Shaving 10 to 20 years off of your retirement date is one of those eye-opening ideas that might keep you up at night. It’s just so exciting! In fact, it’s so exciting, that trying to get 1% better with your finances may sound like a rather boring goal.
But anybody on the path to FI also knows that after the enthusiasm of a new way of thinking wears off, the journey to FI can start feeling more like a slog. While it’s easy at first to make huge cuts in your lifestyle that lead to huge gains–things like cutting back on your restaurant habit or avoiding Target without a concrete list–you might find that your forward momentum begins to slow with time.
If you are starting to feel like there’s far too much time and distance between where you are and where you want to be, here are a lot of little hacks that are small financial improvements that make a big difference over time and push you toward the FI fast track. In addition, watch your financial future get better 1% at a time!
Aiming to get 1% better with your finances can make a huge difference over time. Some simple ways are to increase your retirement contributions, increase your income, get a better interest rate on your savings account, or reduce your investing fees. But the ways you can improve are endless!
Listen to what James Clear says about how to get 1% better and the impact that it can make.
- Exercise and Personal Growth
- Emergency Fund Savings
- Home Expenses
- Transportation Expenses
- Groceries and Dining Out
- Shopping And Services
- Internet, Cell Phone, And Entertainment
- Travel And Sightseeing
- Earning Extra Money
- Investing And Retirement Planning
- Job And Career
- You Can Get 1% Better!
Exercise and Personal Growth
Improving your physical and mental health can play a critical role in how well you’re able to succeed in other areas of life. But you can focus on exercise and personal growth without breaking the bank. Here are several ideas that can help you save 1% or more.
1. Exercise At Home
The average gym membership costs $58 per month. That’s nearly $700 per year going toward getting access to a building that many us only visit a few times per month. Build an at-home gym instead or create an exercise routine that requires little or no equipment (pilates, yoga, barre, strength training).
Check out our frugal fitness hacks.
2. Look Into Free Programs And Classes
You don’t have to spend a ton of money on books or courses to pursue your continued education and get 1% better. There are probably lots of free classes being offered right now by your local library or government on a variety of topics. And many online course websites like Coursera, Khan Academy, and Udemy have a huge number of free courses available as well.
3. Reading (or Listen to) One New Finance Or Investing Book Each Month
It’s going to be hard to get 1% better this year if you don’t learn new ways to handle your money. Books are one of the best ways to learn new skills and ideas.
Try making a plan to read one financial book each month, starting with Jonathan and Brad’s recommended books. If you really hate reading, try listening instead by taking advantage of an Audible subscription or connecting to your local library’s free audiobooks.
4. Learn One New Skill A Month That You Currently Pay For
What services do you pay for that you could handle yourself if you just knew how? Changing your oil or grooming your pets are two examples. In our case, about six months ago, my wife learned how to cut hair by watching YouTube videos. That’s saved us about $300 already and we continue to save more every month.
Related: Save Incredible Money By Learning One New Skill Every Month
5. Try A New Hiking Or Biking Trail Every Week
Biking is a great form of exercise, but it can get a little boring if you bike the same path every day–or worse, settle for an expensive stationary bike in your basement. Instead, look up all the most popular biking trails in your area and try one per week until you’ve tried every one within driving distance. Trails are free–no app or screen needed for fantastic scenery!
6. Volunteer With An Organization That Can Help You Develop New Skills
Volunteering can be a great way to fine-tune existing skills or acquire new ones. No matter what you’d like to learn more about, whether it be gardening, photography, running a blog, or more; there are probably organizations near you that specialize in that kind of work. By volunteering, you get free training/experience and they get free labor. It’s a win-win!
7. Attend Your Local ChooseFI Group
Come on, we’re fun! Attending your local ChooseFI group could be a great way to meet new friends and get some much-needed inspiration along your FI journey. Check to see if there’s a local ChooseFI group near you. Don’t see one? Then why not start your own?
Getting serious about debt repayment can be one of the best ways to get 1% better (or much more!) with your finances. For every dollar that you pay today, you could save hundreds if not thousands of dollars in interest down the road. Here are some ideas that could help you hit your debt payoff goals a little faster.
8. Create Your Debt Snowball or Avalanche
Sometimes the first step towards getting serious about debt repayment is just seeing on paper what it will take to knock out your debt. And with a debt calculator, you’ll see how much faster you’ll retire your debt by just paying a little extra each month.
With the debt snowball method, you’ll pay off your debts from smallest to largest. With the debt avalanche method, you’ll start with the highest interest-rate debt and move down. Both methods are perfectly fine. Just pick whichever method you think will motivate you the most.
Related: Debt Snowball vs. Debt Avalanche: Does it Really Matter?
9. Improve Your Credit Score
Improving your credit score by just 50 points could help you qualify for much better rates on mortgages and car loans. It could also help you get approved for a 0% intro APR credit card or a 0% balance transfer card. Over 50% of your credit score is based on your payment history and your credit utilization rate. So by just improving those two factors, you should easily be able to improve your credit score by 10 to 50 points in a short period of time.
Check out this article from MyFICO.com for more about what affects your credit score.
10. Refinance Your Mortgage, Car Loan, Or Student Loans
Once you’ve improved your credit score, you may want to consider refinancing the large debt obligations in your life. For example, by just refinancing a $200,000 mortgage from a 5% to a 3.5% interest, you could save yourself $1,920 per year.
But before you refinance any of your loans, be sure to take any closing costs into consideration and whether or not you would be extending how long it takes you to pay off your loans in full.
