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Spending money is a fact of life. There’s no way around doing it.  Even if you are trying to be frugal you will end up spending money on something you didn’t plan for every month.  

But you should at least be making the most out of what you spend.  To help here are five tips for optimizing your spending that you can start doing today.

Create a budget

The easiest and quickest way to optimizing your spending is to make a written budget.  It’s a simple concept, yet it’s the last things more people try.

Why?  Because it’s hard.  But it works.

Writing down what you plan to spend throughout the month flips a switch in your brain.  It’s as if you’ve signed an agreement with yourself. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to stay focused.  It’s really easy to stop using a budget once it’s been created, so it helps if you have an accountability partner.  

An accountability partner is someone you share your plans with so that you feel accountable to someone if they change.  I’d recommend telling someone whose opinion you respect a lot. Often this is a spouse or partner. All that matters is that they are someone you don’t want to let down.

Annualize your spending

This is a little mind hack that helps you see the impact of small purchases.  The frequently used example is a cup of coffee. Let’s say you buy a $2 cup of coffee, twenty times a month.  That means annually you are spending almost $500 on a cup of coffee. $2 may not mean much, but I bet $500 dollars does.  

The trick is to take small purchases and multiply them out for the year.  To keep the math simple I’d stick with easy numbers and recommend not over thinking it.  It’s not about being accurate, it’s about assessing impact.

Try doing it with some of your reoccurring purchases e.g.gym memberships, entertainment, or subscriptions.  You’ll shock yourself by how much you are spending every year.

Sign up for a cash back app or two

Did you know there are apps that will help you make extra money by finding you rebates and rewards on your purchases?  It’s true. And there are a ton of them.

In many cases, you just need to sync up your debit or credit card with the app and they will provide your rebates automatically.  You don’t even need to use the app in many cases. That said, if you do use the app you’ll find they have more lucrative offers available.

Some of these apps will also provide you with other offers to make money like playing games, taking surveys, or watching videos.  You won’t make a ton of money, but every little bit helps!

Use a cashback credit card

If you’re comfortable managing your debt, this is a no-brainer.  If you sign up for a cashback credit card, you automatically get money on every single purchase you make.  

Before you do this though, keep in mind a few things.  First off, you have to pay off your balance EVERY SINGLE MONTH, or the interest will wipe out any of your earnings.  Second, make sure you look at the annual fees. Often times they are so high, that what you earn in rewards won’t actually cover it.  These are great tools, just be careful how you use them.

Round-up your purchases

This is a way to put your savings on autopilot by rounding up the amount each time you spend and putting that into a savings account.  Many banks will offer this type of service to their customers, so make sure you ask your local. If not, you can use apps like Acorn, which automates this service for you.