Thursday, May 26, 2011

top 10 ways to save money

- M.W. Harrison
Piggy bank

10. Resist Eating Out
It’s tempting to let someone else do the cooking for you, especially when you’ve just come home from a full day of working. Ordering in or eating out may seem like a way to make your life easier, but it’s an expensive means of doing so. Taking the extra half-hour at night to make your own dinner, or the extra ten minutes to prepare lunch for the next day, may save you a host of worries when it comes time to pay the bills. If you feel a bit in the dark when it comes to cuisine, well hey, you can find a lot of useful advice on the net.
Cash saved: If you’re dropping $6 daily on a sandwich and salad from the cafe in the lobby, slapping some meat and cheese on a bun the night before instead is going to save you $30 a week. If you’re ordering out a couple of nights a week on top of that, at $10 a dish, you’re looking at a total of $220 monthly that could be slashed from your budget.
9. Avoid Brand Names
We’re not just talking Polo shirts here. If you think about what you routinely buy, more often than not you’ll find that you could be buying a generic version, and the only difference would be the price (and perhaps less attractive packaging). When you’re grocery shopping, go for the store brands — it really doesn’t matter who makes the aluminum foil or toilet paper you use. The same rule goes for pharmaceuticals, where you can save yourself a fortune if you stick to the no-names.
Oftentimes, the only difference between brand names and generics is the price. Next time you’re at the pharmacy, compare a Tylenol label with that of a generic acetaminophen: you’ll see that even though the Tylenol is a few bucks more, the ingredients and dosage are identical.
Cash saved: A box of 100 Tylenol PM Extra Strength caplets retails for around $12. One generic equivalent is the CVS pharmacy brand, which although equal in quantity and chemical constituents, is more than 25 percent cheaper.
Now, saving nine dollars over three annual acetaminophen purchases seems trivial, but if you extend this philosophy to the rest of your buying habits, you could avoid blowing up to hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
8. Kick Expensive Habits
If you’re a smoker, you’re probably coughing up a big wad of cash every month for something you shouldn’t be doing in the first place. If your addiction lies elsewhere, your problems may be way beyond the reach of this particular article. This tip’s a no-brainer: if you have an expensive habit, saving money is probably just one of the many reasons to drop it.
Cash saved: Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, at $5 a pack, works out to a monthly investment of $160. Not to mention, you’re slowly killing yourself. You do the math.
7. Don’t Spend When You’re Drunk
The sight of an empty wallet is frequently accompanied by a pounding headache and blurred memories of acting like a jackass. The bottle can make a person do foolish things: like picking fights with strangers over their haircuts or buying rounds of shots for the table you met ten minutes earlier. So take out some insurance, bring a reasonable amount of cash with you to the bar, and leave your bank and credit cards at home. Once you’re broke, it’s probably time to crash anyway.
Cash saved: If you’re prone to buying the crew a round of $3 shots at the end of the night, that’s an additional $30 spent per weekend. The amount hinges, of course, on how popular one is.
6. Avoid Prepayment Plans
There’s a reason why the cable company is always trying to push you into prepayment plans. Authorizing your creditors to dip directly into your bank account is essentially condemning yourself to financial ignorance. It’s easy to throw a statement away if the balance has already been paid off, but doing so involves overlooking all the little extra fees and rate changes that may pop up. Take the time to examine your bills thoroughly before submitting your payment, and be conscious of where your money is going.
Cash saved: In 2001, Americans paid $2.2 billion dollars in ATM fees. Eliminating monthly fees from your budget, whether it be by negotiating or switching service providers, can save you around $50-$70 every month.
5. Choose Your Phone Company Wisely
This tip could be extended to virtually any customer service, but it’s on phone bills that people tend to get burned the most. Ask questions before you commit to a phone carrier: is its advertised rate a fixed one, or will it increase after the first two minutes of a phone call or the first six months with the company? What additional fees will be billed every month? If you discover that you’re being billed more than you thought you were, you might not necessarily have to change carriers. Again, competition is intense between these guys, and they certainly don’t want to lose customers. Stage a little freak-out on customer service, and you might find that negotiating lower fees or rates isn’t all that difficult.
Cash saved: Switching carriers or terrifying a customer service agent could cut up to $15 a month off your phone bill, or $180 dollars a year.
4. Don’t Become a Tech Junkie
Gadgets can be terribly addictive. Not only are they fun to play with, but our utter dependence on technology also makes it easy to justify blowing hordes of cash on updating all our toys. But let’s be honest: Unless you’re Bill Gates, there’s no way you can afford to keep on top of every hardware and software upgrade. So why bother?
Cash saved: This amount depends on the extent of one’s technology addiction. Remedying severe cases can literally translate into thousands of dollars saved a year. Even just passing on this year’s upgrade for your four favorite programs and waiting for the next batch will leave you with an extra $800 in your pocket.
3. Go Easy on the Plastic
Nobody in their right mind would pay 18 percent interest on a car loan, but people seem to have no problem paying comparable rates on their credit card purchases. I’m not advocating that you trash your card — keeping a consistent balance, even if it’s a low one, on your Visa is good for your credit rating. Just restrict yourself to one card, and contribute a bit more than the minimum payment when the end of the month rolls around. Paying only the minimum doesn’t help towards lowering your balance, it only eliminates the interest for the past period.
Cash saved: Buying a $200 pair of shoes on a credit card with an 18.5 percent annual interest rate will tack an additional $3 and change on the price tag for every month that you leave the balance unpaid. That’s an extra $40 a year, for a single purchase. Pay in cash as frequently as you can.
2. Use Coupons
You might snub your nose at the granny fumbling through her coupons in front of you in the checkout aisle, but she’s probably walking out of the store with a heavier wallet than you are. Scoop up a coupon leaflet when you go shopping at pharmacies or grocery stores, and keep your eyes peeled for specials.
Cash saved: Following old lady Irma’s lead and clipping coupons could shave a monthly $200 grocery bill down to $150. That works out to a fairly hefty $600 dollars a year.
1. Multiply Your Earnings at the Track
There’s no better place to increase your net worth than at the dog races… I’m just kidding. Do your best to steer clear of the tracks and casinos.

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