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Those of you on the path to financial independence know there are only two ways to fatten your wallet: make more money or spend less. Today, I want to focus on telling you about an invaluable tool to learn how to save money.
Most folks tend to start with cutting out the excess spending in their lives simply because it can be much easier than chasing after making more money. Regardless, both areas can be largely worthwhile and beneficial for your financial future.
However, knowing that just a few *excruciating* phone calls to lower subscription bills can save you large sums of money each year, makes it a quick and easy path to start with. Even something as simple as changing cell phone providers can chop your annual bill big time over the year.
The biggest problem I see though isn’t that it’s difficult to make the changes. In most cases, you’ll spend less than half an hour making it happen. Heck, even shopping for car insurance isn’t that big of a deal (though most of us ignore the task and put it on the back-burner).
Instead, the big hurdle is awareness – knowing that the specific option exists to save money. In other words, if you learn how to save money in an area, you can then apply that wisdom and cut the needless spending dramatically with little to no difference in your life.
So how do you know what options are available to you?
The problem with cutting back on spending
If you’re someone who loves finding ways to save money by trimming the excess fat, you’ve likely learned a couple of lessons in the process…
- You were wasting a ton of dough on things you don’t need or products and services you could get cheaper elsewhere. Just by putting a minimal amount of focus on this, you likely saved hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per year with hardly any effort at all.
- There’s a limit to this goodness – you can’t cut out everything. And the more you optimize, the fewer options there are to optimize even further. It’s just the way it goes.
You start with the low-hanging fruit. You knock out some easy fixes to save some bucks. You cut the cable, change cell phone carriers, change insurance carriers, or stop some subscription services you don’t need. You even install a free browser extension like Rakuten (formerly Ebates) to automatically pay you a decent chunk of change just for doing your normal online shopping.
Then maybe you move onto some bigger tasks that take a little more time and effort. Perhaps you trade-in your car for a less expensive, used model. Maybe you downsize your home or refinance it.
But then what? You’ll find that the opportunities on where to finesse things money-wise eventually become a little more scarce.
The issue isn’t necessarily that there aren’t other facets you can improve on. Rather it’s just that you need to learn how to save money in the areas you don’t know enough about.
The reason I’m talking about this is that I live it. I love to find deals, discounts, and smarter ways of doing things that are easy to implement and don’t impact our way of life dramatically. And I’ve hit the wall before of “I guess there’s nothing else we can tweak in our spending.”
However, I always seem to continue finding great ideas to cut out even more frivolously spent money. How, you might ask?
I read a lot of personal finance blogs, I occasionally still listen to personal finance podcasts, and I find a lot of good information through my news feed. But there’s one asset in my toolbelt that’s been invaluable in helping me learn how to save money…
The Clark Howard Podcast
Ever heard of Clark Howard? You should. He’s been around as a consumer expert/advocate and has been providing sensible advice as a nationally syndicated radio host since 1989!
My wife and I used to watch his show that used to be on TV several years ago. But now, I’ve been listening to the Clark Howard Podcast for probably close to a decade.
I know, I know – another podcast, Jim?!
Don’t jump ship yet – hear me out.
I’ve listened to a lot of personal finance podcasts over the years. While I was on the path to FIRE (financial independence / retire early), I spent several hours per day listening and learning. Here were some of the ones I enjoyed on my journey that I found to be very good and helpful: The 10 Best Financial Podcasts.
But here’s the thing… I’m now retired. I’ve been loving the freedom of early retirement since the end of 2018! So hearing a lot of the same information on how to reach financial independence doesn’t really resonate as much with me anymore.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy those types of podcasts, but most of the information just isn’t as helpful to me anymore. I still periodically listen to some podcast episodes if one jumps out at me as something different. For instance, I’ve been listening to Joshua Sheats from Radical Personal Finance as he’s been talking about traveling and ex-pat living lately.
As far as podcasts talking about money though, there haven’t been many I’ve found too useful in my life lately… except for the Clark Howard Podcast. This is the one show I continue to listen to every single day – and he’s on 5 days a week!
So what is it about the Clark Howard Podcast that makes it so valuable?
Learn how to save money with Clark Howard
I’m here to tell you that regardless of where you’re at in life, the Clark Howard Podcast should be part of your day… every day.
