Spend a few hours this weekend to boost your finances. (Photo: Neustockimages/GettyImages)

Spend a few hours this weekend to boost your finances. (Photo: Neustockimages/GettyImages)

There’s no stress like financial stress. It can set you up for depression and a cascade of chronic health problems. So now that we are clear of the holidays and Valentine’s Day, why not spend a few hours this weekend planning to increase the balance in your savings account?

Use these tips to design your own plan to pump up your bank balance and feel more secure.

  1. Get paid to shop. If you’re still shopping the old-fashioned way — walking into stores and plunking down your card or cash to pay full price, it’s time for a change. A slew of credible, safe, free websites will pay you to shop at your favorite stores, so this Saturday, try shopping at these three sites instead of the local mall.

How does it work? You make your purchases on their site. In return, the retailers pay them for increasing sales, and they share these funds with you. Here are a few to try:

▪ Ebates.com. This site is one of the oldest. It also offers coupons and sale alerts. You may get as much as $25 cash back for some purchases.

▪ ShopAtHome.com
Get as much as 2 to 12 percent back from retailers you probably use regularly, including Walmart, Bath & Body Works and Ralph Lauren.
▪ ExtraBux.com
This site allows you to compare merchant prices on specific items you are seeking. Cash back amounts range from 1 percent to 30 percent.

  1. Stop paying your bank. The banking industry earns billions on consumer fees each year, but there are still ways of banking that can save you money.

     ▪ Find free checking. It’s hard to find, but small community banks, credit unions or  the bank that holds your mortgage may offer free checking accounts. It’s worth the hunt, and it can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

       ▪ Save online. These are often low-fee accounts that can most often be opened with very little money. Since the bank is virtual, the money is out of site and therefore out of mind. Tuck any debit cards away in a safe place, and keep them out of your wallet to limit access to your funds.

       ▪ Cut back on the cash machine. Yes, they are convenient, but they cost a bundle if they do not belong to your bank. Withdraw large amounts for your weekly budget just once and keep your petty cash at home.

  1. Seek great, free advice. This year, award-wining financial advisor Tiffany Aliche helped thousands of women save big with her 36-day Live Richer Challenge. Learn from their mistakes, and discover new routes to financial security on Aliche’s site, The Budgetnista.
  2. Get a grip – Beware the funky music, great lighting and free coffee at your local retailer. It’s all designed to keep you in the store and encourage impulse buys. To avoid wasting time and money:

▪ Make a list and stick with it.

     ▪ Don’t browse. Decide what you need before you enter a store. Once you have it, pay and exit. The sooner you leave; the less you will spend.

       ▪ Leave the credit cards at home, and pay with cash.

  1. Cook up new savings. Americans spend about $225 a month eating out. That adds up to $2,700 a year. Of course you want to treat yourself on special occasions, but cooking at home will save you a bundle and make it easier for you to eat healthier too.

About Fierce Fridays — Tips for Weekend Well-Being

We each cherish those precious days off at the end of the week, but increasingly those of us who are charter members of the sisterhood of the stressed and overworked are losing our Saturday and Sunday leisure time to weekend work and domestic duties.

To make sure that you do something every weekend that’s just for you, we’ll be sharing a little advice to make those 48 hours a great time to recharge your batteries, bring a little good news into your life, or discover a quick and easy way to improve your health.