We’re all in a place right now where we’re trying to cut corners and save whereever possible, without completely changing what we’re used to, our quality of life. So how about some tips!
Bulk up on the basics…
Purchase oranges, potatoes, and onions in bags instead of individually. They’re staple items that you’ll eat before they go bad. Plus, you’ll pay about 1/2 the price.
Don’t buy nongrocery items at the supermarket. Health and beauty goods are normally cheaper at mass-market retailers, like Target (I love Target).
Opt for frozen seafood over fresh. Vacuum-packaged salmon, flounder, and tilapia fillets and bags of frozen shrimp cost 20-40% less than their counterparts at the fish counter. (If that sounds unappetizing, consider that most “fresh” fish has been previously frozen during transport.)
Buy ground beef and chicken breasts in bulk or family size packages. You’ll save about 20% per pound on ground beef and 50% per pound on chicken.
Find out an item’s cost per unit (CPU). It’s generally listed on the shelf sticker next to the price. It’ll tell you what an item’s cost per pound or ounce is, which can keep you from getting hoodwinked by packaging.
How to save on garden supplies…
Shop early, supply and demand rules at garden centers, and the selection is greatest early in the season.
Purchase cell packs. Buying one large marigold plant for $8 can give your garden a head start, but a four-pack of smaller ones costs half the price and each of the tiny plants will grow to the size of the large one in just a few weeks.
Plant tough varieties. Daylilies, asters, and hostas are all vigorous and low-maintenance, which means you won’t have to make another trip to the nursery for replacements. (Or if you have a brown thumb like me they plant may live longer than the others.)
Attach a timer to the spigot. A sprinkler or a soaker hose left running wastes a lot of water. Spend $15 now on a mechanical water timer and save on tomorrow’s water bills.
How to save on a cell phone…
If you send or receive more than one text a day, sign up for a texting plan and you’ll avoid the average 20-cents-per-text charge.
If your phone usage spikes after dinnee, ask about extended calling hours. For an additional $5 to $9 a month, some carriers, such as Sprint and AT&T, offer packages that allow you unlimited calls after 6 P.M. or 7 P.M., compared with 9 P.M. for most typical plans.
If you talk for fewer than 200 minutes monthly then a prepaid plan is for you.
If you signed up for phone insurance, slash this cost immediately, even if you’re clumsy. That $5 to $8 monthly charge adds up, and you’ll still have to pay a $50 deductible if you need to replace a broken phone. The replacement, which is often just a refurbished used phone, will cost about the same as a new one.
How to save on car expenses…
Forget that “every 3,000 miles” rule. A survey by AAA found that 95% of drivers had oil changes too frequently. Only heavily used cars, such as taxis, need one after 3,000 miles. Normal usage typically requires an oil change every 7,500 miles. (I knew the every 3,000 rule was bogus!)
Shop around. For out-of-pocket repairs that could cost several hundred dollars, get three estimates. Tell each company that you’re shopping around so it will quote you au competitive price, and feel free to haggle.
Stick with the dealership for tricky repairs. They sees the same makes and models, so it can be better than an independent auto shop at fixing, for instance, a mysterious rattle.
Fix windshield chips immediately because a small chip can lead to a full crack. A repair can be done in your driveway for less that $100 (search “mobile glass-repair service” and your ZIP code online to find a company). The cost of replacing a windshield: $500 to $1, 200. (uh oh, I better get those chips fixed…)
Skip the extra warranty. Car dealerships make big profits from them. Standard warranties generally cover you for three years or 30,000 miles (whichever comes first), and some car are covered for their lifetime, 10 years, or 1000,000 miles, which demonstrates their reliability.
Review your insurance annually. Monitor the value of your vehicle as it ages, and drop collision coverage when the annual premium approaches the car’s worth.
How to save on home repairs…
Get free DIY advice online.
Be flexible. Ask a tradesman if he has a hole in his schedule, then inquire about a discount if you book during that time.
Learn the lingo. Before calling a contractor, you’ll be better informed-and less likely to get taken-if you can speak his language.
How to save on medical bills…
Ask for freebies or discount coupons. Your doctor may distribute samples of everything from over-the-counter cold medicines to asthma inhalers or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder medicines.
Request a three-month prescription. This option can reduce costs up to 33%t.
Enroll in your company’s flexible-spending account. Yes, it’s a bit of work, but you can pay for out-of-pocket expenses with pretax dollars. (I just did this starting beginning of January. I’ve heard good things about signing for for FSA. Check with your employer though, many times there is an open enrollment period.)
Try mail-order pharmacies. Those affiliated with your insurance company save you time and gas and cost about a third less than retail pharmacies. (I do this, and I do save 33%)
Avoid a no-show penalty. Many doctors’ offices charge this fee, which can run around $25 (about the price of an insurance copay). So if you don’t plan to attend, make sure you cancel your appointment in advance.
