Personal Finance 

Your Take: Your Cleverest Money Hacks

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Throughout the years, I’ve seen some clever “money hacks” as a result of just keeping myself aware of the latest trends and tricks in personal finance. I’ve also had the great pleasure of reading all of your comments through the years and I know you guys are a very clever bunch, so I was curious what money hacks you use to get a little extra. You don’t have to be the inventor of the hack or anything like that, but we would love it if you could share it with the rest of us!

I’ll go first. My favorite money hack has to be buying coins from the US mint. I haven’t actually done this but I think this has to be one of the best money hacks out there. You can use this to get some easy cash back, to break through cash back tiers, or to just help the Mint popularize these $1 coins.

Here are a few more:

So what’s your cleverest or favorite money hack?

{ 65 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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65 Responses to “Your Take: Your Cleverest Money Hacks”

  1. saladdin says:

    I thought I was a little clever when I figured out moving all of my “Long Wait” dvd’s to the top of my netflix que caused them to kick out “free” dvd’s (you know, the ones with the little + in front of them). I was paying for 2x at a time but was receiving 3 and sometimes 4.

    It worked pretty good for about 6 months but has slowed down. Maybe they caught on.


  2. Jeff says:

    Although not a money hack by definition, I use a hack for drinking pop and it’s saves me $787 a year. Instead of drinking the 20oz bottles and paying for the bottle. I buy 2 liters that are on sale for $0.89. I haven’t changed my drinking habit just replaced the container size and BAM $787 saved.

    • echidnina says:

      Most definitely. A lot of what you’re paying for with the bottle is the on-the-go convenience – or the impulse buy, if you end up buying it at a pop machine.

      I love Italian sodas, and I’ve started buying bottles of flavored syrup and soda water – totals up to less than $1 for a 2-liter and $5 for a bottle of syrup that will last me a long time. And I just shake my head and laugh at the schmucks who pay upwards of $3 for a soda at a cafe.

  3. cubiclegeoff says:

    Depending on your credit card rewards, I try and do this. Basically I use one rewards program to buy a gift certificate at (I may use chase and then you get 1% on Chase Freedom and an additional 3% through their online rewards shopping system). I then use the gift certificate through another program, I usually use AAdvantage Eshopping since I like to get miles and purchase whatever I was planning through that program. So I then get the miles for the purchase as well.

  4. RJ Weiss says:

    A couple of things that come to mind are:

    1. Drinking and bringing water wherever I go
    2. Only insure something that will cause hardship if it was lost
    3. Only going to the store once a week

    • jsbrendog says:

      water thing definitely. the 20 bucks i spent on the klean kanteen was the best 20 dollars i ever spent. I recommend them to anyone. No more bottled water and I always have some with me

      • Soccer9040 says:

        I only drink water when I am out also. It says a TON of money. A decent place will charge atleast $2 bucks for a Coke. That can easily add 5 or 6 bucks to your meal.

  5. Misty says:

    This isn’t really a ‘money hack’ but it saves me money. I love iced tea, I can drink a gallon a day when it’s hot out. I buy the lipton cold brew brand, which is suppose to make 2 liters ber bag I think. Instead of using cold water though, I use hot tap water (as hot as it’ll get from the faucet). This gets me one gallon of nice strong iced tea, I just have to wait a bit for it to cool down.

  6. ziglet19 says:

    I always pick up whatever Rite Aid has for free through their single-check rebate program. A lot of the stuff, I use, and what I don’t, I donate to the Salvation Army. Their rebate program is easy to do, you can submit everything online, and you get a check mailed once a month. I haven’t “paid” for toothpaste or shampoo in quite a while, since they frequently have them free after rebate. Combine the rebate with coupons, and sometimes you make a buck or two off it (they rebate the full amount of the product, not the amount you paid after coupon).

    • qixx says:

      I’m a big supporter of the items at Walgreens (or CSV) free after their Rapid Rewards. Same as the Single Check Rebate just more immediate results. Plenty of sites do weekly $5 challenges for the Rapid Rewards deals.

