$mart Ways to $ave Money
? Don’t limit your search to classified ads or referrals. Select buildings where you would like to
live and contact the property manager or owner to see if anything is available.
? Remember that signing a lease probably obligates you to make all monthly payments for the
term of the agreement. Read the lease agreement carefully.
? Purchase renter’s insurance to protect your possessions.
? Home repairs often cost thousands of dollars and are the subject of frequent complaints. Select
from several well established, licensed contractors who have submitted written, fixed-price bids
for the work. Never hire someone who offers their services door-to-door.
? Don’t sign any contract that requires full payment before satisfactory completion of the work.
? For the most return on investment, renovate an outdated bathroom or kitchen. Updates to these
two rooms add the most value to your home.
? Consult Consumer Reports, available in most public libraries, for information about specific
brands and how to evaluate them, including energy use. There are often significant price and
quality differences among brands.
? Once you've selected a brand, call at least four stores and request the prices of specific models.
After each store has given you a quote, call back and ask for the lowest price they can give you.
This comparison shopping can save you as much as $100 or more.
? Shop for major appliances in the spring; generally, this is when you’ll get the best deal.
? To save on electricity, make sure that any new appliances you purchase, especially air
conditioners and furnaces, are energy-efficient. Information on the energy efficiency of major
appliances is found on Energy Guide Labels required by federal law.
? Enrolling in load management and off-hour rate programs offered by your electric utility may
save you up to $100 a year. Call your service provider for information about these cost-saving
? A home energy audit can identify ways to save money each year on home heating (and air
conditioning). Contact your electric or gas company to find out if audits are offered, and the
cost (if any). If audits aren’t offered by your service provider, ask them to refer you to a
? At least once a year, review your phone bills for the previous three months to see what local,
local toll, long distance and international calls you normally make. Call several phone
companies, including wireless companies, to find an inexpensive calling plan that meets your
needs. If you make very few toll or long distance calls, avoid calling plans with monthly fees
? Check your phone bill to see if you have optional calling services you don't use. Each option
you drop could save you $40 or more each year.
? Before making calls when away from home, compare per-minute rates and surcharges for
different prepaid phone cards and calling card plans to find the one that saves you the most
? If you use a wireless phone, make sure your wireless calling plan covers the calls you typically
make. Understand promotions, peak calling periods, area coverage, roaming and long distance
requirements to avoid paying too much.
? You can save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a car by selecting a model that combines
a low purchase price with low financing, insurance, gasoline, maintenance and repair costs.
Ask your local librarian for new car guides that contain this information.
? Once you’ve selected a model, you can save hundreds of dollars by comparison shopping. Call
at least five dealers for price quotes and let each know that you are calling others.
? Remember there is no "cooling off" period on new car sales; once you’ve signed a contract,
you’re obligated to buy the car.
? Check prices via the Internet. Ask for the Internet Sales Manager when you go to the dealership;
you might receive an additional discount.
? Before buying any used car:
o compare the seller's asking price with the average retail price in a "bluebook" or other
guide to car prices, which can be found at many libraries, banks and credit unions.
o ask a mechanic you trust to check the car, especially if sold “as is.”
? Consider purchasing a used car from someone you know and trust. Individuals are more likely
than other sellers to charge a lower price and point out any problems with the car.
? If you have significant savings earning a low interest rate, consider making a large down
payment or even paying for the car in cash.
? You can save hundreds to thousands of dollars in finance charges by shopping for the cheapest
loan. Contact several banks, credit unions and the auto manufacturer's finance company for the
best interest rate.
? Don't decide to lease a car just because the payments are lower than those for a traditional auto
loan. The lease payments may be lower because you don't own the car at the end of the lease.
? Leasing a car is very complicated. When shopping, consider the price of the car (known as the
capitalized cost), your trade-in allowance, down payment, monthly payments, various fees
(excess mileage, excess “wear and tear,” lease end) and the cost of buying the car at the end of
the lease. Keys to Vehicle Leasing: A Consumer Guide, published by the Federal Reserve
Board and Federal Trade Commission, is a valuable source of information about auto leasing.
? You can save hundreds of dollars each year by comparing prices at different stations, pumping
gas yourself and using the lowest-octane called for in your owner's manual. Use Web sites,
such as gasbuddy.com, to compare prices in your neighborhood and work route.
? You can save up to $100 a year on gas by keeping your engine tuned and your tires inflated to
the proper pressure.
