Thursday, August 5, 2021

Who Knew? Ten Lesser-Known Money-Saving Tips


Each summer, AARP Bulletin publishes a 99 Great Ways to Save article with money-saving ideas. As a financial educator who has taught budgeting and frugal living for decades, I often find these lists full of strategies that I already know such as:

Traveling with an empty water bottle to fill beyond TSA checkpoints, keeping refrigerator settings slightly below 40 degrees, senior discounts, seasonal sales, digital coupons and promo codes, bartering, supermarket “loss leaders,” unit pricing, meatless meals, YouTube video tutorials, insulating hot water pipes, and warm water clothes washing.

Also, sealing windows, fee-free National Park days, reviewing medical bills for errors, home gardening, shopping apps, online travel alerts, thrift store and estate sale shopping deals, property insurance “bundling, fixing leaky toilets, online banks, and AARP/AAA discounts.

Also, cash-back and low-interest credit cards, pre-tax employer flexible spending accounts, negotiating (a.k.a., haggling) for price discounts, LED light bulbs, city “restaurant week” deals, telecommuting, drinking home/office coffee, cleaning dryer lint, airline travel date flexibility, “round-up” savings apps, raising insurance deductibles, cancelling collision/comprehensive coverage (old cars), and GasBuddy (to find cheap gas).

Also, MOOCs (low-cost online courses), mortgage principal prepayment, automatic bill payment (to save on postage), online banks, skipping beverages/drinking water at restaurants, changing furnace filters, insulating attic hatches, store/restaurant/airline loyalty programs, birthday freebies from retailers, and more.

Nevertheless, I also continue to find money savings tips that are new to me. I call them my “Who Knews?” Below is a list of 10 of my “Who Knews?” from the several recent annual AARP 99 Great Ways to Save articles. If these money-saving tips are new to me, they might also be for you, too. Happy saving! All of these small steps add up over time.

¨     Ink Jet Cartridge Fix- Printer cartridges may still have ink in them but it could be blocked by dried up ink. Take them out, heat them with a hair dryer, and gently shake them to see if any remaining ink can be saved.

¨     Ink-Conserving Printer Fonts- Select light versions of fonts before printing out documents. In addition, a Times New Roman font uses less ink than Arial and Calibri because the letters are thinner. Over time, this adds up.

¨     Car Oil Change Sensors- On many newer cars, it is best to wait for sensors to notify you when oil needs changing instead of changing still-good oil at a pre-determined number of miles such as 3,000 miles, 5,000 miles, or longer.

¨     Discounted Gift Cards- There are a number of websites that buy back unused gift cards and sell them at a discount from their face value. Be sure to check their fine print about shipping costs and possible online use only.

¨     Generic Pet Medications- Pet owners can search online for sources of generic alternatives to popular “name brand” medications to keep their pets healthy (e.g., protect against heartworms and treat arthritic pain).

¨     Pill Splitting for Prescription Drugs- If it makes financial sense and only if your doctor agrees, consider splitting a double-strength medication in half (to create two single doses) so it lasts longer (e.g., 180 days instead of 90 days).

¨     Online Comparison Shopping- AARP recommended an app called ShopSavvy. Simply go to a store, scan the bar code for an item that you are interested in buying, and the app will tell you if it is being sold elsewhere for less.

¨     Cell Phone Data Pruning- The objective here is to turn off cell apps that use data even when you are not using them. As one of the “Settings” commands on smart phones, data use for apps that you rarely use can be toggled off.

¨     Gas Purchase Timing- According to data gathered by GasBuddy, Monday is the cheapest day to buy gas in most states and Friday is the worst. Depending on where you live and how much you drive, savings on cheaper gas can add up.

¨     Non-Member Warehouse Club Discounts- The AARP article noted that certain products (e.g., prescription drugs and alcohol) and services (e.g., hearing tests) are available to non-members of Sam’s Club and/or Costco. In addition, non-members can make purchases at Costco if they have a gift card.

Think of all of the above suggestions as a “Jersey Diner Menu” from which you can pick a meal. In other words, select those money-savings strategies that are relevant for you and your lifestyle. Next, identify the potential savings from the strategies that you select using the CFPB worksheet Cutting Expenses.

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