Principle: Payments over time are nearly always worse than paying outright. Mortgages are typically the only major exception. If you can’t afford it, save up.
Find Cheaper Alternatives
I check if Temu or AliExpress has the same thing at a 10th of the price when general or specific needs pop up. As a rule: If it’s made in China, you can usually get it cheaper.
E.g., Phone/electronic cases, kitchen sponges, cable organizers, TDS meters, rope/paracord, car seatbelt cutter/window breakers, NFC tags, etc.
Stop buying junk that will break.
Search r/BuyItForLife and r/GoodValue when purchasing in a new category. Replace old breakable stuff with things that will last or have lifetime warranties. So much more there. TheWireCutter frequently has good suggestions and will at least inform you of which variables to be aware of. I usually go with Reddit first, however, as there is less chance of an affiliate or monetary bias.
Amazon – If you have amazon prime and a package arrives late, contact them and explain that you have amazon prime and expect deliveries within a specific timeframe based on their delivery guarantees. Ask them what they can do for you. They will usually issue a $5 coupon.
If a product you purchase is unsatisfactory or has a flaw, contact the seller and see what they can do. If they are unable to refund the product partially, write a review. Occasionally vendors of sub-$50 products will refund you and often let you keep the product (Sometimes they require photo verification).
CamelCamelCamel – Track Amazon Price History to check if you’re getting the best deals and receive alerts.
Stores that price-match:
Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, Home Depot, JC Penny, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Michaels, Office Depot, Office Max, Sears, Sports Authority, Staples, Staples, Target, and Walmart.
For matching with Amazon sellers, ensure that it is an authorized seller if you want the match to be honored.
Second-hand? Track and save searches on Facebook marketplace, yard sale groups, Craigslist, and eBay.
Threadup also has women’s clothing that you can filter by “new with tag” to save 90%.
I once scored a $1000-value pristine Steelcase Leap V2 ergonomic chair for only $100 (with a messed up hydraulic) that Steelcase immediately replaced for free under their lifetime warranty.
Get Money Back on Your Broken Stuff
Many products tend to fail soon after their warranty has expired. Companies set their warranty coverage period where they know they can minimize how many products they have to cover while keeping customers happy. Most credit card companies have an Extended Warranty plan that will add 1–2 years’ worth of coverage (for a combined total of 5) on most products you purchase with the card as long as the manufacturer’s warranty is less than five years.
Submitting a claim through American Express takes ~5 minutes, and no supporting documentation is required besides the date, vendor, and length of the expired warranty. Keep your receipts as proof of purchase!
American Express Extended Warranty
Visa Signature Extended Warranty
MasterCard Extended Warranty
Shop at places with unlimited return policies/Warranties
Inclusive even of accepting returns on used items: Costco, Kohls, Trader Joe’s. Full list.
Return Protection – Get your money back for up to 90 days with this free perk on many credit cards. You may need to google your card to determine if it has this perk if it is a MasterCard.
AmericanExpress Return Protection
Visa Infinite Return Protection
MasterCard Shopping Protection
Fast Food – For drive-through or takeaway orders, if your food isn’t exactly as you ordered it, call the number on the receipt and complain. If it was their fault, they will usually offer to replace the food item the next time you come by. If the botched order is still edible, score!
Jamba Juice – ½ off two small smoothies of the same kind: Order a large smoothie and ask them to put it into two smaller cups. They frequently blend more than will fill a large cup, and a large will usually fill two small cups for cheaper than ordering two smalls.
Clothing – Consider heavily marked-down clothing of larger sizes that you can get tailored to fit and still come out with a better deal.
Avoid buying a phone on a payment plan. You will usually pay more than buying it outright. Rare exceptions apply at new model releases, so do the math yourself.
Check past-year discounts and wait for software purchases until the next Black Friday or other holidays to save 10–90%.
Nearly every subscription has an open source or lifetime/version purchase alternative that will save money. I.e., Affinity design suite instead of Adobe.
Jc Penny – If you are in Jc Penny and see something on sale/clearance, scan its barcode with the Jc Penny app and apply the biggest online coupon in the app. Usually, they are worth more than in-store coupons. Then go to the counter and let the cashier know you have a challenge for them, and explain that you could order online now and pick up in a few hours, but request that they apply the same coupon to save you an extra trip back later. They may have to ask their supervisor, but they can set merchandise to any price. I got a $300 suit for $100 this way.
Coupon/Rebate apps and services:
Rakuten – Get 5-30% cash back rebates by browsing to an online store of choice.
Honey – Browser Add-on that automatically checks/compares prices and applies coupons.
