1. Park in the boondocks. In many situations, you pay a premium for a premium parking spot. Next time you are heading somewhere where you pay to park, leave a few minutes early and opt for the farther—and cheaper—lot. The exercise you get hiking to your designation is a bonus.
2. Don’t be a package snob. There’s a funny commercial running right now promoting bag cereal that gently chides people for being box snobs. I like this commercial because I have to admit that I have chosen items simply based on their packaging. Focusing on the content, rather than the container, is a smart money move.
3. Practice patience. Love to go to the movies? If you can stand to wait a few weeks, your favorite flicks will be playing on the big screen at the discount theaters. If you can’t wait to watch your favorite flick, choose a less expensive matinee.
4. Dust off your negotiation skills. Most service providers are willing to negotiate on price, especially on slow business days. I recently got a great deal on a radio install simply because the shop had immediate openings.
5. Skip dessert. Or if you are a chocoholic, skip the appetizer. Skipping one course when dining out is a simple sacrifice that can benefit your wallet and your waistline.
6. Don’t leave without the leftovers. Portion sizes have become so huge that a restaurant dinner can easily double as the next day’s lunch. If you purchase a bottle of wine that goes unfinished, ask if you can take the rest home.
7. DIY. Need your car washed, your dog walked or your lawn mowed? Do it yourself! This also works for snow shoveling, house cleaning, doing laundry, and getting your nails done. (I will leave it up to you if you want to try and cut your own hair—I sure wouldn’t!)
8. Pack your lunch. This is a commonly offered financial tip for one reason—it makes perfect sense. Packing your lunch one or two days a week can quickly save you $10 or more. In addition to saving you money, bringing, rather than buying, your lunch saves you calories and time.
9. Try before you buy. Think twice before buying expensive equipment to support a hobby that may or may not hold your interest. Instead, borrow equipment from friends or family for a while and buy your own only when you are ready commit.
10. Cancel a costly card. Review the terms of your credit card agreements carefully and consider canceling the card with the highest cost of credit. The cost of credit includes the amount you pay in fees and interest.
11. Jump on the coupon bandwagon. Coupon clippers know that it is easy to save $10 during a trip to the grocery store. If you can’t commit to couponing, invest in an entertainment or “eBook” typically sold as school fundraisers. The eBook I just purchased for $10 has (among many other things) four $5 off coupons to my local grocery store.
12. Be late (or early). We all learned about supply and demand in school, yet most of us still tend to follow the pack. Instead, travel during off-peak months, dine at odd hours, and celebrate a holiday (Valentine's Day is right around the corner!) a day or week late to get the best deals.
13. Try free service before fee-for-service. A lot of software companies offer “basic” programs for low or no cost. The idea is to lure you into liking their products so much that you will be willing to pay for more features. But before you do, ask yourself if you really need more. You might find that the “basic” service adequately and affordability serves your needs.
14. Buy generic. Look for generic brands or store brands of items where it really doesn’t make a difference. For example, some products have the same taste and texture, regardless of whether it’s a name brand or the store brand. The difference in price, however, can amount to as much as a 50 percent.
15. Save your energy. A 50 percent increase in energy costs during the colder months is not uncommon, depending on how cold it actually gets. Setting your thermostat at a reasonable temperature, sealing leaky windows, and insulating your water heater can result in substantial savings.
16. Buy in bulk. Buying large sizes can often save money. Usually, the unit price is less for larger containers. It is also a good idea to stock up on items you will need when they are on sale. But before you buy in bulk, be sure you will actually use a bulk of the item.
17. Comparison shop. Do not assume that all supermarkets have the same prices. If you have a few chains in your area and you do not know which ones are least expensive, check them all out. Make a list of the ten or so products you buy most often, and do some comparison shopping. Often you will find a huge difference between chains, and, if you can save just five percent, it adds up to hundreds of dollars over the long run.
18. Shop at the thrift store. Before you head to the mall, stop by your local thrift store. This is especially smart for an item you need only once. For example, I found black dress pants my son needed for a school concert for $2.99 (they were J Crew and in perfect condition!)
19. Visit your local library. The library is a treasure trove of books, movies, games, and CDs. Borrowing books and other media can quickly and easily save $10 or more (just be sure to return items on time!) You might also consider turning in books you no longer want to second hand book store that gives you credit to read more.
20. Consider the cost of convenience. Limit or eliminate shopping at the corner convenience store for items that could be purchased less expensively on your weekly supermarket trips. Along those same lines, don’t assume that the grocery store is the best place to buy non-grocery items such as batteries and laundry detergent.