Whether you're paying down debt or saving for a trip, here are groan-free ways to help you live on less.
By Joann Pan
1. Get Your Caffeine Buzz for Less (and No, You Don't Have to Brew at Home)
Save a few dollars on coffee-shop runs by using the free, subscription-based app called CUPS. The startup offers reduced plans for regular hot coffee, iced coffee and espresso drinks (lattes, cappuccinos and macchiatos). The all-inclusive monthly Cup-a-Day plan for $60 works out to $2 a drink—a discount of nearly 50 percent, based on the average coffee prices in the app's 100-plus network of coffee shops, according to CUPS co-founder Gilad Rotem. "Occasional drinkers are better off with the 5- or 10-Cups plans where they would save 20 to 30 percent," Rotem says. The company expects to expand to other cities on the East and West Coasts.
2. Sit in a Tall Chair Before Banking
Try this research-backed way to sock away more money: Go on a 60-second power trip. A recent study from the Stanford Graduate School of Business linked feelings of power to the desire to save money -- and create actual savings. In a series of experiments, 140 Dutch students were split into three sets: a group made to feel powerful, a second group made to feel weaker and a control group.
In the first round, researchers asked one group to write about a time they felt powerful, while a second group was asked to write about a time they felt inferior. Afterward, researchers asked the students to imagine receiving 100 euros each, then asked how much they would deposit into a savings account. Students who wrote about feeling a sense of power saved an average of 71 euros -- compared to the second group's lower average of 48 euros. The control group saved 52 euros. Next time you have to draw up a budget or put money away, sit in a tall chair or picture yourself in the shoes of a boundary-pushing CEO or your favorite fierce (dragon-wielding) queen.
3. Scan the Best Deals on Craigslist in a Flash
Find second-hand steals more quickly by tweaking the way you search online, says Rachel Wilkerson Miller, The REWM blogger who furnished her living room for around $900 on Craigslist. Know what items you're shopping for, or the brands you prefer, if you're decorating an empty space. Weed out a ton of spam and unrelated listings by filtering your search results by owner, Miller says. Don't forget to view in the gallery option—instead of the default "list" mode so you can eyeball listings quickly. If you know exactly what you want -- a wrought-iron bench for example -- try search terms with alternative spellings and misspellings. Try "rot iron" or "wraught iron," Miller says. These additional searches should yield different results. A New York City-specific search turned up an authentic white Knoll Bertoia side chair for $250 and a solid mahogany desk for $285.
4. Save on the Stuff You Always Buy (with One Extra Step)
Buy discounted gift cards online for places you frequently shop and easily save around $4 or $5 off every $100 you spend. Personal finance writer at ThreeThriftyGuys.com Aaron Shepherd recommends using Raise.com and GiftCardGranny.com, which will ship purchases for free, and send email alerts when gifts cards become available. Load them up to an app like Gyft so you can use, manage and track all of your plastic in one place.
5. Save on Last-Minute Hotel Reservations
Flexible travelers can get surprisingly affordable deals by waiting until the last week to book a hotel. "Currently 50 percent of all online travel bookings are made within a week," Sam Shank, the CEO of HotelTonight -- a mobile app available for iOS and Android -- that offers reduced rates on unfilled rooms in select hotels up to 7 days in advance. To help you stretch your vacation budget, he advises you use the app on Sundays when booking a stay. "Sundays are always the best days for deals, with rates often half of what you might see on peak days," Shank says. Thursdays then Fridays are the next-best days to find deals. And if you're contemplating going away for just one night over the weekend, know this: "Fridays are often much cheaper than Saturdays, so if one is wrestling with which day to get spontaneous, bet on Fridays."
Use code OPRAH for $25 off your first booking.