Retailmenot – Lists coupons for all major stores. An iOS app is also available.
ActiveJunky – Earn Cashback by using their site as a portal to purchase outdoor gear.
Buy Discounted Gift cards:
Chase Ultimate Rewards points/redemption tip: You can also compare and transfer to Southwest Airlines at a 1:1 or 1:1.5 ratio by booking over the phone with Chase. Sometimes a 1:1 transfer works better than booking through Chase since Southwest airline points are worth more. Only use it if Southwest has a better/cheaper option. There are a few other partnered airlines you can do the same with too.
When they increase their rate, call and ask them to renew their promotion or request to speak to customer retention and explain that you can get a better deal at X company.
You may want to be prepared to cancel and go to a competitor if they can’t reduce the rate.
T-Mobile includes international roaming and some free streaming services. On a family plan with five lines, their rate is hard to beat, though occasionally matched by some reseller carriers like Visible or MintMobile.
Verizon sometimes has a deal where they give you a $350–450 gift card to switch, which can be used on your bill. My family did that one year, only actually had to pay for our unlimited plan for 3 months out of that year, and then switched back to a cheaper plan at T-Mobile after the 1-year fine print requirement ended. Big savings.
Check if the company you work for has a corporate discount for cellphone providers. Some do.
Electricity Companies [some states] – Instead of renewing from a reminder email or your account, see if you can select a rate before logging into your electric company’s website. Sometimes they’ll give you a better rate than your renewal rate because they think you’re a new customer or because you just selected a lower rate.
If you live in a state where there are many utility resellers (I.e., Electricity in Texas), compare frequently, and you can save a ton on electricity. Don’t just mindlessly renew at higher rates. The plans that give you a free smart thermostat or other junk usually get that money back from you many times over.
Reduce Utility Utilization
A smart thermostat that knows when you aren’t home, 8-11 watt Led bulbs, and a water-saving shower head can also save a substantial trickle of money over time.
Changing your own cabin/engine oil filters for your car and switching to washable options. Cabin filters are ridiculously easy to change, though hidden. Just find a tutorial on youtube.
Rotating tires for free with discount tire or other tire places that don’t charge.
Lifetime alignment at Firestone is cheaper than 2 alignments elsewhere.
Comparing auto insurance options every time I’m up for renewal and asking several agents to find me the best deal. Usually, they can get me a better deal than I can find myself. Only maybe 1 in 5 really stands out in savings, though.
Finances aren’t taught nearly enough. By far the best book I’ve read on this is I Will Teach You to Be Rich: No Guilt. No Excuses. by Ramit Sethi.
A lot of people do tax themselves. While I wouldn’t trust chain tax agencies, finding a CPA who runs their own small business and is passionate, and knows their stuff can save you from throwing tons of money away. I’ve paid a CPA $100/yr and saved many times that for doing so.
Throw windfalls/unexpected tax returns, etc. at a RothIRA or emergency fund if you don’t have one already.
Pay cards off monthly, never carry a balance. As a rule, if I do pay a balance, my commitment to myself is to cut the card up. Also, if you miss paying a balance (hello autopay), the bank will usually forgive you the first time and refund the fee if asked. The same is true with rare overdrafts.
2% back on everything cards are usually better unless you’re an absolute pro at cards with rotating categories at 3-5% back.
Some cards have an extended warranty perk. This has paid dividends when random electronics failed less than a year out of their 1-4yr warranty. The Amazon Prime card is one of the few that still offers this with no fee if you already have Prime. Also, 5% back.
Ally Bank has no fees and much better interest for your emergency savings fund. I still require a brick-and-mortar bank for cash deposits, but nearly everything else goes to Ally. I’ve not found a better competitor.
When moving to a new city for work and looking to rent/buy a place to live, consider commute gas/time/car maintenance costs as part of your rent/mortgage cost. Sometimes it pays to live 2-10 minutes from work rather than 45mins away. I’ve saved thousands by planning a full week of hunting, looking at 40+ places, and then getting to live in a place that saved me a killing for years.
In many cases, saving and learning to live frugally is more effective than trying to earn more. An irresponsible spender will always lack resources no matter how much they earn.
We are stewards of the 100% that belongs to God. Because of this, tithe and offering are returned, not given. I set aside 10+10% on gross. The first 10% Tithe is given to God through the church right away. The second 10% is offering and can be designated as chosen. I recommend deciding on a percentage that you let accumulate for offering until you have a small charity fund. Having a charity fund to be used exclusively for helping the church, ministries, and others is extremely freeing since you don’t have to rationalize helping others because you have already committed to it. Did you know the Bible also expected a third 10%? Learn more here.
