This is the second episode of a 2-part series about how to save money by spending less. In Part 1 you learned 4 tips that I use to cut spending, save time, and purchase better quality items every day.
Now we’ll discuss 4 more strategies, so you keep more of your money and take advantage of valuable rewards.
Tips to Spend Less and Save More Money
Getting the best value for what you buy is always important. Additionally, how you buy something also plays a huge role in the net price you pay.
Here are the remaining 4 tips in this series for smart ways to spend less and save more:
Savings Tip #5: Leverage Your Brand Loyalty
Brands are in a fierce competition to win your business. Companies are increasingly using loyalty programs to acquire and retain customers, boost spending, and encourage additional purchases.
Here are 3 main types of loyalty programs brands may offer:
- Cash back or rebate programs – These pay you based on total purchases made during a set period of time. For instance, outdoor retailer REI has a membership program that gives you 10% cash back on annual purchases for a one-time fee of $20. Plus, you also receive other special deals like discounts on merchandise, travel, and skills classes.
- Discount programs – These give you an immediate benefit when you check out, such as a lower price or free shipping. For instance, the Amazon Prime program gives you free 2-day shipping (with no minimum order), free movie and TV show streaming, and more, for $99 per year. If you’re a regular Amazon customer, you’ll come out ahead with this offer.
- Rewards programs – These allow you to accrue points, which can be redeemed for free or discounted goods and services. For example, coffee lovers can use the Starbucks reward program to earn “stars” for certain actions, like paying with a registered card, mobile app, or by entering promo codes from Starbucks products in the grocery store. Starbuck’s stars can be redeemed for drinks, food, and more.
Other well-known reward programs include:
- Best Buy’s Reward Zone
- Neiman Marcus’ InCircle
- Sephora’s Beauty Insider
- Nordstrom’s Fashion Rewards
- Macy’s Star Reward
- Home Depot’s Pro Rewards
- Gilt Insider
If you like a brand, be sure to enroll in its reward program and see how it works. If the program comes with a fee, consider how long it would take to break even. If you could recoup the program fee in less than 6 months, it’s definitely worth the cost.
Savings Tip #6: Use Credit Cards Strategically
In addition to leveraging loyalty programs to spend less and save more, many brands offer their own credit cards for additional savings.
For instance, the REI program I previously mentioned includes an REI Visa card exclusively for members, with no annual fee. It gives you 5% back at REI and 1% back everywhere else, added to your annual member cash back refund.
If you shop the GAP family of stores—including GAP, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Athleta, and Piperlime—they offer a Visa Card with terrific benefits and no annual fee. You receive a $10 reward for every $200 spent, exclusive discounts, free online shipping, free alterations at Banana Republic, and rewards for purchases you make everywhere else.
If you love to travel there are many credit cards—such as Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Capital One® VentureOne® Card—that charge no foreign transaction fees and give terrific rewards to redeem for airline tickets and hotel stays.
And if you want pure cash back that is not associated with a particular brand or rotating reward categories, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is one of my favorites. You get 3% cash back at supermarkets, 2% at gas stations and department stores, and 1% everywhere else with no annual fee.
For even higher cash back rates you can upgrade to the Blue Cash Preferred® Card for a $75 annual fee. With either American Express card, what’s really nice is that your reward dollars can be redeemed for a variety of merchandise or travel tickets—but also as a credit on your statement, which simply reduces the amount you owe.
Savings Tip #7: Spend Rewards Points
Many of us have accumulated rewards, points, and miles that we’ve never used. They can’t help you spend less if you don’t use them or let them expire. Spend half an hour to figure out the best way to take advantage of the brand and credit card rewards you already have.
Maybe you can use rewards to buy merchandise or gift cards, book a vacation, or convert them into cash. Remember that using rewards for goods like electronics or handbags means you’re paying full price. In many cases, you could get a much better deal using the strategies that I gave you in Part 1 of this series.
Redeeming rewards for gift cards can be a great option to give as gifts or to spend on brands and restaurants you like. But don’t get gift cards if you won’t use them or would buy something that you really don’t need.
In many cases, using rewards for travel can give you the most value. However, I’d take a bad or low-value reward over no reward any day! So don’t forget to spend your rewards.
Savings Tip #8: Use Online Bill Pay
A final tip to spend less and save more is to use online bill pay. It’s a free service that most banks and credit unions offer as a feature of online banking. You can send an electronic payment or paper check to any company or person in the U.S. at no charge.
Paying bills online means you eliminate the need to buy checks, stamps, and envelopes to send money by snail mail. Additionally, you can schedule payments ahead of time, so you never miss a bill due date or get stuck having to pay late fees.