Jobs are hard to come by. Incomes are flat. Home values continue to take a hit. And tax season is just around the corner. No wonder you’re feeling poor! Here are some easy ways to put more cash in your pocket – now.
Give Yourself A Raise – Change the number of allowances you claim on your W-4. Chances are, you need to: More than 75% of us got a refund last year—of about $3,000! This tells us we’re having too much withheld from our paychecks. Taking extra allowances pushes down your withholding, and pushes up your take home pay.
Nibble Away at the Mortgage - Even though mortgage rates are at historic lows (currently about 4%), about 12 million creditworthy Americans are overpaying their mortgages – by an average of $436/month! By refinancing, these homeowners could save about $52,000 over 10 yrs. Refinance calculators like the one on the Zillow iPhone app can show you how much you can save.
Clean Out Your Drawers! – You never know what you might find in there! For example, did you know that we’re sitting on $16 billion in unredeemed bonds? Or that we each have an average of about $300 in gift cards? Cash the bonds (To see what they’re worth, and to redeem them, go to treasurydirect.gov), and consider selling the gift cards if they’re not from a store you frequent. You can sell them on your own and avoid the middleman altogether, or try designated gift card sites, such as plasticjungle.com or cardhub.com.
Redeem Points and Miles – These numbers will astound you: Americans earn about $48 billion in reward point and miles each year through loyalty programs, but about one third of that amount – or some $16 billion – goes unredeemed each year. To put this into further perspective: the average household that’s active in loyalty programs earns about $622/yr but does not redeem $205 of those rewards—enough to buy an airline ticket a week’s worth of groceries.
No More Impulse Buys – Retailers literally encouraged us to blow the budget over the holiday season. They did this any number of ways — from offering deals that were too good to be true to training their employees to be more engaging to reconfiguring stores that encouraged browsing to stocking the checkout with various temptations – and it worked. We’re now paying the price, suffering from buyer’s remorse. And yet the spending continues: about 60% of the purchases we make are unplanned, and the average impulse buy costs about $100.
Avoid Retail Ripoffs - While it may seem as though everything is on sale, there are still quite a few items that are ridiculously overpriced, from movie theater popcorn (It’s marked up as much as 1300%!); to the wine you buy at restaurants (It’s marked up 100-200% on bottles; 300%-400% if buy it by the glass — and the highest markups are on the lowest priced wines); coffee (marked up 300%); and pre-cut fruits and veggies, which costs 25-30% more than their whole counterparts. Avoid just one or two of these “ripoffs” and you can easily save over $1,200 yr.
Vera Gibbons is a financial journalist based in New York City and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with her at http://veragibbons.com/.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.