Real-World Money Hacks

The American Psychological Association found in a "Stress in America" survey that ​72 percent​ of those they questioned had suffered stress over their finances in the last month. That almost makes it sound like it's unavoidable, but you can take some of the pressure off with a few relatively easy hacks.

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1. Schedule No-Spend Days

The equation is pretty simple: The more you spend on unnecessary incidentals, the less money you'll have for your must-pay bills. Consider scheduling a day each week when spending money on anything other than must-pay bills is forbidden. Cook dinner at home – no eating out or ordering in. Watch a movie that you don't have to pay extra to stream. Play computer or old-fashioned board games.

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2. Use a Cash Envelope

Look at your budget to determine how much you can reasonably spend on your daily, out-of-pocket expenses. You might realize that the number is significantly less than what you ​do​ spend. Put that amount of cash in an old-fashioned paper envelope. Pluck from that envelope when you stop for a latte on your way to work, or whenever you would normally swipe your debit or credit card for extras.

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That's it. It's that easy – except you can't let yourself resort to your debit card if the envelope goes empty before the week is done.

Consider also:How to Use Quicken to Follow Dave Ramsey's Envelope System

3. Build an Emergency Fund

Experts recommend that you have anywhere from three to six months of living expenses stashed away in savings in case of emergency. This means a real emergency like losing your job or having to replace your water heater, not running out of fun money before the month is over.

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Three to six months is a lot of money, so you might want to start with a dollar amount that won't make it feel like an overwhelming challenge. Even $500 or $1,000 is a start. Dedicate a savings account to your target amount, and set up the account so that you can't easily transfer money out of there to your checking account on a whim.

Consider also:How to Quickly Build Your Emergency Fund

4. 24-Hour Rule

None of this is to say that you can't ever spend money on fun things, but make it a rule to wait a period of time before making any unnecessary purchases. Never buy on whim. Those boots might be to die for, but don't let yourself purchase them until 24 hours have passed. You might realize in that time that maybe, just maybe, you can live without them after all.

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This is especially a good rule of thumb with big-ticket purchases like a new television.

5. Reduce Your Must-Pay Expenses

Some of your monthly bills might seem carved in stone, but you may be able to reduce some of them to take the monthly bill-paying pressure off your shoulders. Take a hard look at expenses such as your phone plan or cable package. Do you ​really​ need all those bells and whistles? Do you use them?

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As for utilities, remember grandma's lectures about turning the lights off when you leave a room. Use a fan instead of the air conditioner on days that aren't brutally hot, and open the windows on cooler nights. Use your blinds and curtains to block incoming, baking sunlight. Reduce the temperature on your water heater a wee bit, and consider washing your clothes in cold water. They'll still get clean.

Consider also:Saving on Electricity When You're Home All Day

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6.Tackle Your Grocery Bill

You're already giving up take-out pizza on your no-spending day, but consider additionally limiting yourself to just one easy night without cooking every week or two. Take-out food costs can really add up when you're having the grub delivered and tipping the driver.

Now plan what you're going to cook during the rest of the week. Take a list when you go shopping, and stick to it. Don't give in to impulse buys because something's on sale and looks tasty. And again, listen to grandma. Clipping those coupons can save you ​$10 or more​ a week, and store brands are almost always just as good as their pricier counterparts.

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