Holiday credit card bills have you down? Struggling to build (or rebuild) your emergency fund? You work hard for your money. Here’s how to keep more of it:


Think of shopping as a process: browse; take your time; compare prices, products, and sellers. Be intentional—do you really need this item? Do you need it now, or might there be a more advantageous time to buy? Is it the best value for your dollar? Apply the same thinking to everyday small purchases as to occasional big ones. Buying a car is expected to be a careful process, yet more routine shopping trips aren’t approached with similar thoughtfulness. Impulse or ill-informed purchases are where you can easily overspend or waste money.

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One way to be intentional about how much you spend is to make—and use—a list. Lists help you manage your shopping process; using one, you are less likely to buy the wrong kind, get more than you need, or pay too much. Lists are great for groceries and for other things you may need (specifically sized batteries, for example) and products you want to keep an eye on for eventual purchasing. Use your phone’s notes feature, not paper, to save a master shopping checklist organized however it best works for you; you’re more likely to have your phone on you when a shopping opportunity presents itself.


Many people are reluctant to return items they bought but don’t actually need. Say yes to receipts; the modern practice has become not giving or taking them, but they help support a return mindset. Get in the habit of making returns when you shop. If an item came from a store you frequent, keep it in your car (where you can see it), so the next time you’re there, the item is handy. There are many convenient ways to return online purchases, including showing a QR code on your phone to generate a prepaid USPS label. Don’t eat the cost of erroneous purchases, no matter how small.


Many people buy things on sale because they anticipate needing them later. But a closet full of potential gifts or a pantry full of too much shampoo could instead be money in your bank account, earning interest or paying off debt or bills. Making necessary purchases when a discount or good sale is available is a savvy tactic; overbuying, anticipatory buying, or buying things you don’t really need is not a bargain but a waste.


Using cash is proven to induce mindful spending; when you pay with actual money, you have a visual cue of the cost of each transaction. Credit or debit cards are like game tokens or poker chips: the money they represent is more nebulous. Credit cards can be a sound financial tool IF you pay your balance in full each month to accrue a reward like cash back without increasing debt. If you can’t capitalize on reward programs without paying interest or generating debt, paying cash is your best tactic.


If you’ve ever said, “Well, it was only twenty bucks” or “It’s not worth returning; it was only $4,” you have internalized a habit of discounting some money as not worth saving. But larger sums come from small. Don’t round down. A $19.99 purchase after tax and fees or shipping may cost $26, yet you may tell yourself you’re spending $19. Whenever you mentally ignore a few dollars, you cost yourself big savings over time.


When you run an errand and go through a drive-through because it’s on the way, that’s an add-on. So is when you buy a sandwich but choose the meal “deal” even though you don’t need a drink. Such extras add a couple of dollars to each experience that, over time, really add up. Upselling is a successful strategy because businesses know that the add-on is a quick, easydecision for consumers to make once they’ve already committed to purchasing. Don’t agree to extras on autopilot. Consider them thoughtfully—if it doesn’t add value or needs buying, don’t.


Sometimes a side hustle, whether temporary or long term, can bridge the gap between what you spend, what you save, and what you earn. The gig economy means there are many quick-start ways to bring in extra cash, such as signing up to deliver food, grocery shop or dog walk. A staffing agency can also help you get temp work that may be just what you need to rebound from a holiday splurge without requiring a wholesale career or lifestyle change.


Partnering with a staffing firm can help support your financial health in many ways: It can help you find a better job that pays what you’re worth; supplement your income with flexible, temporary assignments; assist with salary negotiation for direct jobs; or improve your skills and help you gain experience to make a career change and earn more money.

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