Related: Refinance Your Student Loans With Credible
11. Join an Income-Driven Student Loan Repayment Plan
If you’re currently struggling to make your student loan payments each month, ask your student loan provider about an Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan. On an IDR Plan, your payment could be much lower, which would free up funds to go towards higher-interest debts or other financial goals. Just keep in mind that you will pay more interest with an IDR Plan.
Check out our full article on income-based repayment plans.
12. Take Advantage Of 0% APR Balance Transfer Credit Card
If you have a lot of credit card debt with high interest rates, a 0% APR balance transfer credit card could give you some relief. Balance transfer cards have been known to offer 0% promotional periods of 18 months or more. No, you typically won’t earn any rewards with these cards, but they could save you thousands of dollars in interest charges if you take full advantage of the promotional period.
13. Stop Using Your Credit Cards
This is the direct opposite of the idea above. Yes, credit cards can be convenient and, as we’ll discuss later, can offer valuable rewards. But for many people, they’re simply too big of a temptation. When you’re trying to get out of a hole, the first step is to stop digging. In the same vein, if you’re trying to get out of credit card debt, you may need to eliminate credit cards from your life.
Brush up on your credit know-how with our Credit 101: The Ultimate Guide to Credit
Emergency Fund Savings
Once you’ve knocked out your high-interest debt, building up your emergency fund should typically be your next financial goal. Experts vary on how much exactly you should save, but most land somewhere between three to six months of expenses. How do you save up that much money? Here are a few ideas to get 1% better.
14. Save Your Tax Refund
This is an idea that my wife and I have used for years. Yes, I know that we could adjust our withholding so that we’re not giving Uncle Sam an “interest-free” loan. But we’ve looked at it as a means of forced savings. Then, when we receive our tax refund, we immediately put it into the bank to boost our savings account.
15. Save Your Quarterly or Semi-Annual “Extra” Paychecks
Unless you work for an employer that pays on a bi-monthly basis, this strategy can work for you. If you’re paid on a weekly basis, then you’ll get an “extra” paycheck once every quarter. And if you’re paid bi-weekly, you’ll get the extra check twice per year.
This “extra” paycheck thing is really just a result of how calendars work. If you get paid on Thursdays, for example, there are four months each year that will have five Thursdays. Those are the months that you’d get the extra check. If you decide to save these “extra” paychecks, that’s a pretty painless way to add lump sums to your emergency fund a few times each year.
Discover the framework for success from dozens of people who have found their own path to financial independence. Learn how to spend less, earn more, and live a fulfilling life of abundance. Download your free sample chapter today!
Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence
Discover the framework for success from dozens of people who have found their own path to financial independence. Learn how to spend less, earn more, and live a fulfilling life of abundance. Download your free sample chapter today!
16. Round Out Your Savings Account After Every Paycheck
With this method, you just contribute whatever is needed to make the nearest hundred whole (i.e. $178 to $200). Alternatively, you could round up every single transaction to the nearest dollar (i.e. $2.65 to $3.00) using a tool like Chime or Capital.
Related: Acorns Review–Automatically Invest Your Spare Change
17. Save Unexpected Bonuses or Gifts
Did you receive a quarterly bonus that you didn’t see coming? Perhaps your grandma decided to send you a “just because” check in the mail. When we receive unexpected money like this, it’s easy to think of fun ways to spend them.
But if you already have your budget set for things like entertainment and clothing, there’s no need to rush to increase your spending for the simple reason that you have more money than you anticipated. Consider throwing the money in your emergency fund account instead.
Homeownership can be expensive! Even if you’re currently a renter, there are still utilities and other costs to worry about. Here are a few ways to get 1% better in the home expenses department.
18. Watch YouTube For Ways To Fix Appliances Or Home Repairs On Your Own
According to Angie’s List, the average dishwasher repair costs $159 and the average refrigerator repair costs $200 to $400. That’s crazy expensive and most of that cost is going toward the labor (the average dishwasher company charges $75 to $150 per hour).
You can save yourself a ton of money by learning how to fix your appliances yourself. Yes, some issues may require a professional, but you’d be surprised how many problems you can learn to fix on your own with the help of some YouTube tutorials.
19. Improve Your Insulation
According to Energystar.gov, the average homeowner can save 15% on heating and cooling by sealing up cracks and adding insulation to attics and floors above basements or crawl spaces. You can pay professionals to add the insulation or settle in for a serious DIY project.
20. Replace Your Incandescent Bulbs With LED Bulbs
There are two ways that you can save with LED bulbs. First, they’re much more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs. And, second, LED bulbs last much longer than incandescent bulbs (anywhere from 3 to 25 times longer). So that means you won’t need to replace them as often, which will save you a lot of money in replacement costs over the long run. Energy.gov says that you can $75 per year by simply replacing the five most used light fixtures from incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs.
21. Adjust Your Thermostat by a Few Degrees
Did you know that you can save up to 10% each year on your heating and cooling expenses by adjusting the thermostat from 7 to 10 degrees 8 hours per day? Do you want to do this but always forget to adjust your thermostat when you leave for work? You may want to consider investing in a smart thermostat (like Nest) that will automatically change the temp for you when it recognizes that the house is empty.
22. Lower the Temp on Your Hot Water Heater
Did you know that you can adjust the temperature of your hot water heater as well? Many of us have our heaters set at temperatures that are higher than we really need. And by lowering the temp just a few degrees, you could save 4% to 22% on your water heating bill or $12 to $60 annually.
23. Plant Shade Trees
If you have a green thumb, spending time in the garden can be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable ways to spend your day off. But did you know that your work could help you save on your energy bill too? Energy.gov says that planting shade trees can cut your air conditioning costs by 15% to 50%!