Figure out what your time is worth based on current income/work hours, and learn to say no if you’re going to spend too much time on something you could actually earn more money by either declining or outsourcing.
Clean, maintain and look after your stuff properly before they break, so they will last longer. Especially true of cars, but also many appliances. The little things add up.
Observing the Sabbath by taking the day off each week free from work/chores/shopping can revolutionize production/output during the rest of the week. In my experience, this has saved me from burnout countless times, and helped me re-prioritize from consumerism to what is most important in life.
Debt is Negotiable
Avoid it like the plague and do everything you can morally do to free yourself of it. Borrowers are slaves to lenders (Proverbs 22:17). If you do have debt, here are a few things you could consider trying:
- Ask for an itemized bill, including billing codes. If they can’t furnish it, they can’t claim you owe it.
- Financial Assistance Policy. For medical bills, check to see what policies a hospital or clinic has for financial assistance. In particular, you want to look at their financial assistance policy. Most hospitals will waive or forgive most or all of your debt if your household income is within 100%–400% of the federal poverty guideline for a given year.
- Document everything. If you live in a state where call recording is legal with single consent (that is: your consent as a party to the conversation), record your call on speaker phone. Write down dates of contact, names, key points, etc. If someone tells you they are not able to assist because of __, make sure you’re already familiar with their policy ahead of time and (even if you aren’t) ask where it says that in the policy.
- Be kind, calm, and respectful without being a pushover. A cheerful tone goes a long way. If you get a “no” answer, ask for details why. If it is unsatisfactory, say so! “That will not work for me.” Financial counselors and billing departments are trained to use scripts to get you to a certain outcome, such as a payment plan. A “no” is a very easy smokescreen designed to lead people to accept imposed limitations and maximize their revenue. This can take 2–3 or more attempts to overcome. Policies aren’t unchangeable laws. Who else you can speak to? Ask for a supervisor, manager, etc., if necessary.
- Escalate. If something is simply not right and no progress has been made after some time, ask for a patient advocacy or grievance department. The Better Business Bureau is another option for filing complaints to get attention. Most of the time, this will get a senior executive in contact with you within a 1-4 weeks.
- Limitations. Be sure to check if a debt falls outside of a state’s statute of limitations. If so, collectors can’t come after you for that. I’m not saying you shouldn’t still have the integrity to pay debts you owe, but in this case, you may want to prioritize more urgent debts if you are unable to pay them all immediately.
- Navigating Collections. If it has just reached or is about to reach collections, pursue the previous steps as soon as humanly possible in case it can be paused or retracted from debt collections. While a financial assistance application is processing, debt is sometimes put on hold from proceeding to collections. If it’s already at the point of debt collection and can’t be retracted, don’t just opt for a payment plan. Consider asking if they would be willing to settle for a down payment of 30%. Debt collectors often buy debt from institutions at around 4% of the total bill, so even if you paid 15%, they would be making a profit. Offering lower than you might be inclined to offer also gives you the opportunity to bargain to a mid-point. So if they decline 30% and counter with 70%, you can still ask them to meet you halfway at 50%. Having someone do the negotiation on your behalf as your financial advisor is also likely to improve the odds of getting your debt settled.
- Don’t overshare. While financial assistance policies may require income, assets, and other financial information from you in order to assist, you are under no obligation to share any such information with a debt collector. Doing so just enables them to better estimate and work on getting as much as they can. Though they likely wouldn’t disclose it, you can always try asking what they purchased your debt for. Remember, the reason a debt collector has your debt is that the original institution wrote it off and is letting them try to deal with it.
- Negotiation is a skill. As such, it can be learned. One book I’d recommend is: You Can Negotiate Anything by Herb Cohen.
Best Car rental search engine:
Auto Slash – Uniquely combines a wide range of coupons with all vendors.
I often find drastic savings here compared to other sites. If you book further in advance, you can also track prices with their tracking tool, which will allow you to book a new rental if they drop in price and then you can cancel the old one.
Hotel Best Rate Guarantees – Look up deals before booking directly through a hotel like Marriot. If Marriot is more pricey, book with them anyway and submit a request to match the deal from a 3rd party. They will beat the price by 25% if it is actually cheaper. See title link for others.
Note: Avoid Hyatt here as their “guarantee” only matches 3rd parties that provide all their exclusive perks (i.e. free room cancellation/rebooking), which amounts to not matching anyone.
Best Flight search engines:
Kayak.com – Often has some of the best options with hacker fares.
Google ITA Matrix – One of the few engines that can search multiple airports on both ends simultaneously. A useful tool to compare with another site, whether kayak or google flights.
