Everyone has their little obsessions. For some people in the Man Repeller office, it’s niche pop-culture podcasts. For others, it’s boutique fitness classes. For me, it’s trying obscure money-saving hacks I find on the internet. For the amount of effort I’ve put into this hobby, one might assume this intro is leading in the direction of a humblebrag about putting a down payment on a house, but alas my obsession is less about hoarding savings than it is about turning my spending into a game.
Here are just a few of the money-saving tricks I’ve tried:
Saving every $5 bill I come across inside a small leather pouch. In a cash-only economy, this trick would have been epic. Sadly, in 2019 when almost everyone pays by card, this hack barely functions. The emotional tax of going to ATMs and dealing with change was never worth the money saved.
Planning and living no-spend days. During this challenge, I would wake up and declare to my boyfriend, “It’s a ZERO-DOLLAR CHALLENGE day!” like a game-show host a couple of times a week. The name of the game was, as suggested, a whole day without spending. I’d make coffee and breakfast at home, pack lunch, cook dinner, and walk to and from work. (Zero! Dollar! Challlllllllenge!) As fun as it was cosplaying as Steve Harvey every morning, this challenge required packing lunch which… no thank you.
Estimating my weekend spending every Friday. I came across this neat trick on The Billfold, where Nicole Dieker would post a weekly open thread, estimating how much money she was going to spend that weekend. The idea of this hack, at least for me, was to recognize how easy it is to spend your weekly food/entertainment/shopping budget in a single weekend.
The funniest and potentially most puzzling thing about this focus is that despite my dedication, saving still doesn’t come easily to me. I know all the tricks, but when it comes to keeping them in action for the long haul, I lose interest very quickly. So while many of these money hacks were fun or eye-opening, none of them truly stuck as a habit until I found Digit, which is why I’m here right now to say: Trust me, try it.
OK, what’s the deal?
You may not believe it, but the most effective money-saving hack is an app that…costs me money to use. I first heard about Digit from a coworker who swore by it. When she bought a house last year I texted and half-jokingly, half-genuinely asked, “Is this all thanks to Digit?” At that time the app was free to use, but they’ve since started charging $2.99 per month. However, over the last year and a half it’s helped me save thousands of dollars without even noticing, so it feels totally worth it.
And how does it work?
After downloading Digit, you connect it to your bank account. Every business day, Digit will withdraw money from your bank account and put it into your Digit account. You can set a maximum withdrawal limit—at the moment I don’t let Digit take more than $15 from my account each day—or you can let it have free rein. The app monitors your spending, so it knows when you’re likely to have a large withdrawal, like for your monthly rent, and will save little to nothing on those days.
The app also allows you to set different “savings goals.” Right now, I have my standard Digit “rainy day” account, plus separate savings goals for two destination weddings I’m invited to next year. When you start a new goal, you have the option of setting a goal amount and date. For example, when my boyfriend’s 30th was coming up, I set the goal date to a week before his birthday and set the goal amount for how much I wanted to spend on a gift. By the time the date rolled around, Digit had the money ready for me to withdraw.
Who’s it for?
If you’re someone who regularly spends all the money in your checking account but wish you didn’t, Digit might help you. Although I force myself to transfer some money to a savings account as soon as I get paid, Digit helps me skim a small amount off the top of my checking account each day. I never notice that the couple of dollars are gone, so when I check the app I’m always pleasantly surprised. It’s incredibly easy to withdraw money from Digit too, which is a nice safety net.
Above all, it helps me feel like I’m doing something financially responsible, while also quite literally doing nothing. In that way, it’s practically perfect, and I recommend it to anyone I know who wants to save a little extra cash.
Is there an app or obscure money-saving trick that you swear by? Have you tried any of the same ones I have? If so, let’s talk!