24. Get New Toilets
When my wife and I bought our home, it had been a one-owner house that had been built in 1958. The toilets looked like they were original to the home! In addition to their ugly aesthetic (ugh pink!), those old toilets weren’t economical either. By replacing them with energy-efficient models that use less water, we’re saving about $100 per year per toilet.
25. See If Your City Provides Free Energy Audits
Looking for more energy-saving ideas? Why not see if you can have an energy professional audit your home? They’ll walk through your home looking for areas where you may be wasting electricity and leave you with a recommended action list. In some areas, they even offer home energy assessments for free.
26. Declutter and Donate Room By Room
Decluttering can benefit you in multiple ways. First, it makes you enjoy being in your home more. Second, it helps you know what you really own so that you’re not buying duplicates of clothing items or home supplies that you already have. And, third, it gives you a chance to donate things that you no longer need to worthy causes. So get started decluttering!
According to the most recent statistics, the typical American spends 13% of their budget on transportation costs for an average annual cost of $9,737. But here are a few ideas to get 1% better on your transportation costs.
27. Buy Used
According to CarFax, the average new car will depreciate by 20% in its first year on the road and then another 10% for the following four years. That’s a terrible fact for new car owners. But you can use depreciation to your advantage by buying a car that’s three to five years old. At ChooseFI, we’re big fans of buying used. Up your car game even more by buying one of the longest-lasting cars on the road today.
Related: How To Buy A Used Car
28. Sell Secondary Cars That Aren’t Frequently Driven
Do you have a car that sits in your garage or driveway for most of the week? Why not sell it? It may be a flashier car than the one you drive to work and you may enjoy parading it around on weekends, but is it really worth the extra insurance cost? And if you were to sell it today, how could you use that money to help you reach other financial goals? This can improve your finances by much more than 1%!
If you aren’t up for selling this car, check out MetroMile. It’s car insurance that charges by the mile. Perfect for cars that aren’t driven very much. Here’s our full review.
29. Pick Cars With High Fuel Efficiency
In a recent study, Consumer Reports found that a difference of only a few miles per gallon in fuel economy can have a huge impact on how much you spend each on gas. For example, they found that consumers would save $315 per year by choosing the Toyota Sienna minivan which gets 21 mpg overall vs. the Dodge Grand Caravan which gets 17 mpg.
So when you’re shopping for a new vehicle, make sure to pay close attention to fuel economy in addition to the cost, safety ratings, and other features. Or, for maximum efficiency, you could consider buying a hybrid or fully electric car.
30. Slow Down
The speed that you drive has a direct effect on how many miles you’re able to get per gallon. Consumer Reports found that the slower you can drive on the highway, the more fuel-efficient your car will be. In their tests, fuel economy dropped by four to eight miles per gallon when they accelerated from 55 mph to 65 mph. And it dropped by an additional five to seven miles per gallon when the speed was increased to 75 mph.
31. Reduce Your Car’s Idle Time
Whenever your car’s engine is running while sitting stationary, you’re still burning gas — but you’re not getting any miles in return. Depending on your vehicle size and type, you could burn from 0.16 to 0.64 gallons of gasoline per hour of idle time. That’s a waste of gas and money. If you’re not heading from Point A to Point B, then shut the engine off.
32. Take Less Shopping Trips Throughout the Week
Do you find yourself running out almost every night to pick up a random ingredient that you need for dinner? All of those “small” trips add up and can cause you to quickly burn through your gas tank.
Why not create a menu at the beginning of the week and do all of your weekly grocery shopping at one time? It will save you on gas…and will probably save you on your grocery budget too since you’ll have fewer opportunities to make impulse purchases.
33. Shop Your Car Insurance Rates Every Year
Insurance rates change all the time. Shop around each year to make sure that you’re still getting the best deal. Also, consider whether or not you need collision and comprehensive on your vehicles. And, finally, consider raising your deductible so that you can get a more affordable monthly premium.
Compare.com is a great place to start since they aggregate the rates of many insurers in one place.
Related: How To Shop For Car Insurance
For most of us, healthcare will be one of our biggest expenses this year. In 2018, health costs accounted for 17.7% of the Gross Domestic Product and the average person spent $11,172 on healthcare. So how can you save that 1% or more? Here are a few ideas.
Related: How To Lower Your Healthcare Costs
34. Reevaluate Your Healthcare Plan Each Year During Open Enrollment
If you buy your health insurance, there is only one time each year that you have the opportunity to change or modify your plans. That period is called open enrollment and it typically takes place from the beginning of November to mid-December. Even if you don’t think you need to change anything, you’ll still want to check your current plan to make sure your rates haven’t gone up significantly.
Here’s everything you need to know about open enrollment.
35. Take Advantage Of A Health Savings Account If Your Healthcare Plan Qualifies
If you have a High Deductible Healthcare Plan (HDHP) with your employer and they offer their employees Health Savings Accounts (HSA), you NEED to be taking advantage of this benefit. HSAs come with triple tax benefits. And once you reach retirement age, the funds can be used towards any expenses without penalty.
36. See If You Qualify For CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program)
CHIP is a program that makes it possible for eligible families to get affordable healthcare for their children. Like other government programs, there are income limitations, but CHIP income limits tend to be less stringent than Medicaid for adults. Rules vary by state.
Here’s more about CHIP from Medicade.gov.
37. Subscribe To A Telemedicine Service
Telemedicine services allow patients to consult with a board-certified doctor (via video, phone, or email) without having to travel to a doctor’s office. In addition to being convenient, telemedicine services are also typically very affordable. Some of the most popular services offer 24/7 access to doctors for about $25 per month.
