Money Hacks 2012–8 Shortcuts to Getting Richer

Want to turbocharge your change jar? In this post a few months back, guest columnist Len Penzo suggested adding dollars to the mix: “When you are out during the day, don’t spend any dollar bills you get as change. Then, after you come home and are ready to make contributions to your jar, be sure to include all of those unspent dollar bills along with your coins—and if you have no singles, then pull out a fiver and drop it in the jar.”

They’re called “hacks”: clever solutions to tricky problems. Here are some of my favorites to help you save more or spend less.

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? If not, there’s still time—after all, the year’s still “new” until you remember to stop dating things 2011.

But whether your resolution is getting in better physical shape, dropping bad habits, or improving your finances, odds are it’s about changing your behavior—no walk in the park. One thing that will help? Using simple shortcuts that remove some of the pain from the process.

In the digital age, shortcuts to solutions are often called “hacks.” Now let’s look at these money-making and saving hacks.

1. Saving More

Problem: You want and should be able to save more, but it never seems to happen.

Hack: Take your discipline (or lack thereof) completely out of the equation by automating your savings. Save before you see the money by transferring it automatically from every paycheck into savings, either regular or retirement. If your employer can’t make it happen, talk to your bank, broker, or mutual fund to schedule regular transfers to savings or investment accounts. Instead of trying to find the money every month, you set it once and watch the money pile up.

Not only is saving automatically more efficient, it’s more effective. If you take the traditional approach—waiting until you’ve paid all your bills before saving what’s left—there’s often nothing left to save. There’s a reason “pay yourself first” has been the mantra of the money-enlightened for decades: It works.

2. Paying Bills on Time

Problem: Forgetfulness leads to late bills, which leads to fees and potential damage to your credit score.

Hack: Most banks and credit unions offer automated bill payment you can set up online. Utilities and other companies offer this service too, and might waive convenience fees or offer discounts for the right to suck money directly from your account. If your monthly bills include debt payments, automatically pay more than the minimum to work off debts faster. Remember what I said in the video above: Minimum payments are for losers.

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