SMART WAYS TO SAVE ON
With soaring prices on fuel and rampant inflation at the checkout counter. Who isn’t looking for ways to save money? These smart shopping strategies and insider tricks can keep more bucks in your pocket.
Smart:Avoid bogus gadgets – vapor bleeders. Fuel line magnets and other devices that claim to increase gas mileage. Environmental Protection Agency tests haven’t found a device that really delivers. Instead, stick to important basics, such as keeping your car in top running order and well maintained.
Smarter: Get a rebate. The Discover Open Road Card offers a 5% rebate on gas and car maintenance purchases up to $1200.00 annually. And lots of hotels are offering gas deals to keep tourists coming.
Go to BedandBreakfast.com for a list of B&Bs that have deals. Prufrocks in Carpenteria, California, which will give guests $50.00 or 10% of their gas bill, whichever is greater.
Online travel agency, Bookit.com offers half-price gas cards and flight credits up to $200.00 on some packages.
Join Choice Hotels’ Choice Privileges program and after three stays, you can receive a $50.00 gas card.
Smartest: Find the best prices before leaving home, and/or consider sharing the ride. To price shop, go to GasBuddy.com and plug in your commuting or trip route. Then look for gas stations with the lowest prices. (Focus on those that have been updated in the last 24 hours.) On a recent trek, my family filled up at a GasBuddy recommendation in New Bedford, Mass., for as much as 40 cents a gallon less than nearby pumps charged.
To share the ride, whether you’re road-tripping or commuting, check with Carpoolworld.com and eRideShare.com to connect with eager passengers or drivers.
Smart: Buy local when you can, as the high cost of transporting food long distances is one culprit behind rising prices. Fortunately, summer is the prime time to find delicious, locally raised food at Farmers’ Markets. Also check food co-ops, which often offer hefty discounts to their members.
Smarter: Get coupons in your paper’s weekday food section or check online. Dozens of websites let you electronically “clip” coupons for manufactures discounts. (Don’t forget Grandma) CouponMom.com which not only has grocery coupons, but also offers restaurant discounts.
If you can shop at Kroger Supermarket, go to Kroger.com and click on “P&G eSaver”. Choose your coupons and type in your Kroger card number to download then directly onto your card. When checking out the coupons will automatically be applied to your total.
Smartest: Use GroceryGuide.com to compare prices at local stores without wasting gas driving around. Check the price of whole chickens or your favorite cereal or look up weekly specials. Sign up for sale alerts from your favorite grocers.
Smart: Time retail purchases right. You’ll find the best prices on Thursday evening, 6-8 weeks after an item arrives in the stores. By then retailers are expecting the next shipment and want to move the “old stuff”. Check newspapers for sales and coupons from big retailers like Macy’s.
Smarter: Negotiate a deal. Did you know that electronic and appliance stores are not the only places you can haggle? Clothing retailers are often willing to make a deal, especially if you are a regular customer and you have found the same item for less at a competitors, or you are buying a lot at once. Ask whether they will give you a sale price or 50% off the second item you purchase. It certainly never hurts to ask.
Smartest: Shop used and discounted. Check out the ThriftShopper.com for a list of thrift shops near you. Browse often for things you and your family need. Call and ask when they get deliveries and shop on those days before the best stuff gets snapped up. There is usually a dressing room, but bring a tape measure just in case.
For more up-scale wares, go to ConsignmentShop.com to find stores that sell fancier used clothing. This is a great way to get a cocktail dress, tuxedo, furs, shoes, etc. for a whole lot less than retail. Sell your nicer, gently used clothes through the same shop and put more money in your wallet.
You can also check out the outlet malls, sometimes you can find a better deal at those than at regular retail stores. But be careful, what you think is a bargain, sometimes is not. Do your homework before you go to shop.
HAIRCUTS AND MORE
Smart: Hunt for grooming coupons. Type in your salon’s name (or a national chain like Hair Cuttery) and the word coupon in a search engine and see what shows up. More are offering discounts on haircuts, manicures, waxing and other services to bring in business. Also get on your salon’s mailing list so you don’t miss up-coming promotions.
Do not buy beauty products at the Salon, instead check out the products at a beauty warehouse. You can save quite a bit with this tip.
Smarter: Support your local beauty school. Some offer cuts for as low as $5.00, as well as manicures, facials and other beauty services. All students are under the supervision of a licensed expert and since I have used their services, I will recommend it. Go to beautyschools.com to find a school near you.
Smartest: Visit a day spa on the cheap. Local hotels with spa facilities may let you visit for the entire day when you sign up for just one treatment. At the St. Regis in Manhattan, show up early for your $165.00 massage and use the extensive fitness facility. Afterward, have a steam and lounge in luxury. The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort in Chandler, Arizona; non guest can use the spa’s pools, Jacuzzis and steam rooms for the day at $35.00.