38. Order Your Labs Online
Recently, my wife needed to get bloodwork done before a doctor’s consultation. Instead of going through our insurance, we paid for the lab work ourselves using WalkInLab. The appointment was paid for upfront and only cost us $40.00. We loved that we were able to know exactly how much the visit was going to cost us before she walked into the office.
39. Join Discount Savings Plans To Save On Vision And Dental Costs
Many of the most affordable health insurance plans don’t come with vision and dental coverage. So what can you do if you or your children need an eye exam or a cavity filled? One way to save is by joining a discount savings plan. Many of the most popular plans say that they can save their members up to 50% on vision and dental costs.
Looking for more health insurance tips? Check out Brad and Jonathan’s recent discussion about healthcare.
Groceries and Dining Out
According to Value Penguin, the average family spends over $6,600 per year on food, with nearly $4,000 going toward groceries and $2,600 towards eating out. However, as income grows, so do food budgets. Families that bring in over $70,000 per year spend nearly three times as much on food as those who make less than $20,000.
These numbers indicate that we have a tendency to overspend on groceries and restaurants as our incomes rise. Here are a few ways that you can get things back under control and get 1% better.
Listen: Optimize Your Online Grocery Shopping
40. Pick A Different Grocery Store
You may be able to save on groceries by just switching up your grocery store. Aldi is a no-frills FI favorite. In my area, Publix is a popular grocery retailer, but they charge premium prices. By switching to Aldi for most of our groceries, my wife and I were able to reduce our grocery budgets by over 20%.
41. Batch Cook Your Meals
Instead of cooking every day, why not try batch-cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 2-3 days at a time? Or perhaps you could batch-cook an entire month of breakfast burritos a la Scott and Taylor Rieckens from Playing With Fire. Batching cooking can help you take advantage of bulk discounts on ingredients. And you’ll likely reduce your waste too.
Check out our FREE cookbook to get you started with $2 per serving recipes: Eat Healthy and Save Money with the Laura Barrett Cookbook
42. Buy Snacks In Bulk
This is similar to the point above, but it’s worth mentioning separately. If you’re anything like me, you struggle with wanting mid-day or midnight snacks. Sometimes I’ll just get an insatiable hunger in between meals. And if I don’t have anything handy, I’ll find myself spending money at the convenience store or in the fast-food drive-thru.
But buying snacks in bulk and portioning them out has helped me save money. This strategy is great for popcorn, pretzels, and even breakfast foods like yogurt.
43. Switch To Generic
Can you really taste the difference between name-brand and generic-brand ketchup or meat? I’m willing to bet that the answer is no. Why not at least try a few generic brands this week? It could save you up to $1,000 per year! And even if you decide you really like the brand name better on some items, you still might be able to get 1% better by switching to generic for several key items.
Related: 12 Ways To Save Money On Groceries
44. Ask A Friend Or Relative To Teach You To Cook Their Specialty
Even if you try to limit your personal out-to-eat excursions, your social life can sometimes make things difficult. You don’t want to stop hanging out with your friends because you’re trying to cut costs–and you don’t have to. If you have a like-minded friend, why not ask them to come over to your place and teach you how to cook their favorite meal instead of going out?
45. Share a Costco Membership With Someone Else
Shopping at Costco and buying things in bulk can save you a lot of money on your groceries and paper products. But to get access to those discounts, you will need to pay the $60 membership fee. Did you know that each membership comes with two cards? You can cut your membership cost in half by splitting the fee with a friend or neighbor.
Related: How To Save Money By Sharing Subscriptions, Memberships, And Services
46. Plan Monthly Wine/Beer Tastings Potluck Style At Home
Like the idea of learning a favorite recipe from a friend, this could be a way to have a fun night with your friends without going out. Ask three or four of your friends (or more) if they’d like to participate. Each month, everyone brings one of their favorite wines or beers. And then you rotate houses so that each person is only having to host once every few months.
47. Disconnect From Restaurant Marketing
Restaurants love to get ahold of your email address so that they can entice with you a never-ending stream of “deals.” If you struggle with resisting temptation, unsubscribe from all restaurant marketing emails. While you’re at it, delete the restaurant apps from your phone too. Unsubscribing or deleting an app can help you resist temptation and keep that 1% (or more) in your savings.
48. Experiment With “Meatless Mondays”
Eating more vegetarian meals could not only be good for your health, it could also be good for your budget. According to a study published in 2015 by the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, vegetarian diets were about $750 cheaper per year. Meat costs have risen since then, so the disparity may even be larger today.
Am I suggesting that you go completely vegetarian? No. As a meat lover myself, I know that I couldn’t do that full-time. If you can do it, great. But, for everyone else, “Meatless Mondays” could be a good alternative and can help you save just that 1%. Or you could do one vegan week a month to help you cut back on grocery bills.
Listen: The Vegan Path To FI
49. Give Up Alcohol
Before you start yelling at me, have you really looked at how much extra money you’re spending on alcohol each month? According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the average person spends about 1% of their gross annual income on alcohol. So cutting it out is one guaranteed way to immediately get 1% better. Why not give it a try for one month to see how you feel?
Check out this guest post from a reader who valued stopping drinking at $500,000.
Shopping And Services
So far we’ve focused on core expenses like home, transportation, and food. But it’s easy to spend a bundle on other expenses like clothes, decorative items, haircuts, and other services. Here are some ideas that could help you save that goal of 1%.
50. Utilize A Store’s Coupon App
Gone are the days of having to whip out a pair of scissors and cut actual paper coupons from the Sunday paper. Now, virtually every store’s coupons can be found on their mobile apps. Target fans especially love the Target Circle app (formerly Cartwheel), which includes hundreds of offers each week. You could also consider using a multi-store coupon app like Retailmenot every time you shop.
