5 Unconventional Ways to Squeeze Extra Cash Out of Your Budget


Looking for moneyWhen traditional financial advice doesn't fit your situation, it's time to get creative. In the case of finding ways to save money, ignoring the conventional wisdom and writing your own rules can lead to dramatic results.

Here are five savings strategies that may at first seem counterintuitive, until you start adding up all the dollars you're no longer spending.

1. Rent, don't buy

AOL co-founder Steve Case recently spoke on The Colbert Report about the shift from owning to sharing. It's a shift I've seen firsthand, living near popular Zipcar (ZIP) locations and bicycle-sharing stations. In this economy, it just makes sense to switch to a pay-per-use model on items you don't use frequently.

For 2011 (the latest figures available), AAA estimated that the average cost of car ownership is $9,000 a year, assuming you drive 15,000 miles each year. Since my weekly trips to the market don't even come close to that, the $7.75 an hour car rental from Zipcar -- which includes the car, gas, insurance, and 180 free miles -- is a much better deal. (Note: Rates vary by location. Zipcar requires a nominal application fee.)

The renting math doesn't just apply to automobiles, either. During the past few years, a new term has made its way into our collective vocabulary: mortgage prisoner. Studies have shown that, all things considered, you'll save approximately $1,700 per year if you buy rather than rent, provided you stay in your home for six years or more.

But if you're someone who's ever been trapped in a mortgage or a long commute, or couldn't take a job in another state because you couldn't sell your house, you know that $1,700 in per-year savings doesn't always materialize. Sure, it's a little harder to make a place feel like a home when you don't own it, but renting also makes it easier to pack up and leave should a better opportunity come along.

2. Turn off automatic bill pay

Sound counterintuitive? Automatic banking is great for paying regular, necessary expenses like a mortgage or rent, and is unbeatable for socking away savings. But the process of automation makes it too easy to forget about what you're buying.

Some bills you need to see to feel. It's that tangible act of getting a bill and taking the time to pay it that makes the spending register as "real." Also, automatic renewals can hurt you when it comes to professional memberships you're not using, overages on your cell phone, or an automatic top-off on your Starbucks card.

3. Unsubscribe, unlike, un-friend and un-follow

Customers spent nearly $25 billion shopping online this past holiday season. If you were one of clicking masses, you're probably getting frequent emails with unbeatable deals delivered weekly, if not daily, to your inbox, Facebook wall, or Twitter feed. If you're a member of a daily discount coupon delivery service, the temptation can be overwhelming. Who doesn't want a discount wine tasting or a balloon ride?

While those services can be great for saving on things you use (like a haircut or groceries), they can also be a gateway to spending too much money on unnecessary items. In fact, 58% of Internet users surveyed said they have made a purchase as a direct result of a marketing email, and 8% as a result of social media.

Curb the urge to cave in to shopping temptation. Turn off notifications from these and all emails that tempt you to spend money. Stop following retailers on your social networks. Opt out of anything that is selling you something. Not only will it help clean out your inbox, it will help keep you from cleaning out your wallet.

4. Declare a weekly "Shopping Day"

If you're prone to spend money in fits and spurts throughout the week, are an impulsive shopper or tend to be disorganized about your spending, pick a single day during the week to do your shopping.

Your shopping day can be devoted to gifts, household items, or whatever might be on your must-purchase list. Create a running list, or, if online shopping is your preferred mode of purchase, bookmark things you want to buy. Then, once a week, check back in and buy everything that you still need/want at once. (Although you'll probably find that after retracing your shopping footprints, you no longer need or want many of those "must have" items on your original list.) It's easy to spend a few dollars here and there, but seeing it all at one time will put things in perspective and help curb the impulsive shopping habit.

5. Lastly, put down your smartphone

Studies have shown that people spend 30% more when shopping on a mobile device than when shopping on a regular computer. Delete any store or shopping apps on your phone.

Motley Fool contributor Molly McCluskey does not own shares of the companies mentioned. Follow her on Twitter @mollyemccluskey. The Motley Fool owns shares of Zipcar. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Zipcar.

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yes yes! Get rid of your smart phone!!! I mean I went as far as switching to a prepaid phone. YIKES! That sounds scary ( and it was at first when I didnt know anything) but it has been the fastest out of pocket way to save money. And I am talking like sixty dollars a month. After my boyfriend who had a tracfone finally convinced me to get one I must say I don't think I will ever go back to a contract phone. For example I have a great Samsung T245G phone with all the basics like bluetooth, webaccess, messaging pictures all that jazzz.. got a value plan with 200 minutes with texting and all thatamazing stuff for 29.99 A MONTH! and thats it. no hidden fees nothing. i have to suggest that.

