As the economy gradually recovers consumers are beginning to open up their wallets, but there isn’t much there. Sure, plastic is an option, but snake-bitten consumers are avoiding borrowing in favor of paying cash.
Retailers know that consumers are cautious and are responding by aggressively pricing their wares and services accordingly. This means that in 2011 and beyond, you will find many different ways to save money including new wrinkles on old themes.
1. Airline ticket prices continue to rise, but you can find specials by booking ahead and by traveling on off peak days such as a Tuesday or Wednesday. Spend extra time looking for specials on airline websites and on travel aggregator sites such as Expedia and SayFunTravel.com. Travel flexibility will save you money; rigidity will not.
2. If you don’t have to be there in a hurry, rail service may be a good option for you. Amtrak has the busy corridors of America covered and they do offer specials. Seats are comfortable, legroom is plentiful and you can bring your own food onboard. Amtrak can be a great way for your family to see the country – rail passes allow you to get on and off and back on frequently.
3. Hotels continue to work diligently to find travelers willing to fill up their beds and are in bargaining mood. Consider patronizing one brand of hotels in order to earn “favored guest” privileges which include free room upgrades and other perks. Hotel affinity credit cards can offer additional perks including a free night’s stay just by signing up.
4. Package deals may offer you the best overall savings. If you haven’t considered grouping airfare, hotel stay and car rental into one package, take a look at what airlines such as Southwest are offering. You may find that the deals the airline have put together to offer better savings than the one you’ve assembled.
5. If you’re traveling my car, higher gas prices can sting your budget. Properly inflated tires, keeping your speed under control and avoid jackrabbit starts can help you squeeze more miles per gallon out of your fuel tank. For highway driving put your vehicle in overdrive and use your cruise control.
6. Auto insurance rates have stabilized and have even come down in recent years as insurers battle for marketshare and for your cash. Your long-time provider may be the priciest of the lot, but you won’t know that unless you start shopping around.
7. Dental insurance has long been the hardest insurance to find or at least the one area of the medical field where your options were few and far between. Some health insurers are now offering improved dental plans which can bring real savings for you.
8. Life insurance rates have also stabilized as a tight economy makes this the “insurance of last resort” for cash strapped consumers. Take advantage of the times we live in to protect your family.
9. Higher gas prices mean higher food prices as the cost of trucking food to stores is passed on to consumers. This means you need to carefully weigh your purchases and make use of your store’s coupon card, stocking up on sale items each week.
10. A warehouse club can come in handy for any family and you don’t need to buy the big jar of pickles in order to save. Discounted deli meats, dairy products, bread, cereal and juice are among the many items available and priced accordingly. Save big on every visit; BJ’s accepts coupons which reduces your costs further.
11. Off brand retailers such as Aldi’s are very popular, selling 95 percent or more of their food with private labels. Check labels carefully and compare to the brand name items you usually buy. You should be able to save 20 to 50 percent or more on your food shopping experience.
12. Buy in bulk – whatever you can’t use now, freeze or repackage for later eating. Some consumers have made a habit of buying food for several years in advance, paying just a fraction on the dollar for rice, beans and other staples. Having proper storage is a must – weigh the cost of setting aside this space with the savings you can realize.
13. Eating out isn’t about to go away, but it can be cheaper. During the last recession numerous upscale restaurants closed their doors, unable to weather the economic crisis. Those still in business have found a way to survive and often feature menu items to reflect a variety of budgets. Choose Prix Fixe dining for the best savings.
14. Cheap clothes from China and elsewhere are just that – cheap! You can find better quality clothes at some retailers and at prices below wholesale. These days you don’t have to look far for good buys – it seems everyone is cutting prices.
15. Thrift stores have become very popular in recent years as shoppers want to look fabulous without going broke. Look for stores featuring gently used clothing with designer labels in abundance. Savvy shoppers are able to find Prada, Diane von Furstenberg, Armani and Hermes pieces by hitting shops in high fashion cities such as New York and Los Angeles.
