Hey, cheapskate! Stand
tall while you spend small
There are many
ways to cut corners and pinch pennies and not be destined to live a reduced-price
life. Being cheap is state of mind and a great way to turn your economics around
without denying yourself the simple pleasures of living. Hey, it's even cool.
Mary Hunt, founding
editor of the Web site Cheapskate Monthly defines the oft-maligned cheapskate
"A cheapskate has a balanced, honest
and dignified approach to money management. It's someone who doesn't spend more
than they earn or let money and material possessions rule their thoughts and desires.
"A cheapskate does not buy on impulse," says Ms.
Penny-pinchers use products and services
resourcefully. This can range from timing a shower to having leftovers for lunch
to washing and reusing disposable plastic bags.
are 25 ways to release the cheapskate within you or to stop spending and start
filling that cookie jar.
The more flexible your travel plans, the more you'll save. Use the Internet to
search for the cheapest tickets and buy them online. Travel on low-fare airlines
and through substitute airports. Cut costs even more by traveling off-peak days
such as Saturday and Tuesday through Thursday. Buy your tickets in advance.
Shop around for the best basic rates. Inquire about additional
charges such as gas, drop-off fees and extra-driver rates. Find special offers.
Check with your insurance carrier and credit card company to avoid duplicating
coverage you might already have.
If you can, buy the car with cash or make a large down payment.
Get the lowest financing possible. To find the best rates offered in your area,
auto loan search engine. Do your homework before negotiating on a vehicle.
Research the vehicle's fuel economy, maintenance needs, insurance and repair costs
by checking new-car guides at Web sites such as Edmund's,
Comparison-shop and be sure to let the salesperson know you are doing that. Some
fees can be negotiated, such as the "dealer prep" charge. Try to get
the dealer to drop the fee. It's just more profit for them.
Before you buy a used car, always compare the seller's asking
price with the average retail price in a car price guide such as Kelly
Blue Book. Have a mechanic check the car, especially if the car is sold "as
is." Buy from people you know and trust. They are more likely to sell at
a lower price and point out any problems with the vehicle.
Don't lease just because the payments are low. After all,
in the end, you won't own the car. If you do decide to lease, know the fair market
value of the car and then haggle price and terms with the dealer just as you would
if you were buying. Make sure you're clear on all the fees and terms, especially
excess mileage penalties and "wear and tear" fees.
Use this auto
lease payment calculator to determine how much this lease really is costing
Keep your engine well-maintained and your tires at the proper pressure to save
on fuel costs. Look for a gas station that supplies free air. Combine errands
into a single trip and use the family's most fuel-efficient car when doing extensive
driving. Compare prices at different gas stations; pump the gas yourself; and
use the lowest octane possible for your car. Check
out this calculator
to find out if you can save by driving to a cheaper gas station.
Shop around as rates vary widely. Call at least four agencies.
You can lower your rates by raising your deductibles on collision and comprehensive
coverage to at least $500. If you have an old clunker, drop the coverage altogether.
Raise your deductibles. Always make sure that you purchase
enough coverage to replace the house and its contents. Make sure your new policy
is in effect before dropping an old one.
For insurance protection only, buy a term insurance policy.
Don't cancel your whole life, universal life or other cash value policy before
15 years, or your life insurance costs could be doubled.
Select a free checking account or one that has no minimum-balance requirement.
If you cannot find a bank with free checking in your area, consider an online
bank. Check with your bank to see if it will lower checking fees if you use direct
Do not pay
ATM fees. It's throwing away money. Always use your bank's ATM or get cash back
from point-of-purchase sales at places such as at the grocery store. This strategy
is particularly effective when traveling, and eliminates the late-night drive
in the rental car through unfamiliar territory searching for a network ATM.
Rather than stashing idle cash in low-yielding checking or savings accounts,
put your money in short-term certificates of deposit or money market accounts.
Internet banks offer some of the best yields. Want to know which financial institution
is paying the highest yield? Check out Bankrate's
savings and CD search engine.
