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How I saved extra $6,000+ last year!

Since I relocated to US and got married, I’m more focused on controlling my expenses and saving money, so I’m sharing with you some hacks I do (with numbers) to save more money everyday:

The idea is to replace services you are getting consistently by doing it on your own, for example: -Ladies, bear with me here but you will get the idea :)- I noticed that I’m going to the barber every month to get my hair cut and buying beard razors to shave constantly, so, I replaced this with buying:

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As for groceries (and all other things), I compared between Costco prices and other supermarkets, the savings are always consistent, 50% lower prices in Costco for a $120 annual subscription with up to 4% cashback.
I advise to go to Costco monthly instead of weekly to save time & gas. Also by visiting monthly, you are decreasing the exposure to shopping which tends to lower your purchases.
Shopping from Costco saved me around $3,500+ last year.

For credit cards benefits, I’m a fan of cashback, it’s straight forward & flexible. I compared between all credit cards that got my attention as below:

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Green cells indicate the best in category. The “Special” column is the cashback related to the credit card issuer. Discover has 5% cashback rotating on different categories every 3 months, so the average is 1.25% per year.

In my opinion, the best 2 credit cards are “Costco Citi Bank Visa® Card” and “PayPal Cashback MasterCard®”, both covers wide selection of cashback venues that complements each other with highest gains.
Note: this generally depends on where you spend most of your money, for example: “Amazon Visa Card” might be perfect for you if you are shopping from Amazon a lot.

There are a lot of situations when you need to negotiate some prices, don’t ever accept the first quote/offer because it is usually over-priced -I learned this the hard way :(-, for example:

  • Auto Insurance: the prices are negotiable so much based on multiple factors such as: your age, your experience in driving before, the distance between your home & work (because this will be typically your everyday ride). One of my friends leveraged that he was driving for 10 years back in his home country, to get a quote that is less by $100+ per month compared to mine.
  • Apartment/home monthly rent: it is also negotiable as well, you can leverage the stability of the company you are working for -if it is-, your credit score or another offer from another place/competitor. Even if it is only $50 less per month, this is $600 per year!

In fact I learned this by accident, there are multiple types of special discounts that you can get without even an ad., announcement or anything, such as:

  • Rewards club discount: usually a free program with discounts & offers for members, with no cost from your side. It is designed to increase sales & customer retention.
  • Company discount: ask if your company is partnering to give its employees a special discounts, for example: AT&T is offering Microsoft employees 23% discount on monthly bills. This saved me around $250+ per year.
  • Defect discount: when buying an item, if you found a defect and it is acceptable to you, you can ask for a discount. It happened with me in Bed Bath & Beyond, they ‘pro-actively' offered me 10% discount because I showed them a ‘tiny’ defect in a chair coloring.
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A tiny defect in the chair coloring that is almost not noticeable, saved me extra 10% discount from Bed Bath & Beyond.
  • First-time-buyer discount
  • Email-subscriber/app-download discount
  • Many-items-purchased discount
  • Exceeded-$100/$150/$200/… discount
  • Generic discount: sometimes at cashier, if you asked for any available discounts, the person would scan a generic coupon for you and give you 5%-10% discount. Even online, for example: EA Origin customer support is always giving 10% discount if you ask for it. Simply, it is free money!

“Always make the first move.” in everything, including asking for discounts. ;)

  • Coupons: use coupons that come via mail -put them in a place close to your home door, not to forget them-. Check Groupon, Thrifter, DealCatcher before buying a non-groceries something.
  • Online discounts: most of the time, there are good discounts online more than in-stores, check Amazon, Amazon Coupons & Honey before going out there to get something.
  • Events discounts: for example: Black Friday deals are really worth waiting for, tho don’t buy on the week just-before-the-black-Friday. :(
  • Birthday discount: many stores are having birthday discount, just present your ID with your birthday on it, and get around 10% off.
  • Trial periods: consume your trial periods completely, I sometimes ask my wife to sign up for her free trial period too, so it is 2X the free duration for both of us. We did so with Hulu & HBO.

When filing your tax, you have 2 options: (1) to go with the standard deduction or (2) to itemize your deduction with receipts. More information here & there. In 2017, this saved me $1,000+ as tax return.

If you are doing something everyday -anyway-, would it be better to earn money for it? even if this money is not that much, like:

  • Amazon Associates: get up to 10% of Amazon sales if they are referred through you, which I always do with my friends and on blog posts.
  • Microsoft Rewards: get points which you can redeem for different gift cards (including Amazon) when you mainly search on Bing.
  • Google Opinion Rewards: get money to your PayPal account when you answer very short surveys (3 questions) for places you visit on your timeline, if your location history is turned on for Google.
  • Scoop: drive your neighbors who work for the same company you work for with your personal car and get paid for that.
  • AllState Drivewise®: drive safely and get cashback.
  • Starbucks Rewards: the more your drink at Starbucks, the more free drinks you earn.

You can’t improve what you can’t measure.

That’s why I’m in love with Mint. It is a personal finance app, that basically connects all your accounts and shows all your transactions in one unified place with spending graphs, budgeting & recommendations based on your financial situation.
To get full benefit, try to avoid using cash and live as a cashless person, so that all your transactions are recorded & classified digitally, which helps you accurately understand your spending behaviors.

Using Mint, it helped me understand exactly what are my fixed recurring payments per month and which areas I need to focus on controlling/saving more.

All information above is my personal opinions and should not be considered as a professional financial or tax advice. Some links in this blog are referral links.

You have reached this far 👏, so thank you very much for reading. I hope this story will help you save more money! and I’d love to read about your saving hacks as well.

Written by

Senior Research Software Engineer at Microsoft | Co-founder of Videolator, ImagineCup WW-Winner | Building great products is my true passion!

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