16. If there is department store you like to frequent and you have yet to open up a charge account, consider doing so this year. Right off the bat, you’ll get savings on your first purchase with access to additional sales throughout the year. Just pay off your card when it is due because the interest rate is usually above 20 percent.
17. Buy in the off-season. You can’t always anticipate the growth of your kids, but if you buy next season’s winter coat in March, you can save a bundle. Swimsuits, if available are reduced after July 4th and end of season specials are available throughout the year.
18. Speaking of clothes, you can keep your clothes longer by following care instructions carefully. Most clothes can be cleaned in cold water and lightly dried. Avoid discoloration and shrinkage which can shorten the life of your clothing.
19. If you’re in the market to buy a new home in 2011, you’ll be in a buyer’s market in most areas of the country. Keep an eye on housing prices and trends as you plan your purchase. Some California markets are on the rise while other markets across the country have yet to bottom out.
20. Interest rates on mortgages are no longer at historic low levels, but they are still low nonetheless. Plan to shop aggressively to find the loan deal that suits you. Obtain copies of your credit reports to ensure nothing contained therein would affect your rate. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to obtain one free copy of each of your three credit reports annually.
21. If you’re considering purchasing a foreclosure, have one or more home inspectors do a thorough lookover of your home. The bank may have a set price in mind, but if major repairs need to be done, then you can use that information to have the price correpondingly lowered.
22. For consumers who own a home, but need to make updates or expand their living space, home contractors are looking for work and are competing with each other for your business. Get three estimates and go with the one with the top references even if their prices are not the lowest.
23. The auto industry is in the process of rebounding from a historic downturn which means sales are up while inventories are lean. You can save money on your next purchase by finding out what the dealer paid for you car plus manufacturer incentives. Sites such as Truecar.com, Kelley Blue Book, Consumer Reports and Edmunds can help you determine what you should pay for your next car.
24. Arrange financing before you visit your car dealer. Credit unions and commercial banks are battling for your business and are offering competitive rates. Auto financing companies may have the lowest rates, but if a hefty rebate is being offered, take the money and finance your purchase elsewhere.
25. Unsold vehicles at the end of their model cycle are aggresively priced to help move them from dealer lots. If you don’t mind the latest and the greatest, older 2010 models can be had for deep discounts while all-new 2011 models will cost you close to the sticker price. Consider low mileage late model used cars too — they’re usually still under warranty and have been sufficiently depreciated.
26. Lots of analysts are bearish when it comes to car leasing, but this option may be right for you especially if you prefer to drive a new car every three years and don’t want to be bothered with the costly maintenance that comes with an older car. Know your lease terms and be careful of any agreement which forces you to make payments even if your car is stolen or repossessed.
27. Consider selling your trade-in privately. The dealer may not make much money off of your new car, but he’ll make plenty off of your late model trade. Donate the vehicle to a reputable charity if you prefer to help someone and would like a tax donation if you itemize. See IRS Publication 4303 – A Donor’s Guide to Vehicle Donation to learn if this option is right for you.
28. College students should consider renting their textbooks instead of buying them. Likely, you’ll never use the book again so why spend $200 when you can rent it for a fraction of the cost?
29. Lawn care can be expensive and the water you use costly. Consider converting a portion of your yard to natural area in order to reduce your workload and save energy.
30. Lose your landline if you absolutely do not need a home phone. Young people are much more likely to keep in contact with cell phones, ditching their landline completely. If you must have a home phone, combine it with your cable and Internet service to enjoy savings monthly.
31. Movie costs are now north of $10 per ticket, a prohibitive price for families. Wait a bit and that movie will appear on Netflix and be available for cheap rental at Red Box. Matinees can save money on your entertainment costs, cheaper priced movie and theater tickets for the family.
32. If you’re shopping for major appliances, check out the Energy Star label. Your dishwasher, clothes dryer, washer, refrigerator and stove need not eat up a lot of energy, but avoid the pricey models which offer energy savings you’ll never recoup.
If you’re not certain that savings can be had, just ask. Unsold inventory costs retailers money and if you have cash in hand you’re in the best position to save. You’ll be spending money in 2011 — stretch your dollars by following these and other money-saving tips.
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