? Consumers lose billions of dollars each year on unnecessary or poorly done car repairs. The
most important step you can take to save money is to find a skilled, honest mechanic who:
o is certified and well established;
o has done good work for someone you know; and
o communicates well about repair options and costs.
? You can save several hundred dollars a year on homeowner insurance and up to $50 a year on
renter insurance by purchasing insurance from a low-price, licensed insurer. Ask your state
insurance department for a publication showing typical prices charged by different licensed
companies. Then call at least four of the lowest priced insurers to find out what they would
charge you. If a publication isn’t available, call at least four insurers for price quotes.
? Make sure you purchase enough coverage to replace the house and its contents. “Replacing” a
house means rebuilding to its current condition.
? Make sure your new policy is in effect before dropping your old one.
? You can save several hundred dollars a year by purchasing auto insurance from a licensed, low-
price insurer. Call your state insurance department for a publication showing typical prices
charged by different companies. Then call at least four of the lowest-priced, licensed insurers
to find out what they would charge you for the same coverage. If a publication isn’t available,
call at least four insurers for price quotes.
? Talk to your agent or insurer about raising your deductibles on collision and comprehensive
coverage to at least $500 or, if you have an old car, dropping this coverage altogether.
? Make sure your new policy is in effect before dropping your old one.
? If you want insurance protection only, and not a savings and investment product, buy a term
life insurance policy.
? If you want to buy a whole life, universal life or other cash value policy, plan to hold it for at
least 15 years. Canceling these policies after only a few years can more than double your life
? Check the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Web site (www.naic.org) or your
local library for information on the financial solvency of insurance companies.
? You can save more than $100 a year in fees by selecting a checking account with a low (or no)
minimum balance requirement. Request a list of these and other fees (including ATM and
debit card fees) charged on these accounts.
? Banking institutions often will drop or lower checking fees if paychecks are directly deposited
by your employer. Direct deposit offers the additional advantages of convenience, security and
immediate access to your money.
? Be aware that an ATM doesn’t always provide the most accurate, up-to-date account
information, as some transactions may not be reflected in your balance.
Savings and Investment Products
? Before opening a savings or investment account with a bank or other financial institution, find
out whether the account is insured by the federal government (FDIC or NCUA). An increasing
number of products offered by these institutions, including mutual stock funds and annuities,
are not federally insured.
? To earn the highest return on savings (annual percentage yield) with little or no risk, consider
certificates of deposit (CDs) or U.S. Savings Bonds (Series I or EE).
? Once you select a type of savings or investment product, compare rates and fees offered by
different institutions. These rates can vary a great deal and, over time, can significantly affect
? You can lower credit card interest charges by paying off your entire bill each month. Or,
forego the charge by using a check, cash or a debit card for purchases.
? Call and ask for a lower interest rate. Be prepared to stand your ground if the first answer is no.
Don’t be intimidated; if needed, go up the chain of command. Persistence is key.
? If you are unable to pay off a large balance, pay as much as you can and switch to a credit card
with a low annual percentage rate (APR). You can obtain listings of low-rate credit cards
through http://www.cardlocator.com/ or http://www.bankrate.com/ (click on credit cards),
which provide free information to consumers.
? You can reduce credit card fees, which may add up to over $100 a year, by getting rid of all but
one or two cards, and by avoiding annual, late payment and over-the-limit fees.
? You can save hundreds of dollars a year by shopping at lower-priced food stores. Convenience
stores often charge the highest prices.
? You’ll spend less on food if you plan your menu in advance, shop with a list and stick to the
plan. Save hundreds of dollars a year by comparing price-per-ounce or other unit prices on
shelf labels. Stock up on items with a low per-unit cost, and pay attention to special sales and
promotions on products you use regularly.
? Look for lower-cost items on high and low shelves; retailers often place the most expensive
products at eye-level.
? You may lower the price of a round trip airfare by as much as two-thirds by making sure your
trip includes a Saturday evening stay over, and by purchasing the ticket weeks in advance.
? To make certain you have a cheap fare, even if you use a travel agent, contact all the airlines
that fly where you want to go and ask about the lowest fare to your destination.
? Be flexible, if possible. Consider using low fare carriers or alternative airports and keep an eye
out for fare wars.
? Buy airline tickets early, if possible, because the cheapest fares are first come, first served.
Most seats go on sale 11 months in advance.
? Since car rental rates can vary greatly, shop around for the best basic rates. Ask about any
additional charges (extra driver, gas, drop-off fees) and special offers.
? Rental car companies offer various insurance and waiver options. Check with your automobile
insurance agent and credit card company in advance to avoid duplicating coverage you may