Could you generate similar savings by making a few small changes?
- Cutting monthly subscriptions or other fixed costs could save you big time across the year.
- Having regular no-spend weeks may sound scary, but we loosened the restrictions to make it achievable.
- Bank fees can add up, especially if you live or work abroad.
The end of the year is always a good time to check in on your finances and make sure you’re on track. With inflation pushing up the cost of living and a potential recession on the horizon, reducing your monthly expenses can make a big difference to your bank balance. I generated over $6,000 worth of savings for 2023 and it only took me a couple of hours. Here’s what I did.
1. Cut subscriptions
It’s confession time: I am a sucker for subscriptions, especially the ones that offer you a certain number of weeks for free or give a discount on the first six months. The trouble is that they can really add up.
As a journalist, I do a lot of research, so I can justify some of that spending. But when I checked, I found I subscribe to more than 10 different news and investment sites. And that’s not all. There are also several different streaming channels I barely use, as well as a couple of what I’d label “aspirational” subscriptions for online learning.
I’ve cut all of these back to the absolute essentials and might re-subscribe to a couple as 2023 progresses. But starting with a clean slate means I can stick to the sites I use a lot and avoid the others. Plus, the process of canceling can generate big savings. Some companies offer considerable discounts in an effort to keep you as a customer — one said it would reduce the monthly fee from $40 to $10. All in all, I just spent an hour online and on the phone to save over $125 a month — over $1,500 for the year.
Your spending vice may not be subscriptions. But reviewing your spending habits could reveal other areas where you spend unnecessary amounts of money. Use a budgeting app or just sit down with your recent bank statements — it could make a big difference to your bottom line next year.
2. Planned regular no-spend weeks
I did my first no-spend week earlier this year, and saved over $200. My partner and I have decided to do our own version for the last week of every month in 2023. What does “our own version” mean? We’ll cut non-essential spending, but if there’s a birthday party or other special occasion, we will still go. You may think that’s cheating, which is understandable.
When we talked about implementing a regular no-spend week, our biggest obstacle was not socializing. We realized we wouldn’t stick to a strict monthly no-spend week if it involved letting down friends or missing important social engagements. Better to engineer an exception that makes it achievable than not do it at all. Total savings next year? I’m putting it at a conservative $150 a month, for $1,800 across the year.
3. Changed my banking habits
I live abroad, which often complicates my banking situation. For example, I can’t qualify for many of the top credit cards a U.S. resident might be eligible for. If I’m not careful, I pay high international fees for regular transactions. For example, this year my bank changed its policies and I no longer get free foreign transactions (I now pay over 2% to use my card). I also pay 5% to receive certain client payments.
All of this means that I could save at least $250 a month by cleaning up my banking habits. I’ve built enough credit history to apply for a rewards credit card in Colombia, where I live. I’m switching to a checking account that’s geared toward people who live abroad. And I’ve found ways to reduce the charges on money I receive. All in all, that’s a whopping $3,000 in extra savings.
If you don’t live or work internationally, rejiggering your banking habits might generate more modest savings. But even reducing your costs by $20 or $30 a month can add up. Look at what you’re paying in bank fees and see whether you could save money by switching checking accounts. Or perhaps you could get higher returns with a different savings account. A little investigation might uncover a credit card that better fits your habits. Or maybe you’ll realize you’re paying a credit card annual fee that is no longer really justifiable. Every little bit counts as we all grapple with rampant inflation.
4. Automated my investments
I’ve always hesitated to set up an automatic transfer to my brokerage account because I’m a freelancer and am never totally sure what my income will be. However, it is one of the best ways to build wealth and, all being well, I want to invest more next year.
I’ve set myself some investment goals that are hopefully realistic, based on my current earnings. Setting up automatic payments means I…