51. Shop Off-season
Buying school supplies, Christmas gift wrap, winter clothes, or garden supplies as the season ends is much cheaper if you have the space to store things. And if you really want to get serious about shopping by the calendar, check out Nerdwallet’s guide that tells you the best products to buy for each month of the year. Forget about 1% with this hack. You can save 75% or more off of your purchases by shopping off-season.
52. Building a “Capsule” (Minimalist) Wardrobe
The idea of a capsule wardrobe isn’t necessarily a new idea. But since Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up debuted on Netflix, more and more people have gravitated to the idea of pursuing a minimalist life. The capsule wardrobe is all about buying clothes that can be mixed and matched together instead of unique pieces for every occasion. Check out the video below for some tips on how to get started.
Related: Look Great For Less–Save Money And Still Look Like A Million Bucks
53. Shop at Goodwill Or Thrift Stores
If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can find some amazing deals on gently used clothing and other items at Goodwill (or local thrift stores). But to find the best ones, you’ll need to commit to visiting on a regular basis. And you’ll also need to make sure that you’re really getting a “deal.” Sometimes the prices thrift stores will charge for used items aren’t actually that far below what you could pay for a brand new item at a mainstream retailer.
Related: 9 Consignment Shops Near You To Buy And Sell Clothing
54. Abstain From Shopping (Except Food) For One Month
Like any other enjoyable activity, shopping can become addictive. And you can slowly spend more and more of your time and money each month at your favorite department store. As with any other habit that’s getting out of hand, sometimes a “detox” phase can be helpful. Try taking a full month off from shopping to re-learn how to make do without non-essential purchases.
Check out this article about doing a shopping ban.
55. Host A Clothing Giveaway Party
Clothing giveaway parties (often referred to humorously as “Naked Lady Parties”) are where you swap clothes with friends. You invite a bunch of people over to your house and everyone throws clothes that they no longer want or need into the middle of the room. Then everyone has a blast tearing into the pile, trying stuff on, and hopefully finding a cute outfit or two for free. These parties can be especially great for folks with kids.
56. Learn How To Cut Or Color Your Own Hair
We already mentioned this idea briefly, but learning to take care of your own hairstyling (or having a friend or family member do it!) can save you a ton of money. My mother-in-law learned how to color hair so that she could take care of all the hairstyling for my wife and my sister-in-law. This saves them more than our goal of 1%, plus they get to enjoy some quality time as moms, daughters, and sisters.
57. Ask About Cash Discounts
Small business owners have to pay a hefty fee each time a customer pays with a debit or credit card. So some of your service providers (like your veterinarian or hair stylist) may be willing to give you a reduced rate if you pay with cash. It can’t hurt to ask and since credit card fees can add 2-3% or more to your purchase, you’ll easily save that 1% by paying with cash if the retailer offers the discount.
Internet, Cell Phone, And Entertainment
Many of you who are reading this article rely upon a stable internet connection in order to fulfill your work duties every day. For many of us, the same can be said of our cell phones. So eliminating these bills completely may not be feasible. But there are certainly ways to get 1% better in these areas as well as in your entertainment costs. Here are a few tips.
58. Call Your Phone, Cable, And/Or Internet Company To Get A Better Rate
This is a strategy that I’ve used for years. Simply call up your provider and say that you’re calling to cancel the service. You’ll immediately be transferred to someone from the retention department. They may very well offer you a great discount to keep you as a customer. You could even let the representative know that you saw an offer from a competitor. In some cases, they may decide to match.
Check out our favorite cable alternatives.
59. Switch To A “Pay for What You Use” Cell Phone Plan
Unlimited plans from the major cell phone networks are nice, but they’re also very expensive. If you don’t use a lot of data each month (for example, if you’re someone who’s typically connected to WiFi throughout the day) a “pay for what you use” plan could save you money. Google FI and Mint Mobile are two popular carriers that only charge you for the data that you use during the billing month.
60. Buy An Antenna
Think that antennas are a thing of the past? Think again. In 2009, broadcast TV channels began their transition from analog to digital signals. Today, HD antennas are more high-def than your basic cable or satellite channel. Yes, that means you could start getting completely free TV channels that are better quality than your pay-TV channels.
See if you live in an area that’s well-suited for using an antenna.
61. Switch From Cable To A More Affordable Streaming Service
In Consumer Reports Cable Report 2019, they found that the average base cable package costs $156.71. That’s over $1,800 per year! But you don’t need to pay that kind of money for TV. If you don’t need live TV, streaming services like Netflix, Disney +, or Hulu may give you all you need for less than $10 per month. Or if you’re looking for a true cable alternative, consider online TV providers like YouTube TV, Sling, or Philo.
62. Share Bills with Family or Friends
Sharing cable bills, phone plans, music subscriptions, and more is a smart way to save. Most streaming services allow up to 6 people to use the same account (and two to five simultaneous streams). In our case, we save on our phone bill by staying on my parents’ plan and just sending them money each month. And our YouTube TV subscription is shared between four family members, cutting our individual costs to under $13 each.
63. Cancel Any Subscriptions You Might Have Forgotten About
Want to easily save 1%? This is a big one. How many things have you subscribed to over the years and simply forgotten to cancel? Some subscriptions only charge their members on an annual basis so unless you check every month’s credit card statement, years could go by before you notice.
If you’re wanting to eliminate all your unused subscriptions, Trim is a tool that can help. It will look through all your account statements to find unwanted subscriptions. And Trim will even take care of canceling them for you!
Check out our full Trim review.
