Life's expensive. And, while there's no getting around that over-arching fact, there are a few ways to cut corners. Make a budget. Automate savings — and investments. Leverage credit card rewards.
There are also some savvy ways to save some serious dough. Here are five life hacks that can collectively save you $10,000 (for real).
1. Fix your credit score
Bad credit (generally considered a score of 600 or lower) is going to cost you a whole lot in interest. Case in point: A low credit score typically increases the cost of a $20,000, 60-month auto loan by more than $5,000, per the Consumer Federation of America.
But expensive financing is just one way a terrible score makes you pay more. Getting cable? Expect a fee due to those digits. Found a cheap (and nice!) apartment? You might lose that lease to someone with better credit. Need car insurance? Don't be surprised by higher premiums if your score isn't in decent shape.
Fortunately, bad credit isn't forever and you can start improving your score by paying down debt, disputing credit report errors and limiting new credit inquiries. We've got more ways to raise your credit score here.
2. Shop around ... for everything
Comparison-shopping can take a little legwork (emphasis on "little" here, because, you know, the internet), but it can save you a ton of money — especially if you do it every time you buy something. Shopping, comparing and negotiating can save you thousands of dollars on a mortgage, for instance, and is just as instrumental when you're on the market for a new ride. But it's also important when you're shopping for services, like utilities, cellphone or cable/internet plans.
And, as we're well aware, comparison-shopping for any type of insurance can save you hundreds of dollars. It's particularly important when you're looking for life insurance, which you'll probably pay over a couple decades. That's because certain life insurance companies are just more favorable to different demos and/or conditions than others. Some offer better rates to boomers, for instance, while others are more lenient about high-cholesterol. You can go here to learn more about the best life insurance companies in general and Policygenius can help you specifically save up to 40% on a policy via our life insurance quote comparison tool here.
3. Use an HSA as a second IRA
We can't say enough good things about Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). They're tax-deferred, earn interest that's tax-exempt and are a crucial part of managing medical expenses when you've got a high-deductible healthcare plan. They're also a powerful savings tool, partially for the reasons mentioned above, but also because good ol' Uncle Sam caps how much money you can sock away for retirement each year. When it comes to IRAs and Roth IRAS, those limits are $5,500 in 2017 and 2018 (or $6,500 if you're age 50 or older and need to catch up).
But you're also allowed to contribute up to $3,450 per individual or up to $6,900 per family into an HSA next year (limits are adjusted annually for inflation). And because those funds roll over year-to-year and can be used for non-medical expenses penalty-free once you turn 65, they can serve as a de facto supplemental retirement account.
4. Get legal insurance
Legal insurance covers attorney fees for almost any legal problem. And, while you're probably saying, 'how worried should I really be about getting sued?,' there are lots of reasons someone needs a lawyer. In fact, legal insurance is most commonly used for divorce, estate planning and real estate transactions. That last part is where the hack comes in: Some states mandate an attorney oversee closing on a home and, even in those that don't, it's generally a good idea to have legal expert review your contract and do a title search. Hourly rates for attorneys can range from $240 to $495, but if you have legal insurance, your policy will generally foot that bill. Plans typically cost between $15 to $22 a month and are often available through an employer.
5. Two words: Debt avalanche
No, that doesn't mean bury yourself in an avalanche of debt. Quite the opposite, in fact. The debt avalanche, sometimes called debt-stacking, is a money-saving method for getting out of the red. You make all your minimum loan payments, but put as much money as can toward the balance with the highest interest rate. Once that balance is gone, you move onto the one with the next highest APR and so on and so forth until all your debt is gone. This method helps you get out of debt faster and saves you a ton in interest.
Looking for more money hacks? Here are five ways to save 30% of your paycheck (mostly) without trying.
Image: Aleksander Nakic