Three Essential Money Hacks for 2024

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to look at how you can adjust your spending habits and budget better to save money.

Against the backdrop of a red curtain, the hand of a magician pulls a dollar bill out of a top hat.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As we get into the new year, it’s an opportune time to set goals for 2024. Many of us will be looking at our finances, especially considering the inflationary challenges of the last few years, and asking ourselves, is there a better way to budget and save money? Here are some tips and tricks to take advantage of in the new year.

1. Clever savings hacks

There are free apps available, such as Rakuten or Capital One Shopping, that will pay you back for spending money on things you were already going to buy. The trick is to have their app or browser extension downloaded and check out in the right sequence to get credit with them.

For example, Rakuten may give you 2% cash back for buying pet food at your favorite pet store. You were already planning to buy it anyway, but if you do it through Rakuten, you get an easy 2% discount. The shopping apps will also frequently have coupon codes to use at checkout that may save you additional money. Given the small effort this takes, you could almost consider it free money in the right circumstances.

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Did you know there are some easy ways to significantly reduce your cellphone bill while getting the same service? Explore lower-cost carriers like Mint Mobile, UScellular or Visible, to name a few, that offer cellular voice and data through the major cell networks like Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile but without all the extra frills. There may be some differences in customer service or retail locations with these other carriers, but it may be more than worth the trade-off.

Additionally, it’s very common for cell carriers to want to sell you the latest and greatest cellphones, but do you really need one? You can frequently save a lot of money by buying last year’s model, and you may not even be giving up much in terms of new features. In recent years, hardware improvements on new cellphone models have become harder to notice. Similar to buying a car and committing to a long period of payments, reducing your cellphone spend can also reduce any additional device payments tacked on to your bill.

When thinking about bills in general, we sometimes overlook a simple idea — ask your provider for a discount. They may not always say yes, but some companies will negotiate with you. In fact, there are services out there that will offer to negotiate your bills for you. I have tried this out through a service offered through the soon-to-be-defunct Mint. The company negotiated my internet and TV bill to lower levels and kept 20% of the savings as their commission. That was a price I was happy to pay, as it was a noticeable reduction in my bill.

On a related note, some services — such as home internet — will offer you a lower price for locking in a contract or paying via direct debit. Given the pain of switching providers for some utilities, locking in a one- or two-year contract for home internet doesn’t have many downsides if you plan to stay in your home for the foreseeable future.

2. Budgeting pro tips

While there are many ways to tackle budgeting, it's essential to have a budget, as without it, it’s hard to know where you can save money or shop smarter. I normally advocate using a budgeting app and linking your bank and credit cards to track your spending automatically, because the effort required to do it manually makes it too easy to give up. Unfortunately, free options in this space are lacking, and most decent budget apps require a nominal monthly or annual cost.

If you have a lot of transactions charged to credit cards automatically, these apps will help you find line items you might overlook on a credit card statement or even have a module that reviews your subscription costs. I’m not saying you need to cancel your streaming subscriptions, but it’s entirely possible you’re still paying for some you don’t realize you have, and catching those and shutting them off will add up.

When you set specific budget goals for yourself, it will also be easier if you have the ability to open multiple savings accounts. This helps for optics when you need to see clearly how much you have earmarked toward a particular goal — like a travel fund or your next vehicle purchase. Splitting your savings from your general checking account will make you less likely to raid those funds for an impulse buy or other purposes.

3. Use your rewards wisely

Banks and credit card companies may offer some nice perks depending on how you pay. If you have good credit and don’t mind opening additional lines of credit, this will pay off over the longer term. For example, you’ll save 5% on your purchases at Target and Amazon using their credit cards. These companies will also typically run promotions where you can accrue even more rewards.

Recently, Amazon began increasing the cash back on their credit card purchases for selecting slower deliveries. Think of these as permanent shopping discounts, as long as you pay your credit card bill in full each month. Automating your finances can create a cascade of savings opportunities.

Similarly, there are websites that analyze credit card rewards and help you identify the best offers. Just because your bank offers you its credit card, it may not actually be the best. The reward rates offered by some banks are not very competitive. Some credit cards may offer 5% cash back on some purchases, while others might pay only 1% back. These differences can add up over time, especially if you put most purchases on credit. This can result in better discounts than paying cash, unless a store offers more competitive cash-only prices.

In this day and age, there are also agreements between many retailers to grab extra rewards that are often not highly publicized. Right now, you can get free Delta Air Lines miles for making purchases at Starbucks if you register with the program. Similarly, you can score Marriott Bonvoy points with your Uber rides if you enroll and utilize the right eligible ride type. Many of these perks are out there for the taking if you are on the lookout.

Keep your eyes peeled

None of these strategies will reap a huge benefit overnight, but if utilized consistently long term, you will end up with some extra savings in your pocket. If your New Year’s resolution is to be more mindful of your spending and saving, these simple steps will set you up for a year of success. You will find yourself much more in control of your finances and being more intentional about how you spend your hard-earned money.

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This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

Shane W. Cummings, CFP®, AIF®
Wealth Adviser and Director of Technology/Cybersecurity, Halbert Hargrove

Shane W. Cummings is based in Halbert Hargrove’s Denver office and holds multiple roles with Halbert Hargrove.  As Director of Technology/Cybersecurity, Shane’s overriding objective is to enable Halbert Hargrove associates to work efficiently and effectively, while safeguarding client data.  As wealth adviser, he works with clients in helping them determine goals and identify financial risks, creating an allocation strategy for their investments.