April 24 2012 at 8:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

why all the mystery ? you work,you get paid,YOU PAY YOUR BILLS and don't ;live beyond your means.
are people this stupid and undisciplined ?

January 25 2012 at 11:28 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Yes I retirejust to stop pying fed taxes! Cash and carry baby or get lost! Got gold?

January 25 2012 at 10:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

~~~~~~~~~~~~~>SEGREGATION IN OUR NATION<~~~~~~~~~~~~

January 25 2012 at 10:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

That was about as useful as **** on a chicken.

January 25 2012 at 8:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Watch the movie "Iron Lady". Great Brittan had the same problems in the 60s that we have now. She turned things around because she was a strong leader. WE DON'T HAVE ONE.

January 24 2012 at 8:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to savemycountry911's comment

this was a set up,remains a set up and NEVER FORGET what FHA/HUD did and all the diM LIARS stating for posterity that fanny and freddy are just fine the same as their practice of forcing the banks to give loans to anyone with a pulse.........AND THE SAME DAMN ADS are still up and running---no social security number required etc. fanny and freddy STILL DEMANDING MORE BILLIONS on and on.

January 25 2012 at 11:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Setanta's comment

no loans or driving licenses or health care for any illegal immigrants that *broke* into america,enact our american Arizona law in *all* 50 states n abolish this muslim clowns unconstitutional welfare *hell* care. ! ! ! ! ~~~THE FREE RIDE IS OVER. ! !

January 25 2012 at 11:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

Both have their advantages. Granted, having some equity would be nice, but a mortgage can also be a real problem...look at the home values dropping in FL...over 40% of mortgages are 'under water', where the current value of the home is LESS than the mortgage.

Some people don't want the hassle of a house...I can afford a home, but right now I don't want to deal with the yard, snow, repairs, etc. If the fridge breaks, I just call and they fix it, no charge to me.

Just depends on what you need, want and can afford!

January 24 2012 at 7:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

this muslim clown is now subpoena to go to court in georiga n if he dont show up ,he will be locked up ..cant wait. ! ! !

January 24 2012 at 2:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to n1yearocrapleft's comment

The Republican nutbags vying for his position are sooooo much better. Um...yeah.

January 24 2012 at 4:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to gdwtchg's comment

Republicans are nutbags? If that's the case then you must be a Republican dear.

January 24 2012 at 6:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

the only job that this muslim clown was ever good at was his last job on the back of a garbage truck yellin...."MON"~"BACK"

January 24 2012 at 7:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Goody. What did he do?

January 24 2012 at 8:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

america is still waiting for this muslim clown to either step down or his impeachment trial to start cause america is closed n will stay close untill this muslin clown is removed from our white house in handcuffs. ! ! the whole country is closing down one store at a time across america. !

January 24 2012 at 1:39 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to n1yearocrapleft's comment

Pleas dear, tell me you are not registered to vote... one more ignorant voter we don't need

January 24 2012 at 10:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to quartrhoss's comment

the only ignoramuses are hiding in our white house,the muslim clown n his fat american hatin wife partying n eating our food while all americans are sleeping under bridges. ! !

January 25 2012 at 9:56 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

"During the past few years, a new term has made its way into our collective vocabulary: mortgage prisoner. Studies have shown that, all things considered, you'll save approximately $1,700 per year if you buy rather than rent, provided you stay in your home for six years or more."-----

No, that's absolute nonsense. For the amount that most people pay in rent, they could buy and actually have some equity at the end of the day. You still are better off buying now while the interest rates are at an all time low. When you pay rent, you are paying a mortgage, taxes and a profit on top of that---but the money is not going to you--it's helping your landlord.

January 24 2012 at 1:17 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to rickets99's comment

You're ignoring the maintenance cost of owning, and the fact that the majority of a mortgage is interest for the first 10 years, most of which is not made up for with the mortgage interest deduction. You have to examine every situation - in some cities (like NYC) it makes much more sense to rent. In others, like Phoenix or Las Vegas, owning is probably the better proposition at this point.


January 24 2012 at 8:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In addition, when all is said and done you have your place, unlike renting where you pay forever. Our place is paid off, worth more than we paid for it and I am please to only have to fork out tax money each year

January 24 2012 at 10:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply