7 Painless Tricks to Save Money Every Day
Posted by Girls Guide To on March 12, 2012 at 1:40 PM
I'm not ashamed to admit that I enjoy immediate gratification as much as the next girl. I like my cable and internet. Oh and add Netflix, on top of those. I have an ever-expanding closet of clothes and shoes. I eat out. I have good insurance and use my credit card whenever I can.
That being said, I also hate paying full price. "Never pay retail" is my motto, and I try to follow it whenever I can. Here are ten simple ways to be materialistic while still improving your finances.
1. Say goodbye and hello to cable
I've had the cable bundle (cable and internet) for many years. I bought it at the teaser rate that lasted for a year. At the end of that year I began what has become an annual tradition, which is calling the cable company and saying I'm switching if they don't renew my rate. And every year they will tell me how much they value me as a customer and extend it. Occasionally, they will only value me enough to extend it for six months, so I'll need to make two calls.
The same strategy can also work on other services. These service providers know it costs much more to get a new customer, so they are willing to lower rates to keep you.
Payoff: 20 minutes a year to save $360 annually.
2. Pick the right credit card
Credit cards are a blessing and a curse. Though I have them, I use them as charge cards and don’t pay any interest. I search for the cards with the highest rewards. For me, cash rewards are more valuable because I don’t need to travel often. If you do travel, the credit cards with mileage rewards may be your best bet.
A word of caution, however. Just having a credit card makes you spend more. With one click on any web site, I can put in my credit card information and buy items I'm not sure I would buy if it weren't so easy. Thus, the easier it is to buy, the more you will spend.
Payoff: “Free” cash back or miles with no extra effort.
3. Play the "travel game"
Some people like chess. Some like Sudoku or Words with Friends. I like playing the game of travel, which requires strategy to get hotels at about 40 percent of retail price. Sites like Priceline.com and Hotwire.com let you bid on hotel rooms for much lower than they would originally cost. In just about a half hour, I can often save hundreds of dollars per trip. To me, that's a whole lot more rewarding than finishing a Sudoku game.
Payoff: 25 nights at a hotel averaging $60 a night savings, or $1,500 annually for 10 hours work.
4. Coupons are cool
In today's tough economy, coupons have become cool. These are not your mom’s coupons though. I don't clip coupons from the paper, instead using a more immediate internet strategy. For example, if I'm ordering Domino's Pizza, I will Google "Domino's coupon code" and, in 15 seconds, I've found a discount code. Many grocery stores now have mobile apps that allow you to search through the paper’s coupons and redeem through their loyalty card. Genius!
An extension of this strategy is, whenever I’m shopping online where I see the "promo code" on the checkout, I'll Google the site's name with the words "promo code." More often than not, someone has posted a promo code.
Note that I usually first find what I want and then search for a discount. If I start with the coupon, I may end up buying something I otherwise wouldn't have.
Payoff: "Estimated $1,000 a year for 5 hours of my time.
5. Keep the car
I'm the proud (ok, reluctant) owner of a 15-year old Toyota that I got in high school. Even though it honestly looks horrible, it gets me from point A to B just as quickly as the new Lexus. I also get other benefits, such as no monthly car payment, lower risk of theft (seriously, no one’s going to steal that POS), and no attitude when the police pull me over for not making that full stop.
I also get extremely lower taxes and insurance rates, and avoid paying sales tax every three years for a new car. Sure I look like a grandma, but I’d rather spend no money on a car and lots of money on new shoes.
Payoff: Annual savings from depreciation, taxes, insurance, and gasoline of $5,000 per car.
6. Shop online
You can blame me for the close of bookstores...I'd pull into my local store and browse for books. Then, I'd get online and buy it from Amazon for at least 40 percent off, with no sales tax to boot. Now with devices like the Kindle and Nook, I can get even more immediate gratification. The same thing goes with other goods as well. When I bought that a new tv, I first saw it at the mall. I then found two great deals - the lowest price didn't include shipping or set up so I called the higher priced site. They agreed to match the other site and throw in shipping and someone to set it up. With my lack of technical skills, I might still be working on the setup.
Flash sale sites can also help you score great goods on the cheap. Just be careful you're buying because you truly want or need something, not just because it's on sale.
The internet shifts power from the sellers to us consumers. With the click of a mouse, we can comparison shop across the world.
Payoff: Estimated savings of $800 annually (I saved almost this amount on my big screen last month).
7. Complain well
I work hard for my money, so when I buy something, I expect to get what's promised. If I don't, this squeaky wheel complains loudly and smartly. When I call the 800 number, I always ask for and take down the customer service representative's name or employee number. That way, I know I'm far less likely to be "accidentally dropped."
In the complaint, I try to give the important facts in a very calm manner. Usually, the service representative wants this to go away as much as I do, and will offer a solution such as refunding the purchase price or replacing the item. And if you still don't feel you've gotten satisfaction, social media is a great equalizer. The possibility of having bad customer service facts posted where everyone can see often adds leverage. If this becomes necessary, make sure you post just the documented facts and don't make it personal.
Conclusion: Don't be cheap
It's easy to slam being cost-conscious as being cheap. I couldn't disagree more. It's not about cost, it's about value, and I'm value-oriented. I get a good feeling when I've gotten a good deal. Half price dining is great, yet I always leave a generous tip on the full undiscounted amount. I'm not staying in a flea-bag motel nor forgoing the big screen TV or cable to watch my favorite shows. And the fact that I drive the worst car in the neighborhood, well, that just gives me extra incentive to save (and a few extra dollars for that new purse.)
So this isn't about being cheap -- it's about getting the most for your money. Adapt my motto: "Never pay retail."