The federal benchmark for “affordable” childcare is no more than 7% of a family’s income. Yet, in Care.com’s most recent survey, 70% of families were paying more than 10% of their incomes towards childcare. How can you save? Here are a few ways to reduce your childcare costs and get 1% better.
64. Swap Sitting Duties With A Friend
Do you have a friend who would also like to save on childcare? Instead of paying for babysitters, exchange free babysitting services so that you each can enjoy a night out to yourself or with your spouse. This idea may seem simple, but babysitters are expensive so it can easily net you more than the 1% you’re striving to save.
65. Look For Free Pre-K Programs In Your Area
Not only could enrolling your child in a free preschool program save you money, but it will also do a better job of preparing your child for school than a normal daycare. Find a free preschool provider near you at freepreschools.org.
66. Take Advantage Of Flexible Spending Accounts
If you’re the primary caregiver for a child (or adult) who you can claim as a dependent on your income taxes, you may be eligible for a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA).
In order to take advantage of one, it will need to be offered as a benefit by your employer. But if you do have access to a Dependent Care FSA, you may be able to pay for your childcare with pre-tax money (lowering your taxable income.)
Here’s a great article from Connectyourcare.com about Dependent Care FSAs.
67. Claim The Child Tax Credit
If you meet the eligibility requirements, the Child Tax credit could be worth up to $2,000 per qualifying child. That’s a big deal and it’s a tax benefit that parents need to be taking full advantage of. As a non-refundable credit, the Child Tax Credit can only bring your tax liability to zero. However, if you qualify for the Additional Tax Credit, up to $1,400 per qualifying child can be refundable.
68. Consider A Home-Based Day Care
If you don’t mind doing a little digging and research, local home-based daycares can be more affordable than the larger centers. When you’re looking at home-based daycare, make sure it has the appropriate state licenses.
Second, ask about their accreditation. Accreditation from either the National Association for the Education of Young Children or the National Association for Family Child Care would be a good sign that you’re dealing with a professional and trustworthy home daycare operator.
69. Take Advantage Of Government Programs
The federal government sends funds to each state so that they can provide subsidies to low-income families. Head Start and Early Head Start are two well-known government daycare programs. Also, there are special daycare plans in place for military members and students in high school or college. Check out ChildCare.gov to learn more about these programs and to find participating providers near you.
Travel And Sightseeing
There’s just something about traveling and sightseeing that can really help to relieve stress and improve your quality of life. The great news is that it’s totally possible to travel the world on a budget. Here are some ideas for staying on budget and getting 1% better.
70. Use a Travel Rewards Card
Taking advantage of credit card rewards may be one of the easiest to get 1% better this year. By leveraging welcome bonuses to rack up bonus points, you could save thousands of dollars in travel by booking free flights, hotels, and more. Just be careful to pay off your statement balance each month to avoid interest charges.
If you really want to maximize your travel rewards check out Ultimate Guide to Credit Card Travel Rewards series.
Related Article: Travel Rewards Credit Cards FAQ
71. Use a Cash Back Rewards Card
If traveling isn’t really your thing, a cashback card may be a better choice. When you’re comparing cashback cards, think through your spending habits. If you spend a lot of money in specific categories, like groceries, restaurants, or gas, you may want to pick a card that offers bonus cashback in these categories. Depending on the card you choose, it could offer 3% to 6% cashback for its bonus categories.
However, for many spenders, a flat-rate cashback card may be the better choice. With the best flat-rate cards, you can earn 1.5% to 2% on every purchase you make with the card. And many of the top cashback cards have no reward caps or redemption minimums.
The Spark Business cash-back cards are our #1 choice for side hustlers. With the Spark® Cash Select, you’ll earn unlimited 1.5% cashback with no annual fee and a $200 welcome bonus after spending $3,000 within the first 3 months. And with the Spark® Cash, you’ll earn an unlimited 2% with a $95 annual fee (waived the first year) and a $500 welcome cash bonus after spending $4,500 within the first 3 months.
If you don’t own your own business, you may want to consider the US Bank Cash Plus Visa Signature. This card offers a whopping 5% cashback on your first $2,000 spent per quarter in two bonus categories of your choosing. You’ll earn an additional 2% back on everyday categories like gas stations and grocery stores (everything else earns 1%). The US Bank Cash Plus Visa Signature has no annual fee and offers a $150 bonus if you spend $500 within your first 90 days with the card.
72. Pack A “Go Bag”
Are you someone who’s crazy enough about traveling cheap that you’re willing to take an unplanned cross-country weekend trip? If so, you could score some ridiculously cheap last-minute flights.
But to make spontaneous frugal adventures easy, you’ll want to pack a “go bag” and leave it by the door or in the car. Just make sure you have a few pairs of clothes, a phone charger, and some toiletries in the bag and you’ll be prepared to take a cheap trip at any moment. Anyone who has forgotten their toiletries and had to buy replacements in an airport store can tell you how much you’ll save by packing a go-bag–and it’s a lot more than 1%!
Listen: Planned Spontaneity With Mrs. Adventure Rich
73. Travel During Off-Peak Seasons
Traveling during off-peak times is a really clever way to reduce your cost. Traveling to winter destinations in the summer or vice versa can help you land eye-popping deals. Plus, the crowds and lines will usually be more manageable as well!
74. Use Price Alert Tools
If you know that you’re going to be traveling to a specific city for specific dates, price alert tools can save you a ton of money on flights. You simply set an alert and then the tool will notify you (via email or app notification) when the prices have dropped below average. Kayak is one of the most well-known price alert tools, but Skyscanner and Google Flights are great options as well.
