‘Life Hacker’ who racked up 10 million credit card points: 3 ways to save money when inflation is high – CNBC | Vette Leader

If you’re feeling like you can’t keep up with rising prices, you’re not alone. Three-quarters of middle-income households (those earning between $30,000 and $100,000 a year by this definition) say their income falls short of the cost of living, according to a recent survey by insurance company Primerica.

But when inflation is weighing on your budget, the answer isn’t necessarily to eat less avocado toast. Or drink less coffee with milk. “I’ve seen somewhere that if I cut out my daily coffee, I can reduce my happiness by 10%,” says Amy Richardson, a certified financial planner at Schwab Portfolios Premium.

There are ways to cut your budget without breaking the bank, says Chris Hutchins, a self-proclaimed “life hacker” and host of the All the Hacks podcast, who hit 10 million credit card points in 2019.

“For me, the most important thing is to look at where you’re spending the most money and figure out how you can get a better return or eliminate the spend,” he says.

Below, Hutchins and other finance professionals offer three tips on how to “hack” your budget without giving up the things you love.

1. Get money back where you spend the most

It’s worth considering how inflation is affecting you personally. “I would strongly urge an individual budget calculation that breaks down inflation into subcategories as a starting point,” says Christine Benz, Morningstar’s director of personal finance and retirement planning.

You may find your personal budget ballooning in ways that deviate from the headlines. For example, rising fuel prices are a big part of headline inflation, but won’t blow your personal budget if you don’t have a car, Benz points out.

One way to lessen the burden of some of your most common expenses is to add a rewards credit card, Hutchins says. “If you spend a lot on food or groceries, there are cards that give you an outsized multiple of that spend,” he says.

If you choose a card that offers solid grocery cashback, you can boost your rewards even further by purchasing gift cards from other grocery retailers, Hutchins adds. “You still get your four points, and now you’ve managed to bring down the price of what you spend on Bed Bath and Beyond.”

2. Don’t settle for asking prices

When those who wait get good things, those who ask get cheaper prices. “It’s no secret that you can call your cable and wireless providers once a year and they’ll probably give you a better plan,” says Hutchins.

Hutchins has extended his bargaining tactics to virtually everything he buys online. “I always go to live chat and I’m like, ‘I’m going to buy this thing, is there anything you can do about the price that you can change?'” Recently, he says, the rep sent him a link showing his shopping cart updated now a substantial discount on the item.

Can’t negotiate a better price for something expensive you need to buy? See if you can find—or even buy—a coupon, says Hutchins. “Suppose you’re renovating and you have a lot of money to spend at Home Depot. There are websites where you can buy Home Depot coupons online,” he says. “I needed to buy patio furniture and bought a 15% off coupon for $2.”

3. Pick low hanging fruits

The expenses you can most easily reduce are the ones you don’t even know you have, such as: B. Ongoing subscriptions. “Maybe you’re paying for a streaming service that you don’t watch often anymore,” says Benz. “Those monthly fees are low-hanging fruit.”

If you don’t feel like poring over your credit card statements, consider adding an online service like TrueBill or Trim to help you keep track of what you’re paying for each month. Paid versions of these services allow you to instruct them to negotiate plans and cancel subscriptions on your behalf.

What’s better than keeping money you didn’t know you were spending? Demand money you didn’t know you had. Think of it like finding $20 in your jacket pocket, but on a potentially much larger scale. States have billions in unclaimed property, including uncashed paychecks, forgotten insurance policies, old bank accounts, and stocks and bonds that never made it into your current brokerage account.

If you live in one of the 40 participating states, you can search for your unclaimed property on MissingMoney.com, managed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, or find your state’s website on NAUPA’s unclaimed.org website.

“People in their 30s or 40s may not find much because they haven’t had time to collect,” says Hutchins. “But a lot of my followers were looking for their parents, and it was like, ‘Wow, I found all that money.'”

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