What’s Worth Doing To Save Money And What’s Not

There just isn’t enough time for all the tips


Someone described me recently as being in favor of saving money by cutting out indulgences like fancy coffee, and I winced: not only is that a cliche, it’s not even a true representation of my opinion. Drink your coffee! Your lattes are not reason you’re broke! Besides, we all need whatever crutches we can fashion for ourselves to hobble through our lives. The only reason I’d advise someone to cut out a small, regular indulgence is if, upon reflection, they find it’s a purchase they’re making out of habit or compulsion, not because it actually sparks joy.

I thought about this as I read through Kristin Wong’s Lifehacker list, “Money Saving Habits I Gave Up Because They Waste My Time,” because she agrees: don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s not a monthly payment to Netflix that will bankrupt you, it’s the daily Seamless habit because you keep putting off getting acquainted with your kitchen. Or, more likely, the fact that you have to put bridge-work on your credit card because you don’t have a job that offers dental insurance.

You can only control what you can control. Giving up lattes and depriving yourself in other ways can create the pleasant impression that you’re in charge of your finances; but, at a time when wages are stagnant and yet costs for every big-ticket item keep rising, you can also drive yourself crazy trying to micromanage the relatively few things that are in your purview.

Wong rejects scouring the Internet for the best tech deals, for example, as well as coupons, both because they are annoying (“then there was the clutter. I hate clutter, and thanks to coupons, I had stacks of newspaper circulars piling up in my desk drawers”) and because they often lead you to buy things you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten (“it’s just another advertisement designed to get you to consume”). She also is over using budget apps for hotels and spending a whole vacation hunting for deals.

There are other, more effective travel tricks to employ anyway to get a real, worthwhile ROI, like traveling in a shoulder season, right before or after, instead of during, peak times.

My favorite trick to save money on travel is a single decision that saves hundreds of dollars

And, of course, buying tickets for the right days of the week and far enough — but not too far — in advance.

You Can Save on Airfare (If You Know the Tricks)

For domestic travel, buy your ticket three months before your departure date; for trans-Atlantic travel, buy five months beforehand. Any further in advance has no benefit, according to Mr. Seaney, because airlines have not yet included cheap seats as part of their inventory. But be sure to buy 30 days before departure because prices increase substantially thereafter.

Somehow, three months from now is THANKSGIVING. Oh man. Buy your tickets today!! Assuming “today” is Tuesday at 3:00 PM. You’re welcome.

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