75. Pick Weekday Flight Departure And Return Dates
Just about everyone with a standard work schedule wants to travel on weekends. Airlines know this so they jack up the prices on their weekend flights. Beat them at their own game and book your departure and return flights for Monday instead of Sunday. Forget about 1%–booking the return on Monday could literally change your ticket price by $100 or more. And for the absolutely cheapest prices, pick Tuesday!
76. Attend A ChooseFI Meetup The Next Time You Travel
Did you know that there are FI community events scheduled all throughout the year? Camp FI, the Lola Retreat, and Camp Mustache are just a few of the popular meetups with the FI faithful. What’s so great about these events is that they give you the chance to explore a new area while also meeting cool people and making new friends.
Check out our community events guide to see dates of upcoming events.
77. Book Rooms With Refrigerators And/Or Kitchens
After hotels and flights, dining tends to be one of the biggest expenses on trips. But you can save way more than 1% by preparing a few meals at your hotel or resort. To do this, look for rooms that have refrigerators or kitchenettes. And bonus if you can find a place with a full kitchen (Airbnbs are a great option).
Growing up, my family would always do this. We would eat one meal out and one meal in the hotel each day, which easily cut our vacation food cost by 50% or more.
78. Find Free Things To Do That You Haven’t Tried In Your Own City
You don’t have to pay to travel thousands of miles away to explore cool places. There are probably many interesting landmarks and sights within an hour of where you live. Just pop out your phone and Google “Fun things to do near me.” In most cases, Google will surface a carousel of options, complete with pictures and reviews. Try to tackle a new one every weekend.
Related: How To Find Free Things To Do In Your City
79. Take Advantage Of A CityPASS
This is one of my favorite travel tricks. There are 14 cities throughout the United States that participate in the CityPASS program. You buy a single pass which gains you access to several of the city’s top sights and attractions.
And you get a major discount over buying each ticket individually (usually between 35% and 50%). Our family has personally tried out the Atlanta, Tampa, and Orlando CityPASS, and we’ve loved each one. We hope to eventually visit each city on the list!
80. Volunteer In Exchange For Free Room And Board
This is an idea that my uncle takes advantage of every year. He’s a high school teacher, so he has two months off every summer. And for the past few summers, he’s volunteered around the world for non-profit organizations. He spends a few days of each trip helping them out. And they, in turn, take care of his lodging and sometimes food as well. It’s really a win-win! Interested?
Here are 10 organizations worth checking out.
Earning Extra Money
Saving money is great, but frugality can only go so far. Sometimes you just need to add a little income to the mix. Here are some money-making ideas that can help you get 1% better.
Related Article: How To Make More Money–The Ultimate Guide
81. Start A Side Hustle That You Can Do With Low Overhead
There are lots of side hustles that cost little to no money to launch. Freelance writing, software coding, graphic arts design, virtual assistant work, and dog walking are just a few side hustles that require very little capital. Low overhead means more profit that you can use to invest, pay off debt, or save for a major purchase.
Related: 6 Types Of Side Hustles You Can Start Today
82. Rent Out A Spare Room On Airbnb
If the idea of hosting complete strangers and essentially running a mini-hotel in your home doesn’t intimidate you, Airbnb (or other short-term rental sites) can be a very profitable side hustle. If you don’t think you’d want to do this year-round, perhaps you could just do it when big events are happening in your area. Just make sure that your city (and neighborhood) allows short-term rentals before publishing your listing.
83. Rent Out Your Car
Do you have a car that sits idle in a driveway for most of the day? Why not rent it out on Turo or other car rental sites? Turo says that the average person who uses their site to rent out their car makes $706 per month. That’s saving a lot more than 1%! Plus, they protect your car against physical damage up to its cash value and provide $1 million of liability insurance.
Here are more ways to make money with your car.
84. Rent Out Your Empty Garage Or Shed
Do you have empty space anywhere in your house? Why not use a service like Neighbor and rent it out to someone nearby who has stuff they need to store? You get paid for your empty space and your neighbor gets to store their stuff for less money than they’d to pay for a traditional storage unit.
Check out our full review of Neighbor.
85. Do Random Tasks
On TaskRabbit, people are willing to pay for all kinds of things like assembling furniture, mounting a TV, moving stuff, and more. Some of the tasks are super simple, while others require more knowledge and proficiency. But there are money-making opportunities on TaskRabbit for everyone no matter your skill level.
86. Open A High-Yield Savings Accounts
If your emergency fund money is sitting in an average savings account, you’re missing out. With a high-yield savings account, you can earn a lot more from your hard-earned money. The CIT Savings Builder, for example, currently offers a maximum rate of 1.25%. That’s over 20 times more than the national average–and it’s better than our 1% goal! Start earning more interest.
Here’s our full review of the CIT Savings Builder account.
Investing And Retirement Planning
If you’re able to get 1% better in the area of investing, it could literally increase your eventual retirement portfolio by hundreds of thousands of dollars due to the power of compound interest. Here are a few ideas.
Learn or relearn everything you need to know to get started investing with our guide: Investing 101: How to Start Investing the FI Way
87. Find Investments With Lower Expense Ratios
Currently, the average expense ratio on mutual funds is 0.58%. In actively managed funds, however, expensive ratios can go as high as 2.5%. But the average expense ratio on passively managed index funds is 0.20%. So switching to an index fund is a simple move that could make an immediate impact on your investment cost.
Related: When 2% Costs Everything–How Investment Fees Cost You Your Freedom
88. Use Tax-Advantaged Accounts
If you’re not taking advantage of retirement accounts, you’re wasting a ton of money on your investments! Why would you pay income tax on the earnings from your retirement investments if you don’t need to? So max out your Traditional or Roth IRA and take advantage of any employer-sponsored 401(k) accounts and matches when available.
