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When it comes to managing our money, new technology can be helpful. But sometimes, it’s important to remember the old-fashioned savings strategies that still work.
Here are the top old-school money ideas that can still help you save money this year.
1. Pay cash for everything
Molly Ford-Coates, accredited financial counselor and CEO of Ford Financial Management, recommends that you use cash when possible.
“In this day and age, many items are put on credit cards,” Ford-Coates says. “This makes it very easy to overspend. However, when you have a cash budget for certain items, you know exactly how much you are spending.”
The reward is two-fold because when the cash is gone, it’s gone. Plus, you’ll have to think carefully when you decide to refill your cash stash.
2. Try the envelope budgeting method
If you are finding it difficult to save money for multiple purposes, then the envelope budgeting method, also known as cash stuffing, could be a great way for you to budget.
“Take a few moments to label individual envelopes with different savings categories/goals,” says Brittan Leiser, financial advisor and founder of SavviHer.
Then, allocate cash into separate envelopes. The amount you put into each category represents your spending plan for the month. When the envelope is empty, you must quit spending on that category for the rest of the month. You can refill your cash envelopes when the budgeting period is over and adjust the amounts in them as needed.
3. Track your expenses
In the past, people often balanced their checkbook to keep track of expenses. Although you may not write too many checks these days, tracking your spending is still a valuable way to help you save more.
Tracking your expenses may seem like an easy thing to do, but so many of us let this old-school money chore fall through the cracks. But if you regularly track your spending, then it can help you identify problem areas and opportunities to cut costs.
“Actually seeing the numbers can also motivate you to balance your budget and set savings goals,” says Chris Abrams, founder of Abrams Insurance Solutions.
Luckily, it has never been easier to implement this old-school savings strategy. With the help of budget tracking apps like Mint, budgeting spreadsheets or old-fashioned pen and paper, you can easily track your spending each month.
4. Fix things instead of replacing them
Although it can be tempting to simply trash items that aren’t working, fixing things may not be as difficult as you think and could lead to big savings.
Tana Williams, founder of Debt Free Forties, recommends learning how to repair things rather than replace them and shares how a DIY attitude helped her save a leaky 12-year-old push mower.
With the help of YouTube, an hour of time and a $6 tube of sealant, the mower was repaired.
“By learning to do it ourselves, we rescued our mower (and our budget), and it’s lived to mow another day,” Williams says.
5. Buy used
Of course, not everything can be repaired. But when you have to buy something, buying used can help you save.
Dr. Bob Castaneda, program director for Walden University’s master of finance program, recommends that you shop around for gently used items. The secondhand market is full of items in great condition, including cars, appliances, furniture and clothing.
“This will give you a chance to test out brand-name products without breaking the bank,” Castaneda says.
Plus, you might enjoy the thrill of finding an outstanding deal on a used item that seems new at a garage sale or thrift store.
6. Practice patience
When you are considering a purchase, take a minute to think: Can you afford this purchase now? If not, save it for later.
“We tend to buy what we want when we want it. And it usually goes on credit,” Ford-Coates says. “The regret sinks in when we get that credit card bill and wonder what we have to show for it.”
Waiting a week or a month — or longer — to see if you still really need or want this item. That added time can help you ensure you have cash to pay for it, rather than charging it to a credit card that will carry a balance.
“Buying when we can afford to buy it can save us a lot of money. Not only will we be cutting back on what we spend, but we will also be spending less on those interest charges accruing.”
7. Find free entertainment
Remember when your grandparents were complaining about the high price of a night at the movies? They were onto something. Entertainment shouldn’t take up a large portion of your budget when there are plenty of things to do for free.
Ben Reynolds, founder of Sure Dividend, recommends watching an old movie with your family, finding a free book through the library, or grabbing a board game you haven’t played in a while.
There are many free activities to enjoy. So don’t let this part of your budget run out of control.
The reason these old-school money ideas are still around is that they work. Give these strategies a try, and see if one or more might be a good fit for you and your lifestyle. An old-fashioned money idea might be just what you needed to help you improve your financial situation.
— Bankrate’s Matthew Goldberg contributed to an update of this article.