Tuesday, September 11, 2007

31 Ways to Save More Money

It’s been said that a penny saved is a penny earned. Thanks to income taxes, a penny saved is actually worth about 1.3 pennies earned.

Here are 31 ways to save a few pennies (and dollars):

  1. Decorate your home with pictures you have taken. Why pay big money for framed “stock” pictures. Sort through your personal collection and hang them around your house. If you’re not a photographer, there are plenty of professional looking photos on online picture sites that are high-resolution for printing and royalty free for personal use.
  2. Get a library card…and use it. Why spend money on books? Some libraries now have online interfaces that make it a cinch to request a book. They will sometimes even request a book from another library in their network if they don’t have it.
  3. Get a “lite” internet package. I’m too internet dependent to advocate getting rid of your home internet connection all together, but most people don’t use the bandwidth they are paying for. Call your provider and ask for their “lite” plan. Often they will have a lower-bandwidth option that is unadvertised.
  4. Get a deep freezer. This is one of my personal favorites. Inevitably, my local grocery stores will have a fantastic deal on one or two items each week. With a deep freezer in my garage, I’m free to buy 10 pounds of meat, or a cart full of frozen veggies. Not only do I get at least ½ off retail, but I have them when I need them.
  5. Don’t be an early adopter. Being an early adopter of technology is expensive. Its no secret that a new gadget is more expensive when it first hits the market, but some folks just HAVE to have it. You’ve gone this long without it. Save yourself some serious dough, and wait a few more months.
  6. Join a credit union. Credit Unions, unlike regular banks, are not trying to make a profit. Their goal is to make money for their shareholders, which conveniently enough are the members. That means they are almost always a better deal than a normal bank. If you are eligible for a credit union, it’s a good idea to join. They often offer the same features as a bank, but with better rates and fewer fees.
  7. Purchase the loss leaders. Most grocery stores put out a weekly flyer with their specials. Usually on the first page, they list what are known as loss leaders. These are items the stores sell for less than they paid for them. It sounds crazy, but realize that they are willing to take a few dollar loss to get you inside the store where you will buy a cart full of groceries. Maximize your buying power by buying the loss leaders and stopping there. When used in conjunction with the deep freezer, you can stock up on meats and frozen items on the cheap.
  8. Opt for generic prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Prescriptions and medications are one area where the “store-brand” is absolutely as good as the branded product. Both products contain exactly the same medicinal ingredients, but one is a fraction of the cost.
  9. Never pay retail. When shopping online, it is easy to find exactly the same products sold for different prices at different stores. Spending a few minutes searching almost always pays for itself. And with Google, online e-coupons are just a click away.
  10. Grow your own herbs. A pack of 99 cent seeds will provide enough basil, rosemary, sage, and others to keep your food seasoned all year long. Put extras in a freezer bag for use during the winter.
  11. Get a high-yield savings account. If you have money sitting in a savings account, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be earning as much interest as possible. Several online banks (and perhaps credit unions) pay over 5% (at the time of this writing) on savings accounts, and your money is insured by the government, just like if it were at the bank down the street.
  12. Get rid of cable or satellite. You can likely get most of the networks in pure HD over the air.
  13. Lower your credit card interest rate. If you are carrying credit card balances at a high (more than 6%) interest rate, consolidate them to a lower interest card. There are plenty of 0% cards for consolidating balances. If you can’t pay it off by the time the promotional period ends, roll the balance to another 0% card.
  14. Make coffee at home. Why spend $3 for coffee when you can make it at home for 5 cents. Even if you buy the good coffee, it is still no more than 20 cents a cup.
  15. Cook at home. Restaurants can be fun and a great place to socialize with friends, but the bills add up. A home made meal usually only costs $1-$3. Try finding that deal at a restaurant. When you do go out, use restaurant coupons and take ½ of your entree home for lunch the next day.