Stay healthy. Some employers and insurers offer wellness incentives that can save a few hundred dollars for employees who visit the gym regularly, eat healthily, or enroll in smoking-cessation classes.
How to save on pet expenses…
Groom midweek. Friday through Monday is the busiest time at pet salons. Many charge 20 percent less for midweek appointments. (Luckily, Riley doesn’t require grooming…)
Pay attention to changes in routine. Pets are creatures of habit, so take any changes seriously. Excessive panting can indicate a heart condition; increased water consumption could be a sign of kidney disease. The early fix is usually a change in diet. Later the condition might require hospitalization and result in a big bill.
Don’t skimp on food. Cheaper brands have possibly harmful preservatives, such as BHT, and fillers, like corn, which may cause allergies. The first two ingredients on the label should be animal proteins, not by-products, grains, or vegetables. The cost can run to $1 a pound, versus 50 cents a pound for lesser-quality food, but you’ll save in the end.
Adopt. Enough said.
Consider pet insurance. Starting at $22 for a dog, policies at sites like petinsurance.com will cover annual checkups, vaccinations, accidental injuries, and some illnesses. This can translate into major savings, since some ailments cost thousands of dollars to treat. (I’ve actually been thinking of looking into this, what, with Riley on meds and frequent check ups now.)
Lord have mercy this list is getting long…
How to save on clothes buying…
Search clearance sections. Type “clearance” into the search field of a retailer’s website.
Register with shopittome.com. Check off your size, favorite brands, and clothing preferences (dresses, denim) and you’ll receive a weekly or daily e-mail alerting you to online sales.
Get a store credit card. Certain big retailers give special discounts to cardholders. Kohl’s sends out 30 percent off coupons four times a year, Gap cardholders get 10 percent off the first Tuesday of the month, and American Eagle gives 20 percent off on your birthday. (I don’t agree unless you do a lot of shopping at one particular store.)
Time shopping to coincide with sales. Gap and Banana Republic, for instance, both mark down midweek. Shop on Wednesday and you’ll find a large selection of sale items. Ask favorite stores about their policies.
How to save on your dry-cleaning bill…
Apply makeup, hair spray, and perfume before getting dressed. They can all stain fabrics. Allow these products to set for at least five minutes before pulling on your clothes.
Abate odors at home. If your sweaters are a bit stale (but not stained), use heat-activated dryer sheets, to freshen them up.
Spot-clean. If you get a small stain, treat it immediately with a product like OxiClean Spray-A-Way and save yourself an emergency trip.
Check your local newspaper for coupons and deals.
Practice moderation. Overcleaning can decrease clothing’s longevity, so dry-clean only when necessary.
How to save on holiday…
Mail flat rate for heavier items. Choose this two to three day shipping option (for domestic destinations) from the U.S. Postal Service and pay the same amount regardless of box weight.
Send out holiday postcards. If you choose the standard 4 1/4-by-6-inch size, you’ll save 15 cents a card (using a 27 cent stamp instead of a 42 cent one).
Say so long to expensive wrapping paper. Cover your gifts with butcher paper instead of “designer” paper.
Stock up on wine by the case to present as hostess gifts. Most retailers offer a 10% discount on larger orders. Some will even let you mix different brands in one box.
Top gifts with yarn.
Stick with serving a signature punch or cocktail. Stocking a full bar can be quite costly.
Ditch disposable stemware. It may seem cheap, but the price of plastic can really add up, since you’ll have to buy it for each party. Instead, visit a restaurant-supply store (check your Yellow Pages to find the nearest one). You’ll find reusable glass stemware for around $1 a glass.
How to save on winter gear…
For parkas, fleece, and other clothing: Shop large chain stores, like Dick’s Sporting Goods, to find the best deals.
For ski equipment: Check out a ski swap.
For snow shovels: Seek out holiday sales.
For firewood: Check local newspapers for firewood suppliers, then cut and split your own or hire a neighborhood kid to do it.
How to save on Halloween…
Steer clear of the costume aisle. Try some of these homegrown options instead.
Sweeten the deal. Drugstore “fun size” candy assortments average about 14 cents apiece. Oriental Trading Company offers lesser-known brands, like Wonka’s Laffy Taffy, at 7 cents a pop.
Head straight to local farms. You’ll save $5 to $10 per gourd, since grocery stores mark them up at this time of year.
Liven up your home with glow-in-the-dark paint. Decorative lights can cost $26 per string, so use the water-based paint ($5.50 for one ounce, glonation.com) to personalize pumpkins.
Wow! There are a lot of good tips in there. Did you see any that you think you could use? Or do you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share?