Too often, bills and expenses we don’t care about drag us away from the ability to spend our money on experiences and moments that allow us to feel joy and love.
We have put a lot of time into creating a life we love, and much of that has come about because of the choices we make when it comes time to spending money and earning rewards. These are usually very simple little hacks that bring back a lot of rewards and enjoyment.
We want you to travel more AND enjoy living your everyday life in the meantime. So, for the next three weeks, in partnership with American Express, we’re sharing with you an Ultimate Hacks Guide – easy ways you can save money on everyday expenses (+ those treats), as well as how you can earn extra perks to travel more and create better memories.
We’ll be sharing:
- Hacks on General Living Expenses
- Hacks for luxury living
- Travel hacks
Within these hacks, we’ll also show you clever ways the American Express Membership Rewards program can help you achieve that little bit extra through clever points’ management no matter your disposable income.
Two Foundational money hacks
1. Know your values
When you tune into your values, that is, what’s important to you and what you want to create, you’ll rarely go wrong when spending your money.
Knowing your values will reduce your expenses on things you don’t care much about, and stop you spending money on things just to impress others.
2. Change your money attitude
Love money and learn how to manage it and respect it. Remove feelings of fear, shame, and guilt around money – these will cost you a lot and will trap you into cycles of self-sabotage and unconscious (and unhealthy) spending.
Be grateful for money – no matter your position in life. It helps provide you with needs and wants to live an amazing life. There’s nothing that can help you more to save and grow money than having a good relationship with it.
Reduce your bills
You’ve heard it all before: turn off power points if not using them, turn down the lights, don’t use the clothes dryer. I was one who didn’t think any of these made a difference. But, then I got my electricity bill. I thought it was bad until I dived deeper into the analytics and saw it was good!
It said we use the same electricity as an average one-person household! People who do use the average four-person amount must despise their electricity bill.
- Dry your clothes in the sun
- Cool and warm yourself naturally (or change the temperature control, so it’s not too cold or warm
- Take off or add layers instead and make use of those UGG boots!
- Reduce your hot water showers
- Use LED lights
- Use energy efficient products
- Fall back in love with candles
- Turn off your lights
- Reduce TV and screen time
- Unplug all unused electronics or invest in a smart power strip, which senses when you’re not using your electronics and will power them down, so they’re not draining electricity
4. Water bills
- Throw your kids into the bath together, or in with you
- Own fewer clothes, so you don’t have as much to wash
- Set a timer so you don’t stay in the shower for hours
- Wash the car and lawn in the early evening hours or just wait for the rain
- Plant a native garden, so Muma Earth knows exactly how to help them grow without any help from you.
5. Tiny house living
After being a backpacker since 1997, living in small apartments, and camper trailers, I can’t say my values now align with tiny houses. I can’t even watch the House Hunters program because I can’t imagine how people willingly sign up for them!!
BUT, I’ve been tiny house living for so long because it does reduce your bills and allows you to spend money on the things you love. Live below your means. Small houses means minimal bills. Minimal bills means more money for travel.
6. Choose the right abode and location
We live in an apartment across the road from the beach. The location is premium, which means we pay more rent, but get a lot back in terms of joyful living in alignment with our values.
Not only do we have great views and can run over the road for morning sunrises and beach swims whenever we want, but we also have lots of natural light, and the cool ocean breeze means we never use the air conditioner. And we live in Queensland, so heaters are rarely required.
The location means we can walk everywhere, so we don’t need a car. We also rent fully furnished, so we saved money on buying furniture for a temporary residence, and we don’t have to pay for water bills or yard maintenance.
Our apartment block also has holiday rental apartments. We pay one of the cleaners to come in once a week to clean. She understands the layout of the apartment, is super quick and efficient and has all the cleaning gear. It costs us $30. It would take me hours to do the same and a lot more whinging. I can use that time to work and earn more money. Plus, I don’t have to buy cleaning equipment.
It is by far the best usage of my money ever. The love and gratitude I feel here is immense.
Good vibes = Good rewards.
7. Watch your phone bills
Now that we’re all so device dependent, phone and internet charges can skyrocket. Get a home broadband plan with lots of internet data. They are relatively cheap – well at least compared to what you get on your mobile.
- Connect to the home broadband via the Wi-Fi on your phone when at home. Do all your downloading, uploading and updating while connected to that Wi-Fi. You’ll use less data on your phone, which will reduce expensive phone bills.
- Use Skype or Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to make your phone calls.
- Use Onavo App on your phone. Onavo reduces the amount of data consumed. It’s a magical tool. In writing this, I’ve just realised; I did not install it with my recent new phone changeover!! No wonder my data usage has been a lot higher lately!!! That’s a $20 mistake in excess charges this month.
