How to save money on just about anything

February 18, 2010 | 1,548 Comments

I recently came across this article in my Real Simple magazine and thought it was worth sharing. In 2008, the average American household made just over $63,000, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they spent over $50,000 of that.

January’s issue of Real Simple magazine has some great new tips on cutting costs across the board, and Sarah Humphreys, executive editor of the magazine, shared some of them on “The Early Show.”

How to Save on Food

The average household spends $3,744 a year on groceries. For a large family, this number could triple.

Follow these tips to put your food budget on a diet:

Tip #1: Stop by a local outlet for baked goods from Entenmann’s, Arnold, and Boboli for savings of up to 50%. Find an outlet near you at GW Bakeries.com.

Tip#2: Coupons — Sign up with CouponMom.com for a list of grocery deals available near you, plus printable coupons. Become a member of eCoupon’s Grocery Coupon Trading Club, eCoupons.com, collect coupons you don’t want and mail them to the website. In return, select up to 25 coupons you do want.

Tip#3: Prepackaged foods cost more — if you wash your own greens or cut your own fruit and vegetables. For example: A bag of pre-washed romaine lettuce costs $3.25 vs. a head of romaine at $1.99.

Tip#4: Track your food budget — each time you buy food, drop the receipt in an envelope. At the end of the month, analyze your spending to see where you can make cuts. An average family of four should aim to spend no more than $125.

Tip#5: Make a list and stick to it — people who avoid impulsive shopping spend up to 23 percent less on grocery bills, an annual savings of around $861.

How to Save on Healthcare

Medical bills are skyrocketing, costing the average household $2,976 last year. Here’s how to reduce the pain.

Tip#1: Use a retail clinic — consider heading to a medical clinic at a nearby pharmacy (like Walgreens or CVS), rather than your doctor or urgent-care center, or the emergency room. Staffed by nurse-practitioners or physician’s assistants, they can treat minor conditions for less. $110 vs. $166 for a doctor’s visit, annual savings: $168.

Tip#2: Try Planned Parenthood — visit one of these clinics for a routine Pap test, a new birth-control prescription, or even a flu shot. Most locations accept insurance. Call your local office for services and fees.

Tip#3: Head to a dental school — most schools have clinics staffed by students that offer cleanings for up to 50 percent off the going rate. Call Oral Health America (312-836-9900) to find a location nearest you. Or join a dental network, for $100-$200 a year; you can receive 10 percent to 60 percent off services and treatments.

Tip#4: Hit the web for eyewear — look at sites like VisionDirect.com or Lens.com for contact lenses or ZenniOptical.com, where you can buy a pair of frames for as little as $8.

Tip #5: Find the best price on prescription drugs — compare your local pharmacy prices to DestinationRX.com. Prices can vary as much as $40.

How to Save on Entertainment

Families spend $2,835 on recreation each year. These savings tips won’t cut out the fun.

Tip#1: Refurbished products — save up to $20 if you buy refurbished Apple iPods or computers from Apple.com. Click on store to find pre-owned gadgets that have the same warranty coverage as new ones.

Tip#2: Surf for cheap tickets — looking for affordable seats to a concert, sporting event or Broadway show? Zebratickets.com aggregates prices from major ticket retailers so you can find the best deal.

Tip#3: Save on the slopes — ski buffs will love Liftopia.com, a site that offers an average of 33 percent off tickets at more than 120 ski resorts.

Tip#4: Swap movies and more — sites like Trader.com and SwapTree.com make it easy to exchange DVD’s, CD’s, and books for others.

How to Save on Home Expenses

Housing costs as average of $17,109 annually. Here are ways you can avoid pouring your money down the drain.

Tip#1: Make free phone calls — download a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) application to your computer and call family and friends worldwide at no cost. Sign up a Skype.com, Lingo.com, or Voip.com.

Tip#2: Audit your bills — according to the Citizens Utility Board, the average cell phone user could save $331 a year by shopping for a better plan. Check out BillShrink.com or LowerMyBills.com. Also, don’t file away the cable and phone bills before taking a hard look at them. If there are services you rarely use, you could save as much as $500.

Tip#3: Appeal your tax bill — recent market declines mean you might be paying too much in property taxes. Get a copy of your home’s assessment from your local assessor’s office and compare it with assessments on similar houses in your area. About 75 percent of appeals result in a reduction of taxes.

Tip#4: Cut your mortgage or rent — interest rates on home loans hit historical lows in the spring of 2009 and have remained low since. Use the refinance calculator at BankRate.com, to figure out how much you can save. Also, if home values have dropped drastically in your area, or if you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, you may be eligible for a Home Affordable Refinance or Modification. This federal program helps qualified home owners refinance at lower rates or modify loans to help save on their mortgage. Visit MakingHomeAffordable.gov for eligibility information. If you are renter, log onto Rentometer.com to find out whether your payments are reasonable for your area. Then present your finding to your landlord, or use the data to look for a new place.

Tip#5: Cut your home owners insurance — many insurers offer 5 percent discounts to home owners who add smoke alarms and dead bolts to their homes. Or, boost your deductible — by increasing it from $200 to $1,000 may save you as much as 25 percent on insurance costs annually. The average person files a claim just once every 8 to 10 years. This could save as much as $201.

How to Save on Transportation

Getting from here to there costs $8,604 annually. Follow these suggestions for schlepping to work — and around town — without running your wallet dry.

Tip#1: Be a zen driver — aggressive driving guzzles up to 33 percent more gas on the highway and 5 percent more around town, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Tip#2: Bike it – commuters on two wheels who ride to work at three days a week can get a tax break of $20 a month from participating employers to help cover equipment and storage costs, which could save you $240 annually.

Tip#3: Ignore the tire manufacturer — don’t follow the number printed on the tire’s sidewall when adding air. Instead, fill the tires to the pressure that is printed on the sticker on the driver’s-side door or in the glove box and get three percent better fuel efficiency. Also, performing regular tune-ups on your vehicle can boost its gas mileage by about four percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Tip#5: Evaluate your insurance — if your car has a low resale value, you may want to opt out of collision coverage. Go to KBB.com to determine your ride’s current value. Then take your comprehensive and collision premium and multiply that figure by 10. If your car is worth less than that, drop the coverage.

How to Save on Apparel

Putting clothes on your back shouldn’t cost $1,800 a year. Here’s how to fill up your closet without spending a fortune.

Tip#1: Save up to 15 percent — your AAA membership scores you discounts at retailers like Target.com, New York & Company and more. Visit AAA.com/ShopNow for details.

Tip#2: Shop the middleman – brand names tend to go on sale and more often (and at deeper discounts) as retailers with a lot of variety, like department stores, compared with the label’s own store or website.

Tip#3: Get secret discounts — several department stores (like Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus) now offer unadvertised, on-lone only rush sales to their email subscribers. Sign up and you’ll receive friends and family promotions that could save you $450 annually.

Tip#4: Cash out — some shops, especially independent ones, will offer you at least 10 percent off when you pay with cash, a savings of $180 annually.

Source: Real Simple magazine


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