5 Money-Saving Tricks That Take Minutes But Can Save You Thousands

Who has time to mess with finances?

Just about everyone, in fact!

It seems like we spend more time avoiding finances than it would take to actually sit down and start to improve them.

Here are five money-saving ideas that you can implement in minutes:

Cook 

Purchasing convenience food can be very costly. Learn to cook quick, staple meals that you can whip up in no time and enjoy at least once a week. If you had two or three of these simple meals weekly, you could save hundreds of dollars in food costs every month.

Throw a cup of rice in your rice cooker along with two cups of water and plug it in. If your model has a steamer on top, add some veggies.

After that, all you need to do is wait 20 minutes, add some left over chicken and eat! Make enough to pack for lunch the next day.

Try AllRecipes.com for rice cooker meal ideas and RachelRay.com for some simple slow cooker meals for weeknight dinners.

Pay bills online

To avoid late fees, set up online bill pay with your bank. Then you can log in securely and pay bills when they come due.

In fact, take another minute or two to set up a recurring monthly payment for a bill, and you’ll never have a late fee. This could save you upwards of $30 a pop and help keep your credit score high.

Up your 401(k) contribution by 1%

Log in to your retirement savings website and bump up your savings percentage. You probably won’t even notice it in your paycheck, but you may really notice the balance increase over time.

While you are there, take another minute or two and set your account to auto-escalate, so your savings percentage increases each year by 1% until you reach the max. (The maximum elective salary deferral in 2016 is $18,000, and if you are age 50 and over, you can save an additional $6,000.)

Take a breather

Stop and think before making purchases.

A friend of mine used to teach smoking cessation classes. He told me about a very effective technique some smokers use to reduce their cravings for nicotine.

“Tell yourself that you can have that cigarette, but only after you’ve taken deep breaths for one entire minute,” he advised his students. “Time it! Most people don’t crave the cigarette after the minute.”

Do the same with impulse purchases. Take a minute and think about whether you really want this purchase. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Do I already have one at home?
  • How often would I wear/use it?
  • Do I absolutely love this?
  • Am I willing to discard something else to get this?

Only after you’ve thought it over carefully should you decide that you want to make the purchase. This technique could save you thousands of dollars over time!

Do a quick budget check

If you have an aggregator such as Mint.com or Hello Wallet where you track your spending, you’ll know if you are on track with your preset budget.

For example, I give myself a clothing allowance. When I am ready to splurge on something fabulous for myself, I double check to see whether I’ve reached my clothing budget limit. This helps me determine whether I should move forward with the purchase or wait.

Even better, take a few minutes to set up a “spending account” where you transfer targeted dollars to a savings or checking account with a debit card attached to it. This way, you can only spend the dollars you’ve set aside. You’ll be able to enjoy your purchases without guilt, since you saved up for them.

What can you do in a minute? You can make a thousand-dollar difference by saving a little here or there and preventing purchases that don’t bring you great value.

Take a money minute! What are you going to do to impact your financial future today?

Written By: Nancy Anderson – Forbes.com
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