A couple of years ago, I moved back to the states from living overseas and I quickly realized that it was the first time I had to act like an adult in America. I had completed college and a Master’s program stateside, but for most my adult life I had lived abroad. With my new-found maturity and perspective, I had to figure out how to set up a home, automate bills, manage utilities, save money on daily needs, and establish a business credit card (so I could get travel points!).  A fun—please note my sarcasm– process to go through? Here are a few saving tricks I learned through trial and error:

1) Internet/Cable/Phone Bills:

Did you know your internet service can be negotiated?? Neither did I!!!! There’s enough competition out that you, as the consumer, have leverage to try to get the best deal.  Competing companies are consistently offering deals and reduced rates to attract new customers, so it doesn’t hurt to call the company to ask about their most current rates or specials. Of course, for me, negotiating my internet service is one of my least favorite chores, so if I start to feel like my current rate is a bit too high, I mark my calendar for a couple weeks out, and when that date rolls around I make time to call my service company. If the rate can’t be reduced, I mark my calendar to reassess and renegotiate in another 6 – 9 months. Occasionally I consider changing carriers altogether, but for me personally, that requires more effort than it’s worth. It’s an option, however, if you’re determined to get a better deal.

Here are some other people’s suggestions for negotiation: one, two, three, four.

2) Saving on Big Purchases: Negotiating, Knowing the Market, Time.

After moving back to the states, I had to buy a car and the process was totally overwhelming! There were so many options, features, and reviews –  and the potential of getting financially screwed (i.e. paying too much) was scary. One salesman literally told me that I should buy a car from their dealership because they had “fixed prices”, otherwise, I would be a “perfect target” for other salespeople because I was a young, single woman.  Obviously, he was implying that I didn’t know or understand the current car buying market and that my ovaries would impair my ability to negotiate a good deal. My “perfect target” self, thanked him and I left the dealership, ego-flaring and determined to negotiate the best deal I could somewhere else.

Aside from my self-righteous rant, the point is that in most circumstances you have time to learn the market of whatever big purchase item you are contemplating. You can research the market value of the item, read consumer reviews, find nearby vendors, and compare basic maintenance plans, etc. Gathering this data before you visit a showroom floor gives you a leg up.  Big purchases, such as cars, home appliances and real estate also tend to be negotiable – so knowing the price range allows you to negotiate with confidence. Remember: Always be willing to walk away if you can’t come to a fair purchase price. 

3) Saving on small items:

We all make small, incidental purchases – toiletries, pantry items, cleaning supplies. You can save on these purchases by looking for deals (they will be marketed to you if you buy online, don’t kid yourself!). Pay attention to these online deals as well as coupons that come in the mail – and be sure to look for weekly sales specials when you shop at your local stores. 

If you’re a big time online shopper, there are plug-ins and apps that can tell you if you’re getting the best deal. Pretty cool. Here is a list and review of the most popular ones.

4) Consignment shops/Second hand/Sell your stuff

One of the best ways to save is to make more money. That sounds funny, but there is a whole movement around the side hustle, and we talk a lot about it at Nav.it. If a side hustle isn’t for you, then the secondhand market may be an option for you to use to make some extra cash by selling clothes or other items you’ve collected through the years that no longer hold value for you.

There are online marketplaces like Craigslist, Ebay, and Amazon Marketplace that allow you to sell (or purchase) secondhand items. The market for secondhand goods has exploded over the past 5 years and even consignment stores or locally made (often less expensive) goods are being sold online. Here are some ideas for saving online. Keep in mind, physical retailers have goods they need to sell at the end of a season, so shopping at your local discount/consignment stores (I’m in Seattle, gotta plug Nordstrom’s Rack, even if it’s still a big retailer) can save you money, or retailers like BestBuy or Macy’s always have sales online from last season that can get you the brand you want at a reduced cost.

5) Saving trick – Review your bills.

You have 3 choices when reviewing your (monthly) bills:  1) You can be vigilant and review your bills for inconsistencies every month prior to paying — some people don’t like to automate their payments because they want to make sure their charges are correct and no errors have been made on their water, electricity, recycling, internet, credit card bills, etc. 2) You can automate your bills but still check them monthly—either before or after you pay them — to make sure your bills are correct. If you have questions about your charges, you call the company and clarify the bill.  And 3) Automate your bills, don’t look at them and pay whatever they say you need to pay.        

Option number 3 is risky and could cost you money. Mistakes happen; payment systems and big companies are fallible. Credit card companies can accidentally charge you an extra fee, or worse, someone might be fraudulently using your card for small purchases you might not otherwise detect if you weren’t reviewing your statements. Check your utilities and internet service bills to make sure you aren’t being charged for services you aren’t using.

6) Don’t spend more than you earn: Review your spending.

This advice depends on your financial management style. Full disclosure; I don’t love budgets and at Nav.it we’re working to find a happy balance between acknowledging an individual’s financial management styles and educating people on ways to save money. Stay tuned! We do, however, recommend paying attention to your spending– if not in the form of a budget, at least in your overall total monthly spending– because the most important thing about saving is not spending more than you earn.

Not spending more than you earn is the 101 to getting ahead and growing your wealth. If you save just $50 each month, that money is available for you to save, use towards your emergency fund, or invest (compound interest here we come!!). Mindful spending helps limit or prevent overspending – and the saving that occurs is empowering.   

7) Budgeting

Experts abound who can give you their take on budgeting. One is zero-sum budgeting, which basically means you assign every dollar you make monthly to a budget category, even a savings budget category. Other experts suggest you review past spending to help you categorize and prioritize your spending and then apply this knowledge to future spending habits. 

There are apps that connect to your checking account and upload your data into a budget that you create and use to track your spending. If you have debt, having a budget that allocates extra payments to pay down your debt faster is an AWESOME strategy to save more money!

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These are saving tricks for personal financial management and we will soon dig deeper into each category to help you save and nav. your finances with ease!!