89. Take Advantage Of The Mega Backdoor Roth
FI enthusiasts love the Roth IRA. And one of the major reasons why is that you can withdraw your contributions (just not your earnings) at any age without penalty. So if you want to retire early, the Roth IRA is the retirement account for you. However, there are downsides to Roths. Most notably, they have fairly low income and contribution limits.
But the Mega Backdoor Roth is an amazing way to solve both of those problems. It would take too long here to fully explain how the Mega Backdoor Roth works. But, thankfully, we have an entire podcast that covers the ins and outs. Listen to the podcast.
90. Choose A Broker That Doesn’t Charge Trade Commissions
In today’s investing climate, there are no excuses for ever paying a trade fee or commission. Virtually all of the major brokers now allow free trades on stocks, ETFs, and mutual funds, including Fidelity, Vanguard, TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, and many more. If your broker is charging you for trades, you need to switch.
Related: Vanguard vs. Fidelity: Which Company is the Right Discount Broker for You?
91. Use A Robo-Advisor
If you currently pay for a human financial advisor, you’re probably paying 1% to 1.5% for their advice. But with a robo-advisor, you could cut your advisory fee in half or more. Most robo-advisor fees start at 0.25%. And with M1 Finance, you’ll pay no fees whatsoever. Plus with many robo-advisors, you can pay just a little more to get access to a CFP too!
Check out our full review of M1 Finance.
92. Learn About Advanced Tax Optimization Techniques
This can be especially important for high income-earners. They say that Warren Buffet pays about the same amount of taxes as his secretary. That’s probably not true. But it is true that high net worth individuals can dramatically reduce their tax bill without smart strategies. Here are some ideas from The Balance.
93. Automate Your Investing
This idea came courtesy of Ben Huber from Dollar Sprout. As he put it, “If the money has already been withdrawn, you take the human/emotional element out of spending money elsewhere.” He’s right. In my case, my broker automatically transfers money from my checking account and executes an index fund trade on a monthly basis. I never have to think about it. And I love that.
94. Increase Your Retirement Contributions By 1%
This great suggestion came from Jackie Beck. Let’s say that you’re currently contributing $250 every month to your retirement account. Increasing your savings by 1% would only raise your contribution by $2.50. I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t miss it. Continue to increase your contributions by 1% every 2-3 months until you’re maxing out your retirement accounts.
95. Open A Self-Employed Retirement Account
With a Traditional and Roth IRA, you can only contribute up to $6,000 per year. But self-employed retirement accounts like the SEP IRA, Simple IRA, and Solo 401(k) have much higher limits. And here’s the great part. If you have a side hustle, you qualify for a self-employed retirement account!
Related: Retirement Plans For The Self Employed–SEP IRA vs Solo 401(k)
Investing 101: How to Start Investing the FI Way
Job And Career
Any guide on how to get 1% better can’t ignore the place where most of us spend eight hours each day: our jobs. Here are a few ways to grow your career and take better advantage of work perks.
96. Learn How To Negotiate A Raise Effectively
It’s important to ask for more money when you deserve it. But how often should you ask? If it’s been a year since you discussed your salary with your boss, it may be time to revisit it. You may also want to strategically plan the conversation a month or two before your company will be preparing its annual budgets.
Before you walk into the meeting, make sure you’ve done your research to know what your type of work is worth in the marketplace. Don’t come in with a combative attitude. Thank your boss for the opportunity to work for a company that you love and believe in, and express your desire to remain a member of the team. Then throw out the big ask, making sure to ask for a specific dollar amount.
Listen: Negotiate Your Salary With Tori Dunlap
97. Learn How To Land Your Dream Job
In episode 121 of the ChooseFI Podcast, Chris Hutchins gives awesome tips for how to get any job. He explains why the traditional route (i.e. send a bland resume to a corporate email account) usually doesn’t work. In his case, he found a company that he believed in, and then he presented a 20-minute presentation to the founder about why he should hire him!
98. Look For Available Corporate Discounts
Many large companies offer perks like discounted insurance rates, gym memberships, or appliances. This is essentially free money that’s available to you as a company employee, so be sure to take advantage!
99. Negotiate A Flexible Work Policy
Would you like to cut back on commuting? Why not ask your boss if you could be allowed to work from home? You may think that your boss would never allow it. By why not ask him or her if you can try working at home for one day each week on a one-month trial basis?
Tell your boss that you suspect you’ll be able to be more productive at home and you’d like to give it a try. If the trial goes well, you may slowly be able to convince your boss to let you spend more and more days away from the office each week.
Want to learn how to negotiate more effectively? Check out our Negotiation 101 Ultimate Guide!
100. Save Or Invest The Difference With Every Raise Or Bonus
This is a big one. If you already know how to live on your current salary, why should you raise your standard of living when you get a raise? Save the extra money instead and supercharge your FI journey! Whatever the percentage your raise or bonus is, whether it’s 1% or higher, use it to hit your next financial goal.
[BONUS]: 101. Network!
“It’s now what you know, but who you know” may be a tired adage, but it’s also very true. The more people that you meet and form connections with, the more opportunities will naturally come your way. Want to learn how to network more effectively? Check out our “Career Hacking” episode with ESI money.
You Can Get 1% Better!
These are just some ideas to help you get 1% better or more in a variety of categories, while hopefully being more socially energized, self-sufficient, healthy, and entertained along the way. Truly, FI is way more fun when you can make small improvements to good things you’re already doing. Comment below with your ideas on getting 1% better with your finances!
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