  16. Pack your lunch. Going out for lunch, even at $5-$7 a pop, adds up over the month or year. Packing a lunch and bringing it to work usually costs only a dollar or two.
  17. Never buy a brand new car. Most cars depreciate 30% of their value in the first 2 years. Buying a good pre-owned car with a few miles will save you thousands over buying a brand new one.
  18. Use index funds. With all of the money you are saving, it is a good idea to begin investing. But too often, new investors get sucked in by “advisers” who put them in funds with outrageous fees. Sometimes as high as 5% of the amount invested. On the contrary, index funds and ETFs usually charge only a fraction of 1% and over the long-haul have beaten most managed funds.
  19. Install energy saving CF bulbs. Now that the price of compact fluorescent bulbs have come down to about $2-$3 per bulb (if you buy a 5 pack at a chain hardware store) it is definitely worth your money to install them. They last for several years and typically use 1/3 of the energy of a normal bulb. In a house with 40 bulbs, that’s about $300 in savings per year. (40 75-watt bulbs replaced with 23-watt bulbs, average use 5 hrs per day at $0.09 /kWh.)
  20. Install a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats only cost about $30 at a hardware store and can save you hundreds of dollars per year. During the summer, program the thermostat to allow the temp to rise a few degrees while you are at work, and begin cooling before you return. In the winter, do the opposite. Most of these thermostats even have weekday and weekend settings.
  21. Make purchases with a credit card with cash rewards. (Steer away from ambiguous “points” systems.) Many credit cards offer rewards, but most these days have moved to ambiguous points systems where it is nearly impossible to ever cash in on your rewards. However, there are cards out there that pay cash rewards every month. Getting 1% back on all your purchases should be your minimum goal. (Of course, always pay off your purchases at the end of the month.)
  22. Don’t purchase alcohol at a restaurant or a bar. I love a good beer as much as the next guy, but paying $6 for a beer that I can buy at the grocery store for $6 for a 6-pack just doesn’t make sense.
  23. Sell some unneeded clutter on ebay. Everyone has books, CDs, clothing, and whatnot that are just taking up space. Cash in on those things by selling them on ebay. You’ll likely get more than you think (and the buyer pays shipping).
  24. Clip coupons and use them wisely. Coupons can save a ton of money on groceries and other items (and many grocery stores double or triple face values). But don’t purchase something just because you have a coupon, and make sure that the final price after coupon is worth paying. Sometimes its not a good deal even with a discount.
  25. Try store-branded items. Many store-brands are just as good as their branded counterparts. The only difference is advertising. Companies have to pay for the advertising overhead by charging more for their product. At least try the store brand. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it again.
  26. Resist the urge to spend on impulse, no matter how small the cost. Get out of the habit of purchasing on impulse. A newspaper here, a pack of gum there, a magazine – they add up to big numbers by the end of the month. If you don’t believe me, keep a log of all of your purchases for a few weeks. Another way to avoid buying on impulse is to always go to the store with a shopping list, and only get those items.
  27. Use the lowest octane gasoline recommended for your car. There is usually absolutely no benefit to buying the “premium” gasoline for your car. If you don’t believe me, read your owners manual.
  28. Get a space heater. If you are a single person or couple living in a house, don’t waste money heating the entire house all night. Place a safe, thermostat-controlled space heater in your bedroom to keep you warm and save on energy bills. Also, buy an extra blanket or two.
  29. Don’t burn the pilot light in a gas fireplace during warm months. If you read the small print on your gas log fireplace, it will tell you how many therms of energy it uses while it is not being used. It can add up to $5-$10 per month depending on gas prices.
  30. Reduce your text messaging. Most text messaging is unneeded, and at $0.15 a message, text message conversations can add up to many dollars at the end of the month.
  31. Drink tap or filtered water instead of sodas. Most bottled water is no better than tap water, and sometimes even worse because of the lack of fluoride. Get used to drinking water instead of sodas. It’s better for you and will save a bundle. If you are uncomfortable with tap, get a filtered pitcher.
For more ideas, check out a similar posting I ran across on the fivecentnickel.

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