Smart: Be your own travel agent. First, when booking airfare always check directly with individual airlines. More carriers are offering exclusive deals than ever before to avoid paying commissions to travel site or agents. Sign up for airline e-newsletters, which offer specials you will not find elsewhere.
Next, check the big travel sites like Expedia.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com and Kayak.com. (I like Kayak because it gives the fares from most of the other sites for comparison.) Sign up for their fare alerts, for flights in and out of your local airport. For the latest airfare news, go to Airfarewatchdog.com and FareCompare.com. Remember, Friday and Saturday are the most expensive days for domestic travel. In my experience, I find that if you can travel on Wednesday, it seems to be the cheapest day.
Smart:Sign up for deals. First, check out your local Entertainment Books. For a small fee, about $25.00, you get dozens of coupons for local restaurants (and other entertainment options). Go to Entertainment.com to find the link to your neighborhood Entertainment Book. Join e-mail lists for national chains like Ruby Tuesday, TGIF and others to learn about special promotions, including free meals.
Smarter: Browse the menu before you go to make sure the prices are in line with your budget. Websites such as OpenTable.com and MenuPages.com post the menus for reservations and earn points.
Smartest: The lunch menu is almost always less expensive than the dinner menu. Go for the fixed price specials. There are usually two to three courses and several choices for each course. They are often a great value. Check out the Chefs’ Specials for the day as well, sometimes the best deal on the menu.
Smart: Ask your local theater if they offer special deals or preview discounts. Some, like Texas Midland Community Theater, have a “pay as you can” day, with prices as low as $1.00.
The Des Moines Playhouse discounts unsold day-of-show tickets.
Looking for concert tickets? Join your favorite band’s fan club to catch wind of possible discounts.
Smarter: Many chain cinemas, such as AMC and Regal, show child-friendly movies one a week for free or cheap during the summer. Also check out discount ticket packets of 50 tickets (they don’t expire from almost all the major chains). The price works out to about $6.00 rather than the $9-10.00 an adult would pay for an evening showing.
For movie rentals, look for freestanding kiosks. Redbox, for example, which is found in select McDonald’s, Walgreens and many grocery stores, offers overnight rental on new releases for $1.00.
Rather play video games? GameFly.com is a video game rental site that works like Netflix. The cheapest plan, for one game at a time, costs $8.95 for the first month and $15.95 a month after that. You can keep the game as long as you want or rent as many others as you’d like during the month. For big gamers, the fee may come out to less than the typical $7.99 per game for five days at Blockbuster or another rental chain. Plus there are not any late fees.
Smartest: Be a tourist in your own town. Plenty of grocery stores and superstores offer special deals to area attractions. For example, Discount Drug Mart, an Ohio chain, sells marked-down passes to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky. Jewel Osco grocery stores in Illinois offer a 25% savings for Six Flags Great America in Gurnee.
Pull out those key-chain savings cards at the local amusement park or zoo. Often flashing your grocery or warehouse “membership card” will save you money. Winn-Dixie shoppers get $2.00 off admission at Florida’s Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens.
Plus check your local Entertainment Book for money saving coupons to area attractions.
GARDEN AND LAWN CARE
Smart: Do not hesitate to go for garden center leftovers. Annuals and perennials are likely root-bound by now, leaving you free to negotiate a lower price. Many plants can be given a makeover with this quick fix. Turn the root ball upside down and cut an X halfway up the soil with a sharp knife. Spread the four flaps and plant in well prepared soil or potting mix. Cut off any flowers and cut the stems back to encourage new growth. Water frequently.
Smartest: Save on gardening and lawn care supplies at sites such as GardenBargainsOnline.com, this is a clearing house for coupons, discounts, free shipping and other special offers at nursery and garden product companies. For example, a neoprene garden tote was recently on sale for $19.99 instead of regular price of $27.99.
Gardeners.com also offers good prices on overstock items. Be sure to check often for the best deals.
Smart: Use free room planners at manufacturer websites, such as Jordans.com and Bassettfurniture.com, to map out a professional-looking floor plan and avoid costly mistakes; like buying a dining room set that is too big for your room.
Smarter: Avoid shipping charges – especially the high fees for big, heavy furniture. After you have browsed the local showrooms and you are ready to buy, do a price check on the Internet. You may often find the same item for less. Stick to sites like Highbrowfurniture.com and Furniture-Zoo.com. If you find a better deal on a coveted sofa, print out the offer and take it to your local retailer and negotiate.
Smartest: Buy direct from the manufacturer. Take a virtual tour of High Point, North Carolina, the U.S. furniture making capitol, at HighPointChamber.org. Click on “Furniture”, then “Furniture Shopping” to link to 65 retailers.
If you can go to High Point in person, that is even better. Most makers have their own factories and showrooms that offer wholesale prices. What’s more, outlets near and around High Point sell items at 50 to 80% below retail.