Holiday season is right around the corner and that usually means big spending.
Keep yourself sane and on-budget with some simple tips to stretch dollars and reduce the amount of time you need to spend thinking about budgeting:
Pay bills automatically
Paying paper bills takes quite a bit of time. Instead, pay bills online automatically. All major credit cards let you pay them automatically online, as do almost all utilities.
Getting these things automated will save you time and energy. Review how much you were charged for all your bills once or twice a month in Mint, just to make sure you haven’t been overcharged.
One major holdout in letting you pay online: landlords. If you rent your home, you probably mail your check in to your landlord or hand this to them in person.
If your landlord uses an online payment service, you can automatically pay your rent every month online. If they don’t, it might be worth asking them to make the switch – it will save both of you time!
Automate your savings
Sock away money for things you want to do in the future before you spend money on bills or discretionary spending.
Set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings bank account—say 5% of your paycheck—and you might not even miss it; you will have slightly less money to spend, but you’ll adjust to the new spending habit while making progress on your saving goals.
[Read: 3 Ways to Make Living on a Budget Easier]
Another way to save faster is to put all unexpected income directly into savings.
If you receive a bonus or a cash gift, put all or most of that money towards saving for a goal, a rainy day, or a retirement account. It’s really painless and that money can add up to something worthwhile.
If you receive a Holiday bonus this year, try socking most of it away for a rainy day or an important goal.
Use cash or debit cards, not credit cards
It’s really easy to overspend if you always charge things on credit. Try taking out a set amount of cash each week for discretionary spending like eating out, shopping, and going to the movies.
When you run out of cash for the week, that’s all the spending you can do!
[Read: Knock Out Debt Using the Debt Destroyer Method]
Hate carrying cash around? Try this instead: Transfer your weekly spending budget to a bank account and then make all of your purchases on the debit card on that account.
You can set up Mint alerts for when the balance falls below a threshold to get an early warning if you are overspending, or download the free app to check your balance on-the-go.
Shop around on your cable, internet and phone bills
If you’ve been paying the same company for cable, internet, or phone service for more than 1 year, you’re likely overpaying. Search online for packages of service in your area that you like.
If you see something you would consider using, call your current service provider and ask for them to match the promotional price you could get by switching.
For further cable/internet savings, buy the router that you are renting from the company. Most cable companies charge you for each device they give you.
[Read: Big Four, Prepaid, or MVNO: Which Wireless Plan Is Right for You?]
Once you know which provider you want to use, look online for a compatible cable box.
Services often charge $5-10 per box, but just buying the whole device may only be about $50; buy the box online and save yourself the recurring monthly fee.
Cut unused expenditures
Review your monthly expenditures with a critical eye: is each service really worth what you are paying for it?
With each service you pay for each month—cable bill, music subscription service, cell phone bill, etc—make sure you are getting value out of the package you are paying for.
Cancel any services you don’t really need and see if you can downgrade others painlessly.
For example, if you have a cable package with 500 channels, see if you wouldn’t be happier with fewer channels.
[Read: How to Lower Your Cable Bill in 30 Minutes or Less]
If you pay for super-fast internet, make sure you really need it: unless you and several other people are doing a ton of streaming video or other streaming-heavy services like online games, you may be able to reduce the internet speed you pay for—saving you money—without noticing a difference in your internet performance.
If you own your own phone and still like it, consider switching to a prepaid plan where you can keep your current phone, but also not subsidize an upgrade that you don’t need right now.
You can always return to a phone plan where you will get a subsidized phone in the future.
What other tips do you have for simplifying your finances and saving? Share them below!
“5 No-Brainer Ways to Keep Your Finances Simple” was provided by SparkRent, a new product from Intuit–makers of mint.com, Quicken, and TurboTax—that lets landlords collect rent online. It’s simple, fast, and secure. Learn more at SparkRent.com.