- Have an automatic data top up plan in place with your telecommunications company. Telstra automatically gives us 1GB of data for $10 if we hit our gig limits. Otherwise, we’d get charged expensive on the go rates for each MB extra used. We’ve suffered those high fees before through Optus.
- Find a phone plan that allows you to call your inner circle for free, and phone during the cheapest times of the day, or have an unlimited text plan and text people instead.
8. Use your credit card to pay your bills and earn reward points
You have to pay them anyway so why not use your Membership Rewards Card to pay all your bills and groceries etc. Set up a Direct Debit from your bank to pay off the balance each month. We recommend paying it off in full!
We have a Platinum Edge American Express card, which earns us:
- 3 points per $1 spent at major supermarkets in Australia
- 2 points per $1 spent at major petrol stations in Australia
- 1 point per $1 spent everywhere else
- 5 points per $1 spent on utilities, insurance (except insurances offered by American Express), telecommunications providers and government bodies in Australia
It’s the fastest way to gather points you can then use those points to live life well. We put those points towards travel.
There are other ways you can use those points, which I’ll mention below.
Do what you can to reduce your vehicle expenses. We don’t have a car, so we save money each week on fuel, car repayments, insurance and maintenance, PLUS we improve our health, which saves us money in the long run.
Walk, cycle or ride share, either with friends or on public transport whenever you can. Use frequent transport cards to reduce the cost of your tickets and don’t forget Uber is a much cheaper way to taxi around. In the US, you can even ride share via Uber now, which makes it even cheaper.
10. Monitor your spending
Evaluate your finances monthly. What are you spending money on? What are your habits? What subscriptions are no longer necessary and don’t align with your values?
Aim to make changes every month. You don’t know what changes to make unless you are aware of your action and your ‘WHY’s’ behind each action.
Paying close attention to your accounts also helps you pick up any errors. Last month I reclaimed $125 from a hotel that shouldn’t have been there, and this month $56 from another hotel charging us for mini-bar usage!! I’m not going to spend $56 on a bottle of Shiraz and not drink it!!! Mistakes happen. Keep an eye out.
You can monitor your spending for your American Express credit card via the Amex App.
11. Prevention is better than cure
- Take care of your things and help them last longer
- Own less so you pay less in maintenance and insurance
- Don’t skimp on quality
- Look after your health
- Get your car regularly serviced
- Enjoy your life – think of how much it costs you when you don’t
12. Pay on time
Set up direct debits for as many of your expenses as you don’t suffer late fees. If I pay my electricity bill on time, I get a discount of around $40.
I know sometimes you are frightened to look at those bank balances – it was my reality for many years, and I paid way too many fees as a result. Monitor your bank account so that you have enough money to cover those automatic payments.
13. Pay off your credit cards
Keep an eye on your credit cards. Use them responsibly so you can benefit from the wonderful Membership Reward Programs they offer. But don’t spend money you don’t have and on things that don’t matter.
Use points to pay off your credit card
In a pickle and can’t pay off your credit balance? We’ve all been there.
With the American Express Membership Reward Points, you can use your points to help reduce your credit balance.
14. Use points to pay your fees
With the American Express rewards program, you can use your points to pay the annual card fee.
With the Platinum Edge card, you also get a free domestic flight with Virgin each year with that annual card fee.
If you’re going to pay fees, look for something valuable in return.
15. Be careful of international expenses
We have a lot of international fees as many of our business expenses are in USD. See how you can reduce this. I recently paid 12 months upfront for a tool to save on these monthly transaction fees and currency fluctuations, and so I could receive a bonus two months free for upfront payment.
We often transfer US dollars into our PayPal account so we can use this for USD expenses. We also use Payoneer and PayPal to receive USD, if the fees work out cheaper than having it directly transferred into our Australian bank account.
16. Are you with the right bank?
I’ve switched bank accounts around to those that don’t have monthly fees. ING is a brilliant account for low fees and cash backs. Bank West has a great savings rate for kids – get them set up with an account and transfer the maximum amount each month to take advantage of the interest.
17. Refer a friend
My chiropractor offers a bonus discount if you refer a friend to his clinic. There are many local businesses and services that will offer a referral program. Only refer friends to products and services you love. Sometimes they may get a bonus from your referral.
You can refer a friend to American Express and receive Membership Reward Points for yourself and your friend! With my American Express Platinum Edge Credit Card, I get 10,000 Membership Rewards Points when my friend is approved, and they’d get 15,000 Membership Rewards Points when they are approved and spend $550 in the first two months of Card Membership.