  7. My best money hack was buying a new GM mid-sized car for $10,000 in 2003.

    To accomplish this, I had the an old GM card (5% on certain purchases gas, grocery, etc). So we discovered that whenever we went to Walmart to buy anything, we were credited with the sale on the GM Card! So we became Walmart buyers during this time frame. We also registered the card with UPromise, so our son got a cut of that money too when we bought certain things with it. And after we bought the car, upromise had a program where then deposited $150 in his college upromise account if a GM car was bought.

    It was like the perfect mix of financial transactions…

  8. Tyler Tervooren says:

    I’ve done the US Mint Deal. Wheeled $15,000 into the bank on a hand truck. Got a few funny looks and objections from the branch manager, but they took them and sent me on my way.

    That netted about $200/hour for the effort. However, as soon as I got home, the manager called me and said they had a new corporate policy and that I could only deposit $2,000 a day. I haven’t done it again since.

    I don’t know if it’s considered a hack, but I basically have my entire financial life automated (well, had, I’m currently unemployed). All I do is log into Mint 1-2 times a month to make sure money is still getting directed where it’s supposed to and there’s no unusual transactions.

    • Jim says:

      $15,000!?!? Wow, amazing haha

      • BrianC says:

        I’ve also ordered coins from the Mint–though in much smaller quantities! It’s been useful for reaching a cash-back tier on my AmEx, and likewise to help me trade-in my Citi TYP for giftcards sooner than I otherwise would.

        • thomas says:

          i’d be afraid of getting mugged or rejected by the bank. It would make for a funny youtube video – Man with $40k in coins makes deposit.

      • Soccer9040 says:

        I did this for awhile just to check it out and it does work, but I felt bad doing it. (Fed spending money to mail me money) I also couldn’t put up with the line of questioning I got every time I went to the bank. I was only taking a thousand or so, but they always asked.

  9. Chris says:

    I successfully turned $200 into $750 of college tuition using referals and new account bonuses for 529 plans.

    • Chris says:

      I would have not been able to pay for school this semester, so the hack was a God send.

    • Katie says:

      Can you post more information about how you did this? Thanks 🙂

      • Soccer9040 says:

        A bunch of people talked about this in the ING referral post. College Advantage referrals need to be something that we can bid on here. Its much more lucrative then the ING referrals.

      • Chris says:

        They had a program where you earned referral $ for each account that you opened as well as matching the funding contrabution. Open multiple accounts for family members, earn referals, earn the match.

  10. jsbrendog says:

    i rarely use cash, but when I do, I never use change. I always break bills even if I have a pocket full of change. Then it goes right into the empty growler of dark forest saranac on my dresser. I have rolled out many rolls of coins from that thing every couple months. it feels like I spent the whole $20 but probably only spent 15-17 of it and put at least $3 of change in that jar every week or so

    • echidnina says:

      Nice. Do you have a bank that does free coin counting?

    • ziglet19 says:

      My husband got me doing this a couple of years ago, and it’s great. A few times a year I roll the coins and take to the bank. We usually either use it to boost our savings a bit or use for it for spending money on an upcoming vacation. It’s a great way to “find” some spending money – we usually end up with about $200 when our piggy bank is almost full.

      • Chris says:

        You can go to a coinstar machine and have it counted and converted for free if you have it converted into a gift certificate.

  11. daenyll says:

    I do my best to pre plan shopping trips and only go once a month with a list, thus I avoid temptation, reduce gas and time usage, and generally can pick a time when the store isn’t very crowded. saves me money and frustration.

  12. billsnider says:

    I alternate my deductions each year.

    In year 1, I defer my Dec 31 real estate taxes to Jan 1 (they are due 1/10), I date my December mortgage payment 1/1,my monthly health insurance, medical bils, charitable donations and so forth to the next year. I then take the standard deduction.

    In year #2, I pull in my year #3 deductions by paying January #3 year costs in December #2 year. this way i get a higher deduction.

    I then do this alternating years.

    It is all perfectly legal. You and the IRS operates on a cash flow basis.

    hope this helps.