Most shows focus on long-term info – similar topics like I discuss in my masterpiece, There is a Secret Formula to FI, But It Ain’t No Secret!:
- Get out of Debt
- Know where you are now and where you need to be
- Cut stupid expenses
- Increase your income
- Save… a lot
- Invest intelligently
- Continue learning
- Don’t forget about today
This is extremely important stuff to understand and take action! If you’re not already working on this, you absolutely want to start with it. You should also be sure that you’re subscribed to my mailing list! Plus, I’ll send you an email with some useful spreadsheets for you to enjoy…
But once you know and implement the advice, not too much else changes. For example, after you learn that investing in index funds is probably one of the smartest and easiest methods of investing, that’s it. You make some changes in your portfolio and you’re done. That’s likely not going to change for a long time.
However, there are a lot of everyday things that can help your pocketbook become quite stronger over the long haul. These are things that are more current and apt to change more consistently. Some examples:
- Saving money by using new technology like streaming services
- Better or smarter ways to shop for cars
- The differences in cell phone plans and MVNOs
- College and student loan decisions
- Travel decisions and deals
- Insurance – what you need and don’t need
The list goes on and on. And don’t get me wrong, Clark does talk about long-term general information like investment decisions, retirement accounts, credit cards, and credit scores. Be aware that he’s not out there pushing specific stocks to buy or anything (index funds all the way).
What I love though is that he focuses on pieces of information that can add some solid cash to your wallet every day. It tends to be very specific information: WHO are the best cell phone providers, WHAT are the best sites to use when booking travel plans, WHY you want to use this service and not that one, etc.
It’s stuff you can use in real life to learn how to save money and then easily implement. What else can you ask for?!
He’s extremely smart, down-to-earth, practical in his advice, and entertaining to listen to on the air. Geez, do I have a man-crush or what?!
The amount of knowledge I’ve gained from this show is astounding. I learn at least one piece of useful information in almost every single show. Here are just a few topics he’s discussed recently that I thought were very valuable:
- Why are rental cars so expensive right now? What should you do instead?
- Is the housing market going to crash like it did in 2007? What to do if you’re trying to buy a home right now?
- Why are a lot of the prices of “low-cost” Southwest flights more expensive than other major carriers right now? What tools should you be using to find the cheapest flights and what to look out for when doing it?
- Cryptocurrency is a hot investment right now. Should you be jumping on that bandwagon and more importantly why or why not?
I also like that he’ll answer your questions on the air – I love free advice!
Last year, around this time, Amazon was horrible in fulfilling its 2-day Prime delivery. I emailed the show talking about the lack of reliability and if there was a way to get part of the membership price refunded (I’d already gotten an extra free month of Prime through customer service about this issue previously).
The question was read on the air and Clark addressed it saying that Amazon was struggling with this. He said that they changed the guarantee to be 2 days from the time items are shipped now instead of from the time you place your order. His suggestion was to decide if it’s still worth it to pay the annual fee or to look at alternatives like Walmart+, which was just coming out back then.
At the time, Walmart+ wasn’t a great alternative, but they’ve fixed a lot of their issues over this past year. It might be something we’ll be looking at going to in the near future. It’s less expensive than Prime and the product prices are generally much cheaper than they are on Amazon. With the addition of grocery delivery, this might be a great service to have once we’re back from Panama.
Last summer, I wrote in asking for his thoughts on how to get in on those great refi rates for our duplex as an early retiree without a W2 income. The producer emailed me back and asked if I’d like to be on the air to talk to Clark. I did and he took it a whole different route than I expected. His suggestion was to just pay it off with the cash I had just sitting around earning barely any interest. I thought that was ingenious and was simply not something I had even considered.
Make time to learn how to save money!
Please don’t tell me you don’t have time for this podcast. It’s only about 25 minutes long each day and it’s actually something worthwhile and actionable in your life. Cut out the news or some of your time on social media to make a little room.
Personally, I still don’t understand watching the news. It drives me bananas – it’s depressing, media-slanted for ratings, and gives you nothing applicable to your own life. Sure, being informed is important, but put a breaking news app on your phone and just read the occasional headline when it comes up.
And I think we can all agree that for the most part, social media is just a big time-suck of useless information!
Listening to the Clark Howard Podcast is exactly the opposite. It’s extraordinarily useful information you can use to improve your life and finances every day. I might sound like a commercial for the podcast, but I’m not earning a penny from you deciding to listen to the show. I just want you, as my readers, to be aware that this podcast can help you be even smarter financially and save some really good money.
You can check out the Clark Howard Podcast on your favorite podcast player (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, etc.).
If you’re not someone who listens to podcasts or doesn’t want to figure out a podcast app for your phone, fear not. You can simply go to the Clark Howard Podcast webpage and just listen to the shows right on your computer with a click of the mouse.
So just try to give me an excuse now as to why you’re not listening to this show regularly!
Plan well, take action, and live your best life!
Thanks for reading!!