To eliminate all interest charges and fees, pay off your account
each month. If you do carry a balance, switch to a card with a low interest rate.
credit card search engine will help you find the best deal on a card. Limit
yourself to two credit cards. Read your monthly billing statements carefully making
sure you pay on time and don't exceed your credit limit. Those penalty fees are
Your first house need not be the "dream home." Lower your expectations
-- start with a townhouse or condo. Just start building equity. If you are a first-time
home buyer, find out if you qualify for special
mortgage and down payment programs in your neighborhood. Get the shortest-term
mortgage you can afford. The monthly payments will be higher, but you'll save
thousands of dollars in interest charges. Go with a low-rate mortgage and the
fewest points. To find the best rates in your area, check Bankrate's
mortgage rate search engine.
Consider refinancing your mortgage if you can get a rate
at least 1 percent lower than your existing mortgage rate. But first, look at
your current payment, figure the costs of refinancing and see how long it would
take you to recoup the charges. Use this refinancing
calculator to decide whether refinancing will save you money.
Generally, the interest paid on home equity loans is
tax deductible. Using home equity loans or lines of credit can be a cheap way
for homeowners to consolidate expensive, high-interest debts like credit cards
and reap the tax savings. Use caution -- if you cannot make the payments, you
could lose your house.
Consult Consumer Reports for information about specific brands and how to evaluate
them, including energy use. Once you find a brand, call a few stores and ask for
the prices of specific models. After each store offers you a quote, find out if
it is the lowest price they can offer. Haggle!
Make sure your appliances are energy efficient, especially air conditioners and
furnaces. Enroll in a load-management and off-hour rate programs offered by your
electric company. Get a home energy audit to find ways to save on heating and
air conditioning. Some utility companies do the audit for free or for an affordable
charge. Try the new generation of compact fluorescent light bulbs. They use 70
percent less electricity and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent light
bulbs. They screw into the same sockets and produce the same quality of light
Local telephone service:
Consider scrapping your landline altogether - more Americans are
simply relying on their cell phones for service, cutting their phone
bills by as much as half. But if a home phone is a necessity, check
with your provider to see if it offers a flat rate or measured service
plan. Get the cheapest plan possible. Check the phone bill to see
if you have any optional services that you really don't need or
Long distance phone costs:
Long-distance calls are cheaper if made in the evening or on weekends.
If you make a lot of calls, consider a long-distance calling plan.
Check rates with three or four companies to see which has the least
expensive plan for the type of calls you make. Additionally, most
cell phone plans offer free long distance within the United States
and free phone calls during nights and weekends. Why pay extra for
something that you could be getting for free?
Always shop with a list. Compare price-per-ounce or other unit prices on
shelf labels. Stock up on items you regularly use during sales. Use coupons, but
only for products you normally buy.
Ask for a generic equivalent; it's much cheaper. Pharmacies'
charges vary, so comparison shop regularly. Consider using a mail order pharmacy,
which often sells for a lower price.
Start holiday shopping early and spread it out over a few months instead of a
few days. If your state offers "tax-free" shopping days during the summer
-- get a jump on birthday and holiday purchases then.
ALWAYS send in for
the rebate on a purchase, whether it's $2 or $50. It all adds up.
Give yourself a raise by contributing to your company's 401(k)
program. Not only will you be wisely sacking money away for retirement, but you'll
pay less tax each pay period. Retirement contributions are not taxed until they
are withdrawn. Plus, most companies contribute to the 401(k) accounts of participating
employees. That's a raise.
Go to matinees of first-run movies. You'll still get the big-screen experience
but at a significant savings. Try out a dollar theater, a local film festival
or even a drive-in. To really save, rent movies. Better yet, check out your local
public library for free movies to borrow or work as a volunteer at a local fair
or festival -- you'll get in free.
How about you? Are you proud to be a cheapskate? Making
a difference in your budget by pinching a few pennies where it doesn't
really hurt too badly? If you'd like to share your tips and make
a little cash too, enter our Frugal
$ense contest. Each month the best tipster wins $100.