There are hacks that save us time. Then there are hacks that save us money. Many of the hacks that save us money don’t save us any time. So when I stumble upon a hack that saves both time and money, I perk up because they are often few and far between. Here are four hacks that will save both.
1. Set Up Online Bill Pay
I love automatic online bill payment. I pay as many of my bills as possible with online bill payment because it saves me the hassle of getting an envelope, addressing it, finding a stamp and taking a trip to the mail box or post office. It may seem near trivial but how many times have you left a bill on the counter because you didn’t feel like finding a stamp? If you set up online bill pay, you remove that minor hurdle and help ensure you don’t shirk that responsibility.
The best way to set up your bill payment is to make it automatic. That can, however, be a little scary sometimes. Automatically paying your credit card bill, which can change from month to month, might draw your checking account balance below a comfortable level without your knowledge. If that fact is stopping you from setting up bill pay, then don’t make it automatic. Make it so you have to log on, enter in an amount, and then pay the bill on the due date. And, if you do auto-pay a bill, you should still monitor statements for fees or fraudulent charges.
2. Turn on Transaction Notifications
Last year I turned on transaction notifications for my credit card and my bank accounts. Anytime there was a transaction, I was sent an email. I was amazed at how quickly the systems today would process a transaction! At restaurants, I would see the email before the server returned to the table.
This has two benefits. First, you can immediately spot fraud. One of the biggest hassles of dealing with fraud is being on the phone sorting through your transactions. Stores sometimes use different names on credit card transactions, so you’re trying to remember if the amount on a transaction from last week matches something you purchased. It can be annoying but it’s necessary, since fraud is a serious matter.
Second, if you are near your balance limits, it’s good to know if unexpected but legitimate transactions post to your account. This is especially problematic for debit card users, where the card is linked to your checking account. You may have sent in a rent check last week and the landlord only deposited it today, thus drawing your account balance perilously low. If that were to post today, you would want to know about it before you pulled out your debit card!
3. Understand Your Credit Card Perks
Your credit card offers a lot of valuable perks you might not know about. Take a few minutes to understand them all and you could save yourself a lot of money.
For example, did you know that many credit cards offer an extended warranty? Let’s say you buy something with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty. Many credit cards will double that manufacturer’s warranty up to an additional year. So if it breaks in the 13th month, you can still get it repaired or replaced under warranty. The only difference is that you will go to the credit card company, not the manufacturer, for the work.
Another great perk that several credit cards offer is waiving the foreign transaction fee. When you use your credit card in a foreign country with a foreign currency, some credit card issuers will charge you a foreign transaction fee. Some credit cards will waive that fee, however. They technically will pay the fee on your behalf. You should check your credit cards’ terms to see if you have one that will charge a foreign transaction fee.
By using a no foreign transaction fee credit card, you save yourself time because you won’t need to exchange as much currency and you often get the best exchange rate possible. If you intend to travel to another country and don’t have a credit card that waives a foreign transaction fee, consider getting one. While you’re at it, try to get a good rewards credit card that’ll give you some points you could use to help defray the cost of the trip. (You can check out this ranking of some of the best travel credit cards, all of which have no foreign transaction fee.) Keep in mind that the best cards will often require a good credit score or even an excellent credit score to qualify. You can check your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see where you stand.
4. Ditch Paper Budgeting
If you’re budgeting with paper and pencil, tracking each transaction, and doing things manually — stop. There are completely free services, like Personal Capital or Mint, that will help you manage your budget without the hard work. They link up with your credit cards and bank accounts with read-only access and will give you pretty reports that explain exactly what’s going on with your finances.
If the thought of tracking your budget manually has stopped you from creating a budget in the first place, using an online tool can help get you on track. If you want to save more money, you need a budget. If you want to get a handle on your finances, you need a budget. It’d be like trying to lose weight without knowing how many calories you’re consuming or expending.
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