the 72-hour rule. Instead of buying an item you want immediately, wait 72 hours to see whether you still want it. You’ll be surprised at how much less you end up deciding to buy. It works great with kids – they think they can’t live without a certain toy, and then after 72 hours they forget it even existed.

Analyze big purchases

Major purchases may have the biggest impact on your spending and ability to save. It’s sometime bewildering that the same person who will drive across town to save money on gas will buy a new expensive car without analyzing the implications. The same goes for housing costs or big-ticket vacations. Here are some tips on how to analyze and save on each of these purchases:

  • Car: The Internet has been a huge help for consumers in finding car deals. With online sales you often can negotiate through email, and sites like TrueCar provide transparency about what other car buyers have paid. But when buying a new car, it’s important to consider the ongoing costs and not just the upfront purchase price. For instance, many people prefer luxury cars, but premium gas and maintenance typically will cost more for these cars. Finally, a simple rule is that the longer you keep the car, the cheaper the cost. Check out AutoSMART – First Financial’s free online car buying and research tool!
  • House: Housing tends to be the biggest expense for most people. If you plan to live in the same place for five years or more, it’s recommended you purchase a home. However, the larger and more expensive the home you purchase, the more it limits your ability to spend within the rest of your budget. For example, a couple with one child, decides to downsize because they just didn’t need the space. This was a good move financially because it gives them greater flexibility to save more, spend in other areas or retire sooner.
  • Vacation: Research locations and potential deals on sites like Kayak.com. If you can, be flexible when selecting travel dates to maximize savings. Also, compare multiple locations to determine the best fit for you and your family — and where you can get the most bang for your buck.

Rethink ongoing phone and cable plans

Most people look only at their monthly payments and often are shocked by how much they spend annually on cell phone and cable bills. When shopping for a phone plan, try MyRatePlan.com to compare plans based on the minutes, texts and data you need. Another option is to consider no-contract cell phones. The monthly cost is much lower, but you do have to buy the cell phone upfront.

With cable, the average monthly bill is $100, or $1,200 a year. “Cutting the cord” has become more popular recently as many people decide they don’t need the 100+ channels on cable. If you can do with a limited number of channels, then a streaming device and a good HDTV antenna for local channels may be all you need — and it can save you a lot of money.

Review your insurance policies

Many people are paying too much for property and casualty insurance. Every few years you should shop around your auto insurance and home insurance policies to confirm you are getting a good price. You also can see how your auto and home insurance providers rank based on consumer satisfaction by checking out the yearly report from market research firm J.D. Power.

Additionally, one way to lower premiums for home or auto policies is to raise your deductible if you have cash in the bank and you rarely make any claims. Larger deductibles typically range from $1,000 to $2,500, depending on the type of insurance you have. However, note that this does create risks if you don’t have money available or in an emergency fund if a large claim does occur.

Pick high-quality products that last

Sometimes it makes sense to spend a little more money for items you will use for a long time. A good example is men’s shoes. A high-quality pair of shoes will last almost forever and, though more expensive in the short term, will be a lot cheaper over the long run than repeatedly buying the cheapest pair. Think about the items in your life that you will use for a very long time and are worth the extra expense upfront.

Stick to a budget

First, automate your savings. It’s hard to spend what you don’t see, so automatically transferring money out of your checking account will help you keep spending down. Determine how much you should be contributing to or withdrawing from your accounts, and set up automatic monthly transfers. I like to call this forced scarcity, in that you can spend only what is in your bank account.

If this is not working and you start running up debt, try using online budgeting tools to help you create and monitor your budget. It may be more time-consuming, but you’ll know where every dollar is being spent. And if you are still having issues, consider working with a fee-only financial planner to help you develop and stick to a budget so you can reach your goals. Try our free, anonymous, debt-management tool – Debt in Focus! In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

Hire a professional

Sometimes spending money can save you money. This can be true for home repairs, taxes, college planning and many other areas. For instance, many people miss important deductions or credits they could have claimed when they complete their own tax returns instead of working with a professional. Sometimes it makes sense to pay someone to help when it comes to house repairs and you can try to fix the problem, but might only make it worse.

So how do you decide whether to hire a professional or go it alone? If the risk of mistake is greater than the cost to hire someone, it is worth the investment. Of course, if you don’t have the time or knowledge to take care of the task at hand, it makes sense to get help, too. If you’re not sure where to look, ask for referrals from friends or co-workers, or check Angie’s List for service providers and the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors for fee-only financial planners.

Spend wisely

Ultimately, the goal is not to disrupt your lifestyle dramatically, but to make sure you spend your money wisely and efficiently. In short, it’s important to think about what you are spending your money on and what you really get out of it.