    Bill Snider

    • Cheap Bastard says:

      Unless your income is also uneven, this works against you. Ideally, you want to be in the same tax bracket every year to pay the least overall tax. If some years are in a high bracket because you didn’t deduct much, and other years are in low brackets where you deducted a lot, you’re really getting burned in the low-deduction years (more so than what you benefit in the low-bracket years).

      • billsnider says:

        Not true.

        Most people have steady or slightly increasing incomes. Exceptions are people who are in sales, on commissions, etc.

        With this techniques you try to double up deductions in one year and get an extra deduction by taking the standard deduction the next.

        Do the math. It works.

  13. SaveEveryWay says:

    Last year I read that some economists from Dartmouth and Harvard worked on a study to help people save. They found people saved up to 16% more when they received daily text message reminders!

    The only problem was that this service was not available in the U.S. so I started one. Turns out that creating the messages have probably helped me save even more than if I was just receiving them!

    • echidnina says:

      What do the texts say? Just something simple like “don’t spend too much money”??

      • SaveEveryWay says:

        Sometimes they are that simple.

        Sometimes they are tips on how to save. – “Don’t buy extended warranties. They cost 10% – 30% of product price. If 10-30% of the products are failing, buy another brand!”

        Sometimes they are inspirational quotes. – “Put not your trust in money , but put your money in trust. – Oliver Wendell Homes, Sr.”

        Sometimes they are just reminders – “If you want wealth, you must think of saving as well as of earning.”

        We are also looking for more, feel free to twitter @saveeveryway. If it is less than 140 characters we will give you credit for the suggestions or provide a tinyurl to your site.

  14. Joe says:

    I bought a neat head shaver,no more haircuts, do it myself, saved $300 last year.
    I recycle all our cans and bottles, pick up cans along the street during my daily walk, saved $500 last year.
    I clip coupons, saved $600 last year.

    • echidnina says:

      I think your comment shows a really good way to motivate yourself to be frugal – calculate the money you save! When it adds up to hundreds of dollars per year, you get to think about what better ways you can be using that money.

  15. Tim says:

    open your junk mail. chances are you can get about 5 or so marketers who send a clean crisp $1 bill in the mail. I just got one this week.

  16. Cheap Bastard says:

    Is buying coins a means to get a free cash advance?

    Normally credit card networks are keen to call a cash advance a cash advance. Suppose you make a store purchase on a credit card and ask for cash back. You might expect the whole amount to charge as a PoS transaction, but what really happens (i’ve heard) is the cash back amount is treated as a separate cash advance – which comes with all the fees of a cash advance.

    If buying coins is a PoS transaction, you could make the buy using a credit card that has a 0% interest promo; then collect interest on the coins for the period of the promo.

    Or consider this a way to bankroll gambling or street drugs using a credit card, w/out paying a cash advance fee 🙂

  17. Ken says:

    I pack my lunch almost every day. I drink water whenever we eat out. I am currently on a ‘no spend weekend’…an idea I got from another blogger…so far, so ends at 8am Monday.

  18. Shirley says:

    I buy groceries ahead in larger quantities when they are on sale and then repackage them into one-time-usuable portions and freeze them.

    This may seem like a small amount saved but also saves when unexpected guests/family arrive and dinner can be cooked quickly rather than a restaurant meal… thaw/cook using microwave or pressure cooker. Toward this end, I also crumble-cook large packages of ground beef and freeze in one pound packages.

    • Shirley says:

      Canned and packaged good too. I’ve been told that my pantry looks like a bomb shelter supply, but no one comes to my house and goes away hungry. 🙂

  19. fruitbats says:

    It’s always great when you hear about a great hack. I heard about the buying US Mint coins hack last year and I thought it was funny and creative, and I did very strongly considered trying it. Unfortunately, I think I may have caught wind of it a little too late. I saw a news article on the web about the hack being exposed, and the article said that they’re taking steps to block any rewards on credit card transactions.

    Sorry to be the bearer of sad news, but I thought I should share the information. I went back to look for the same article and I found that the Los Angeles Times had a version of it. It’s dated December 11, 2009, and the title of the article is: U.S. Mint blocks frequent fliers’ scheme to collect easy miles. A quick search should call it up. I would have simply put a link to it, but I didn’t know if that’s proper posting etiquette.