Momondo – One of the few engines that includes southwest and other airlines.
Hopper – Tracks flight prices and advises on when to buy. Average statistical ideal is 57 days in advance.
Also keep in mind that some airlines (i.e. Southwest) release new flights/seats on Tuesdays, resulting in a frequency of lower prices on Tuesdays.
Free Books/Media (Requires Participating Library Card)
Libby – Enter a library card number and you can “borrow” a digital version of any book available in your library sytem. Best of all, most books can be forwarded to kindle.
Hoopla – Similar to libby, but includes other media offered by your library. Libby is better for books though. I don’t really use this much personally, but it’s there.
Free Video Classes:
Coursera – Literally hundreds of free classes from dozens of universities.
Best Free Bible Software:
Logos – Excellent Bible software (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android) – free version.
- If you have your birthday included in your profile and promotional emails are turned on, look for $20 in credit on your birthday month.
- Also note that Faithlife books are also part of the same ecosystem and will show up in logos if purchased on your account (including any free books).
- Additional coupons and freebies are released frequently. To avoid missing out, join this mailing list: Logos Freebies
Misc. Freebies: r/Freebies
Master List of Free Stuff you can get on your Birthday: Link
Become a Mail Ninja:
My USPS – Automatic notifications whenever someone sends you mail or a package.
Also allows you to specify how/where it gets delivered before it arrives.
Provides daily previews of incoming physical mail to an email address if desired.
My Fedex – Like My USPS, but no daily previews. Per-package notifications instead.
Overcast (iOS) – Download and play podcasts from any RSS feed at a customizable speed with any long pauses intelligently shortened. The pause shortening feature seems unique to this app, and really allows one to push the speed to a higher limit than you would otherwise be able to still comprehend. I use this for podcasts and sermons all the time.
Step 1: Everything can be Audible for free:
Enable (iOS) System-wide Text to Speech for any app/text (Great for listening to Kindle and Logos books):
- Open Settings
- Navigate to: Accessibility>Spoken Content>
- Enable “Speak Selection”
- Enable “Speak Screen”
- Make sure “highlight content” is off.
- Under “voices”>English> I recommend selecting an (enhanced) version of an English-speaking voice as they sound a lot better than the default option. I recommend the “enhanced” version of the Australian Karen voice (though not premium), as this one tends not to pause as long as others for punctuation.
- Open your app of choice.
- Use two fingers to drag down from off the top of the screen as if you are pulling down the notification center to bring up the speech widget and start.
Android: a similar method is explained here.
Brightness Toggle (iOS)
Triple Press Home Button to Change Brightness:
- General Settings>Accessibility>Zoom>
- Set Zoom Region to “Full Screen Zoom”
- Set Zoom Filter to “Low Light”
- Set Maximum Zoom Level to 1.2x
- Enable Zoom and double-tap three fingers and drag to zoom out until no zoom is presently in effect.
- General Settings>Accessibility>Accessibility Shortcut>
- Check the “Zoom” option.
- From now on, every time you triple-tap the home button, it will toggle your screen brightness brighter or dimmer.
Paste raw text without retaining any formatting:
Avoid Waiting on Hold
FastCustomer (iOS) – You select what company you want to call, and they call you after the app has navigated the phone menu and waited on hold for you.
GetHuman.com – Similar to FastCustomer, but tells you how to navigate the tree if there isn’t an automated option.
IFTTT (If This Then That) (iOS, Web) – Thousands of custom multi-platform automation recipes.
– Automatically backup contacts to google drive: Recipe
– Log work hours to spreadsheet based on location: Recipe
Shortcuts (iOS): Reddit Shortcuts Subreddit
People often say that time = money. If this is true, then all you have to do is calculate the time saved per year and multiply those hours by the amount you earn per hour. Obviously, however, one isn’t going to go and work the exact amount of time saved to replenish what is spent on time-saving products, so I prefer to add to this equation the more abstract values of increased enjoyment and reduced frustration realized through the use of some of the following purchases.
Osprey Backpacks – Super durable and a lifetime warranty. Water-resistant, featuring buffer space below laptop pockets so as not to smash your laptop when placing it on the ground.
Camelbak offers a lifetime replacement warranty where they will replace a faulty/broken water bottle part without requiring you to send anything in.
Laptop Sleeve – The perfect sleeve for pulling your laptop out of a backpack with added cushioning.
Tenba BYOBag – Camera/Drone insert bag for non-camera backpacks (Like Osprey).
Darn Tough Socks – A lifetime warranty to where you can return them if they wear through. And super comfortable.