Perhaps even more important than drastically cutting your spending is thinking about the non-monetary value of your money. In a longitudinal study following 268 men for over 70 years, researchers for the Grant Study found that good relationships are key to leading a long and happy life — not how much money you have, the newest tech gadget or a certain high-profile job, but the people in your life.

Instead of spending money on more stuff, why not spend it on personal experiences with your friends and family?

*Original article source courtesy of Mike Eklund of Nerd Wallet.

8 Money Saving Hacks For Your Home

We can probably all agree that saving money is never a bad thing — and it’s even better when we don’t even have to deprive ourselves of things we enjoy, like ordering in, chai lattes, or HBO. It’s why simple ways to save money around the house are generally so awesome; they’re often small or one-time changes that pad our wallets yet take minimal effort or self-restraint.

There are so many money-saving tips that are relatively simple and achievable if you put your mind to it and almost all require a little change in routine, like packing lunches for work the night before, or consciously not buying coffee outside of the house. For the most part, they consisted of common-sense advice that you may have already considered doing yourself at one point or another (how many times have you bought that afternoon four dollar latte and already kind of known you shouldn’t).

It’s the little hidden things around the house that we often don’t even think of at all that make up the easiest ways to save money here and there, and it’s because of this that I’ve compiled eight incredibly easy and near effortless tips that will save money.

1. Unplug You Electronics At Night.

For real guys. According to Time Magazine just simply unplugging things like your laptop and TV at night can save about $100 a year. That’s 100 bucks you can spend on a massage (or, better yet, actually save…). And if this seems like a pain, just connect your devices to a single power strip and turn them all off with the click of a button each night.

2. Update Your Lightbulbs.

According to a piece in SFGate, the overall cost of an energy-efficient light bulb is $28 over it’s lifetime, whereas a regular light bulb will cost you around $120 a year in energy bills. You’re thus saving about $92 with every energy-saving bulb you purchase, and because they actually last longer, you’ll be buying them less often.

3. Don’t Buy Bottled Water.

A piece for Today about our dubious addiction to bottled water pointed out the fact that 90 percent of tap water meets regulations set up by the EPA, whereas bottled water does not technically have to meet any EPA standards, and it costs around $2 a bottle. And while the piece points out that we don’t technically need home filtering devices for safety since most tap water is actually perfectly save to drink, they’re still way cheaper than a bottle-a-day habit. So buy yourself a Nalgene or Brita and count the dollars saved!

4. Use Blinds to Reduce the Need for AC.

The piece in Time also noted that reflective blinds can reduce heat gain in summer by about 45 percent, and that means you can go that much longer without using your AC. In New York City, where electric bills are hiked up in summer specifically because the electric company anticipates more air conditioner usage, this make a huge difference. So keep those blinds down during the day while you’re at work for a much cooler home temperature when you return in the evening.

5. Clean You Dryer’s Lint Trap.

According to Melissa Maker, cleaning expert and founder of CleanYourSpace.com in an article for Today.com, just removing lint from the trap after every few loads isn’t enough. Instead you should give it a thorough cleaning every six months in order to extend your dryer’s shelf life. “Just use warm soapy water and a cleaning toothbrush, wash gently, and leave to dry overnight. Your dryer will work much more efficiently,” she said, adding, “Vacuuming the dryer lint trap is also important to remove any lodged dust, which can be a fire hazard.”

6. Cook With The Right Size Pans.

This tip from Energy.gov was totally news to me when I first read about it; apparently cooking with a pan larger than you actually need makes cooking time take longer, as larger pans absorb more heat, which means you’re spending more money on energy overall. So be sure to use the proper pan size whenever possible for a super easy money-saving hack.

7. Use Your Slow Cooker When You Can.

The same piece for Energy.gov pointed out that using a slow cooker to cook things that take several hours, like stews and chilli, burns way less energy than when cooked on the stove. This means you’ll also be paying less money on gas or electric at the end of the month.

8. Keep a Coin Jar.

This final personal tip isn’t so much about saving money as it is about keeping track of the money you never even notice you have — coins! Some people keep a coin jar in their bedroom for all of their loose change. You’ll be amazed at how much you can save up within a year – so grab a grubby cup and fill it with that pocket change!

Saving money isn’t always the most fun thing on the planet, and — let’s be real — sometimes it can actively be a bummer. The good news is there are a few super simple ways to save a few extra hundred dollars a year that won’t actually feel like you’re doing anything at all.

*Original article source courtesy of Toria Sheffield of Bustle.