      • Jim says:

        Interesting that they’d reclassify it as a cash advance, if the Mint does that then no one will buy them.

        • Cheap Bastard says:

          It should have been a cash advance all along. I would call it an error on the part of the bank.

          • NateUVM says:

            Well, isn’t it how the Mint was marking the transaction? For everything else you get from them, you’re either paying well above face value for(collectors coins, etc..) or you’re paying for shipping/handling. So, as a customer of the Mint, for the most part, you’re not really buying currency, but a retail product. The relationships that the Mint has set up with the banks are based on that assumption.

            The Mint was trying to promote private purchase of these $1 coins, so they’re not going to proactively try to get those transactions labelled as a cash advance. They also assumed people wouldn’t abuse the process, or just didn’t realize there was the possibility.

            The banks aren’t to blame here. It was a loophole that the Mint created. Incredible Bank had a similar thing going where you could open one of thier 2.02% checking accounts with a credit card and have it billed only as a purchase transaction. It was right there in thier FAQ. That loophole has since closed, too.

        • Soccer9040 says:

          If that is true then yea, no one is ever going to shop at the mint’s website.

  20. otipoby says:

    OK, so this is a tiny money hack. 2 yrs ago, I switched from cartridge razor shaving (think Mach3) to classic double edge razor shaving (think what your grandfather used). Also, I use a brush and soap or cream. The blades cost $0.30 a piece vs the cartridge razor blades that cost about $3.00 a piece. I get a much better shave, it’s better for the environment, and I save a little money.
    The only downsides are it takes a little longer to shave every day (but you will enjoy it sooo much more) and you have to resist the urge to start another hobby and blow your savings on more soaps and creams.

  21. Scott says:

    Our newest money-saving electronic gizmo is the Magnavox H2160MW9 we bought refurbished from JR for $160. It’s a DVR that lets us record OTA (free) channels through our tv antenna. It also has a DVD burner so you can dub (dump) your shows to DVD if the 160 GB hard drive starts to fill up. It’s only a single tuner so you can’t watch one channel and record another at the same time and you don’t get a TV guide (just record based on times) but other than that, the thing does everything we want and then some.

    We only watch the major networks usually so we dropped cable a couple years ago since we don’t need the content but we (my wife especially) missed the recording capability. Now we’re all set and still saving money vs paying the silly cable company.

    • ziglet19 says:

      We also dumped cable about a year and a half ago, and don’t miss it much at all. I still get to see almost all of my favorite shows on ABC and NBC, and if I miss episides, I watch them on the internet. The only thing I really miss is having a DVR. I do waste a lot less time sitting in front of the TV watching nothing though.

      • Soccer9040 says:

        I think a killer product would be something that helps me figure out the cheapest way to watch any given show. I want to cancel my cable, but I just havnt found a good 2nd solution yet. I know there are solutions out there, but they dont include all shows, then you have to have another solution for some shows then it just gets complicated.

  22. Lulu says:

    One of my hacks goes along with budgeting. When I get a raise I increase my budget by less than the amount of the raise. If I stick to my budget then I will spend less than I make every month.

    I am a teacher so we only get a small annual increase…about $300 for the year (poor district) so I basically ignored the ‘raise’ and continued to budget based on last year’s income.

    Then at the end of the year there was a sweet little ‘bonus’ in my ING account from all the money I did not spend.

  23. Tim says:

    Woohoo, another crisp new $1 bill in the junk mail today.

    • Chris says:

      Was it one of those marketing scams where they tell you to add your name to the list and then mail a dollar to everyone on it?

  24. BrianC says:

    I’m not sure these are “hacks,” but my biggest financial wins have come from cutting things out of my life–my car, my TV, etc. Of course, that only goes so far. Eventually earning more money is the way to go.

  25. sri says:

    never did but heard from friends and thought about it myself but did not, due to credit score implications (i guess) – rotate 0% balance transfer on a year over year basis (maybe did not cause credit score slide) with a new credit card. the credit of this can be invested and eventually be paid back before 0% goes to some crazy rate.
    i am sure this will implicate the credit score.

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