I originally published this post last October, but I decided to republish it as a little reminder to myself (and maybe others!) that sometimes, the little actions really do give great results.
There’s just one change however; this post originally had thirteen tips in it, but I no longer feel like I can recommend MyPoints. While I am happy with their service when it works, when it doesn’t they have some of the worst, rudest customer service people I have ever seen. So don’t go with them, or if you do, be aware that they might not help you if you have a problem, and you’ll lose your points while they’re being rude to boot.
I am often put off by the scope of a project.
‘That will take absolutely forever,’ I think to myself. ‘There’s no way I can finish it today, so I’ll start it tomorrow.’ I’m sure you’ve had moments where you feel the same way, everybody has. But like so many others have discovered, breaking things into five minute chunks, small manageable chunks of time, can make a once daunting task a little more approachable.
Budgeting, and having control of your finances, is the same way. I know that I often avoid thinking about money because it all seems so overwhelming. And if I don’t know how much (or how little) money is in my bank account, then it doesn’t seem too bad to swing by the nearest drive-through for dinner.
Here are thirteen ideas for things that you can do in five minutes to help you save money. Not only are these good for the budget, but doing these ‘little’ things helps you feel in, not out of, control.
1. Eat breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, blah, blah, blah. I have a hard time with this one, because I never feel hungry in the mornings, not to mention that I’m chronically pressed for time. But eating just a cereal bar or two can help me avoid those mid-morning cravings. You know the ones I’m talking about- that always seem to surface just as I’m passing the bakery. A euro a croissant really adds up over time. Now taking five minutes to eat a cereal bar doesn’t seem so bad, does it? My Daily Dollars has a tasty sounding recipe for homemade breakfast bars– I really need to try it.
2. Boil an egg
Hard-boiled eggs really are nature’s perfect portable food especially if, like me, you don’t like bananas. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner, they’re low in calories and high in protein. Babies love them if you’re looking for something quick to feed the little one, and after all, they don’t cost that much money. So do yourself a favor, and Sunday evening boil a bunch of eggs for the week. Your tummy and wallet will thank me.
3. Plan three meals
When you finish reading this post, go into the kitchen (physically or through tele-transportation) and plan three meals you can make right now with ingredients that you have on hand. Chances are you’ll be able to, unless it’s the day before your monthly grocery shop. Then write down those meals, including side dishes and post it on the fridge or in another visible location in your kitchen. Having three ‘go-to’ solutions will help you with those ‘What’s for dinner?’ blues.
4. Prep a meal
When you’re cooking a meal, why not spend five minutes prepping the next meal. After all, the pot won’t boil any faster through you watching it, so chop some veggies instead. Getting a five minute’s head start on tomorrow’s dinner will seem invaluable tomorrow.
5. Bring your own drinks
If you spend even just $.50 a day on coffee, that’s still $15 a month. I know I don’t like to talk about the ‘latte’ factor, but it does still exist. If I take five minutes to make a thermos of coffee in the morning, that saves me $180 a year. Time for me to buy a thermos I guess.
6. Join MyPoints
It only takes a second to join MyPoints and reading the emails and clicking through to get the points doesn’t take more than a few minutes a week. I’ve accumulated enough points through them to trade in for three gift card- or thirty dollars worth. I used the giftcards for my giveaway, but $30 could come in very handy during the holiday season.
7. Hang a load of laundry
As much as I detest hanging my laundry out to dry (could there be a more unpleasant chore?), I have to admit that it is a big money saver. Not only do you not have the cost of buying a dryer, you don’t have the cost of operating a dryer- savings indeed.
8. Walk up a flight of stairs
One of the best ways to save money, at least in the United States, is to stay healthy. And there’s no need to spend lots of money on doing so. Try and get as much exercise as possible in your every day life. Walk up stairs, take the first parking spot you see, especially if it’s far away, get off the bus a stop early on your way home.
9. Save your receipts
Sometimes money just seems to float out of my pocket- it’s one of the reasons that I don’t use a cash-based envelope system. If I have it, it gets spent. But if you do use a cash-based envelope system then saving your receipts tells you exactly where the cash in your wallet went… which you can use to figure out how much cash you have left to spend.
10. Check your on line bank account
I don’t do cash, but I do keep tabs on what I’m spending by using a spreadsheet budget. Every morning I connect to my online bank accounts and enter the previous day’s spending into my budget. Even if you don’t have the time to do that, a simple check on your accounts can help you keep your spending in check. Knowing how much you have (or don’t have) and the checks and bills that have recently cleared is useful.
11. Cancel an email
Over time offers and memberships can build up and flood your in box. You signed up for this membership or that club three years ago and promptly forgot about it. They didn’t forget about you- that’s the problem. While these programs might not be costing you money, unsubscribing from them will stop the marketing from trying to get you to spend money. And the fewer emails you have lauding this or that new product, the fewer the temptations for you to spend money. Plus, won’t it feel good to cut your in box traffic in half?
12. Reallocate your investment account
Bear in mind that I am not a financial professional and that I am in no way qualified to give financial advice. But, depending on your situation, you might want to spend time thinking over your investment accounts. My mother has decided to reallocate the money within in her 401k from a growth position to a cash holding. She took five minutes, signed on to her investment account’s website, and the deed was done. Her reasoning is that, although the market is likely to rebound, she is too close to retirement age to be able to recuperate the money she has lost.
13. Write a letter of praise to a company
We’re all familiar with the letter of complaint, telling a company how unhappy you are with its product. They may or may not respond. But writing a letter of praise can can be equally useful- a company is almost sure to respond, with a handful of coupons and product discounts.
What did I miss? What’s your favorite five minute way to save money?