25 ways to save
There are many ways to cut corners and pinch pennies and not be destined
to live a reduced-price life. Being cheap is a state of mind and a
great way to turn your home 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 as dignified.
"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,"
Penny-pinchers use products and services resourcefully.
This can range from timing a shower and having leftovers for lunch
to washing and reusing disposable plastic bags.
Here are 25 great ways to release the cheapskate within
you or to stop spending and start filling that cookie jar.
1. Air fares
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 no-frills, discount airlines whenever possible. Cut costs
even more by travelling on off-peak days such as Saturday and Tuesday
through Thursday. Buy your tickets in advance.
2. Car rental
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.
3. New cars
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, check Bankrate's auto
loan search engine.
Do your homework before negotiating on a vehicle.
Research the vehicle's fuel efficiency and suggested retail price
by checking new-car guides at Web sites such as CarQuotes.ca.
Comparison-shop and be sure to let the salesperson
know you are doing so. 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 the dealer.
4. Used cars
Before you buy a used car, always compare the seller's asking price
with the average retail price in a car guide such as the Canadian
Have a mechanic check the car, especially if it 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.
5. Auto leasing
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 Bankrate's auto lease payment calculator
to determine how much this lease will really cost.
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 Bankrate's gasoline price calculator
to find out if you can save by driving to a cheaper gas station.
7. Auto insurance
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.
8. Homeowner/renter insurance
Raise your deductibles. Always make sure you buy enough coverage
to replace the house and its contents. Make sure your new policy
is in effect before dropping an old one.
9. Life insurance
For insurance protection only, buy a term insurance policy. It's
much less expensive than whole-life, universal-life or other policies
that have an investment or savings component.
While you may be growing a cash reserve that you can
borrow against or simply collect when the policy expires, the higher
premiums you pay usually make this investment choice much more expensive
than if you invest outside of your insurance provider.
Select a free chequing account or one that has no minimum-balance
requirement. If you can't find a bank with free chequing in your
area, consider an online bank. Check with your bank to see if it
will lower its chequing fees if you use direct deposit.
Don't 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 travelling 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 chequing or savings
accounts, put your money in comparatively higher-interest-rate savings
or money market accounts. Internet banks offer some of the best
13. Credit cards
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. Bankrate
can 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 onerous.
Your first house need not be your dream home. Lower your expectations
-- start with a townhouse or condo. Just start building equity.
Choose the shortest amortization period you can afford. The monthly
payments will be higher, but you'll save thousands of dollars in
interest charges over the life of the debt.
15. Mortgage refinancing
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.
16. Home equity loans
Using home equity loans or lines of credit can be a cheap way for
homeowners to consolidate expensive, high-interest debts such as
credit cards. Use caution -- if you can't make the payments, you
could lose your house.
17. Major appliances
Reports for information about specific brands and how to evaluate
them, including energy use. Once you find a brand you like, 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. 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 as incandescent bulbs.
19. Local telephone service
Get the cheapest plan possible. Get rid of optional services such
as three-way calling and call waiting. Check the phone bill to see
if you have any optional services that you really don't need or
20. Long distance phone costs
Long distance calls are cheaper if made in the evening or on weekends.
Check rates with three or four companies to see which has the least
expensive plan for the type of calls you make. Every few months
shop again. Rates change regularly and if you often make calls outside
your local area, you can save a lot. Or, buy a long distance phone
card with rates of 3.5 to 5 cents per minute.
Always shop with a list. Compare the unit prices on shelf labels.
Stock up on items you regularly use during sales. Use coupons, but
only for products you normally buy.
22. Prescription drugs
Ask for a generic equivalent; it's much cheaper. Pharmacy 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. Always send in for the rebate on a purchase,
whether it's $2 or $50. It all adds up.
24. Review your benefits package
You may be paying for an overlap in coverage between your policy
and your spouse's work plan. You may also be paying for life insurance
coverage that is cheaper to get on your own, or which you don't
need because of an existing policy you bought privately.
Go to matinees of first-run movies. You'll still get the big-screen
experience but at a significant savings. Try a repertory theatre,
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
hurt too badly? If you'd like to share your tips and make a little
cash too, enter our Frugal U contest. Each month the best tipster
Jasmine Miller is a freelance writer in Toronto.