Leatherman Free P4 – My favorite multitool that has scissors.
Emisar D4K flashlight – Super niche, but an excellent EDC flashlight with an advanced UI. Seriously fun but quite dangerous as it can start fires or burn a hole through your pocket if you don’t know how to use it with lockout mode properly. Auxiliary lights can stay on between 30 days to a year, depending on the brightness setting. I spent way too much time learning about LED emitters in the process of custom-ordering one.
Tisur Pen – The Miniswitch pen I use has been discontinued, and this looks like the next best option for an EDC keychain pen if you lose yours easily.
MicroLock S-Biner – A better keyring.
Rovyvon Keychain Flashlight – Tiny, recharges in 40min, glows in the dark, UV light, reading light, and regular light. All in one.
SuitedNomad Packing Cubes – Decently durable; Lifetime warranty.
Sporks – Useful for camping or keeping in the car.
Travel Adapter – Best cheap travel adapter with plenty of options.
Copper Ice Scraper – If you live in a snow-ridden environment, scraping certain kinds of ice off a windshield can be a nightmare with plastic scraper. This cuts through like butter. Just don’t touch the rest of your car with it at risk of scratching paint.
Car First Aid Kit – Great little pack for the car. Has a good amount of room for adding extras.
Water-saving shower head – Save money without a majorly noticeable reduction in water flow. In situations with low water pressure, this showerhead has actually improved a lot!
Electric Fly Swatter – Most other designs are more expensive and have a mesh with multiple layers that are so far apart, smaller insects like fruit flies fly right on through. This one catches nearly everything and is good with corners.
Panasonic Microwaves – Inverter microwaves can deliver continuous cooking when set to lower power levels, as opposed to regular transformer-powered microwaves, which cycle between periods of full power and zero power. Panasonic owns the patent and technology, so they tend to be better.
Bidet Toilet Seat – More hygienic, and reduces toilet paper expenses by 80%. This one is the least obvious I could find. One of the best upgrades risked trying.
Liquid Bandaid – Welcome to the 21st century, where minor cuts and scrapes heal faster without a soggy bandaid.
Water Flosser – Super compact, lasts forever on a charge, runs on power when plugged in (rather than waiting for it to re-charge), and so much faster than flossing if you don’t floss 3x a day.
Paper Tray – A cheap, great quality, stackable paper tray that doesn’t accidentally unstack if bumped.
Drill Scrub Attachments – Love scrubbing the bathtub? Me neither. This makes it 100x easier and can attach to even a good electric screwdriver.
Wyze Bulb color – Brightest, best color range options and functionality in general among cheaper smart bulbs. Integrates well with Alexa or google home.
Cabeau Travel pillow – Straps to a headrest and has a higher profile so that you don’t fall sideways. Also, memory foam is great.
Sleep Innovations Pillow – A basic memory foam pillow. Used mine for over a decade, and while the newer ones have slightly more responsive memory foam, they’re still the best I’ve come across.
Umbra Curtain Rods – Neat wrap around design that complement blackout curtains perfectly.
mDesign Trash Can – Simplest office trash can I could find.
Victorionox Kitchen Knives – Cheap, yet super sharp kitchen knives.
7-Tier Vertical Shoe Rack – Perfect for limited space situations.
PVA Mops – A little pricey ($30), but you replace the pva head once every few years, and it’s much cleaner than all alternatives.
Sugru – Moldable hardening glue/rubber with all sorts of practical uses
Smart Lock – Save time coming and going. Saves me at least 4hrs a year. This is the most inexpensive one I know of. Wyze also provides free replacements if there are any persisting technical issues.
A 100% latex mattress should last 2-3x longer than most regular mattresses that cost 2x that amount. Learn the variables and buy from a smaller manufacturer that won’t rip you off.
Free Quality Stock Images: Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels, FreeImages, Stockio
Free Quality Fonts: DaFont, Font Squirrel, Google Fonts, Behance
Free Stanford Photography Course: Youtube
Pocket – Decent Read-it-later Bookmarking service
Goodreads – Book-Reading social/accountability network
Canva – Simple Design Templates for those without design skills.
TheWireCutter – Best Product Reviews
Lifehacker – Everyday Lifehacks with a Tech slant. Not as amazing as they used to be, though.
Look up or Block Telemarketers:
Privacy Star App (iOS) – Shows caller info below Caller ID and/or blocks them entirely depending on settings.
Hiya (iOS) – Similar to Privacy Star
Caller number lookup – Mileage may vary.
Theoretically Reduce Spam Calls
1. Add your number to the do-not-call registry
2. Learn how to track and sue them: Article 1, Article 2