18. Shop in bulk
I’m a mad fan of Costco. I can get a kilo of organic raw cacao for $16. 125g of raw cacao in Woolworths costs me $9.99 Thanks to Costco and bulk buying, I’ve been able to transform my pantry to mostly organic and very healthy.
Costco has an annual membership fee, but you’ll more than make that back in your first shop.
If one of your favourite grocery items is on sale at the supermarket, buy several of them. I wait until coconut water, and coconut milk is on special, and then I buy enough to last me until the next special.
19. Meal plan and use a grocery list
A grocery list directly cuts down on impulse buys. You know what you need, so your eyes aren’t wandering down the aisles to find unnecessary things.
Meal planning forces you to consider what you already have and how to use those ingredients. It also allows you to reduce your ingredients so that what you buy can be used in different recipes. I’ll share more about that below.
Many people like using coupons. I don’t unless they come to me effortlessly. I find the time spent sorting through the coupons isn’t worth the savings. It may be different for you, depending on your situation.
Consider shopping for your groceries online. You can check your cupboards to see what you have. You can peruse the specials, and they save your favourite items so you can easily add them and grab them when they are on special. I shop online when my cupboard is empty, so I can buy a lot and save money on delivery costs.
20. Buy the brand names
Brand names are cheaper and most of the time just as good. The Costco brand, Kirkland is the one home brand I’ll always buy as the quality is outstanding.
21. Shop local
You’ll never get as good quality from local produce as you will everywhere else. I buy salmon fillets from Burleigh Farmer’s Markets that are cheaper, fresher and more delicious than the supermarket.
Organic produce is usually cheaper in the markets than in the supermarkets. The quality means they usually last longer as well – so less wastage. I don’t know how many pieces of fruit I throw out from the supermarket because they’re never ripe!!
American Express rewards customers who shop locally with their annual Shop Small Campaign (in Nov) and their Local Champion Game. Local Champions allows users of the American Express app to earn an additional bonus point per $ spent at retailers where they shop the most.
If you become the local champion by shopping there more than other app users, you can earn extra reward points.
I love how American Express encourages and supports local businesses.
22. Shop the specials
Have a cupboard stocked with ingredients you can use for many different types of recipes. Create from fresh, unprocessed foods and flavour with natural, yummy ingredients, not expensive sauces.
Know several different recipes you can make with various vegetables and meats. That way, even though you might be shopping with a list, when you go to the supermarket, and you see pumpkin is on special, you can easily change the list to grab the pumpkin and know several dishes you can make with it.
I save lots of money each week on my groceries by having a list and a meal plan but leaving it open to change depending on what the specials are doing.
23. Look for offers or cash back
I got $15 cash back the other day shopping at Woolworths. I looked at my American Express offers attached to my card and found that one available for Woolworths.
American Express Offers give you cash back on expenses related to shopping, dining, travel or entertainment.
I have the American Express App on my phone, so whenever I go out to spend money – whether for groceries, needs, or luxuries, I check the app to see if there are any offers available. If there are, I click add to the card and it registers to my card immediately.
When I spend to get that offer, the credit is applied to my statement account immediately. An email arrives to notify me (and reminds me if I’ve not yet used it, and it’s getting near expiry).
I only use offers for those expenses that I have anyway and align with my values.
I’ll share more of how I’ve used Amex Offers in the post next week on hacking for luxuries.
24. Keep your meals the same
So much time can be wasted deciding what to eat. Not to mention, the amount of money you can waste buying the food for that one-off meal. We use some of those ingredients once and then we don’t use them again.
I have the same smoothie for lunch and dinner. I know the ingredients to buy each week – many of the supplements I buy in bulk and when on special. It saves me loads of time in thought and preparation, which I can then devote to generating an income online or enjoying quality time with my kids.
25. Leftovers for lunch
Meals always taste better the next day when the flavours have had time to soak together. Eat a piece of fruit after your meal instead of going for seconds and save those seconds for your lunch.
For some, this may feel it belongs in the luxury category. Although I feel giving is a natural flow of money and so is an ‘everyday’ expense.
Choose a company you respect and whose mission you love. Give us much as you can afford, and don’t forget time is a great way to give back. I donate monthly to World Vision and the Surf Life Saving Club.
With American Express you can also give a donation using your Membership Reward Points to different charities within the program.
So you can see these are some of the simple ways we can hack into everyday living expenses so we can gain a lot more enjoyment from life.
It’s about reducing your expenses and maximising the reward leverage from what you spend. Since following these hacks and changing my lifestyle; I no longer begrudge my everyday expenses.
Next week we’ll share with you ways to hack into luxury!