We offer ways to cut expenses on the basics, such as your car, home and banking, and snag travel, tickets and dinner for two without guilt.
Saving a few dollars here and there is great. But how about a few hundred dollars -- or even thousands?
It's easier than you think to trim costs and put more money back in your pocket. We sliced food bills by $2,384, cut $4,277 in costs at home, found $3,539 in travel savings, chopped $5,536 from fees on your finances, and then shaved $2,514 from entertainment. And it all adds up to $18,250 per year -- or $50 a day. (See the link at the bottom for the full list.)
Deals on Meals
These sites take a bite out of restaurant prices.
Here's how to serve up a discount at a nice restaurant in the city of your choice.
Restaurant.com. The site guarantees discounts of at least 50% at more than 15,000 restaurants. Recent deal: $20 for a $50 dinner at Ravish, a tapas-style restaurant in Seattle.
Wow-coupons.com. This aggregator offers deals at restaurants, retailers and even other discounters. Recent deal: 40% off the $20 price of a $50 Restaurant.com certificate.
Groupon.com. Buy with a group and get the discount du jour. Recent deal: $20 for $40 in food and drinks at Appaloosa Grill in Denver.
Livingsocial.com. As with Groupon, this site invites you to join a group to get the deal of the day. Recent deal: $25 for a $50 meal at Buck's Fishing & Camping, in Washington, D.C.
Total Annual Savings: $240 (save $20 once a month)
Triple tax savings and cut drug expenses in half.
Health savings accounts let you stretch your health-care dollars with a triple tax benefit: Money that you contribute to an account is tax-deductible, grows tax-deferred and can be used tax-free for medical expenses in any year. To qualify, your health-insurance policy must have a deductible of at least $1,200 for self-only coverage (or $2,400 for family coverage). You can contribute up to $3,050 to an HSA in 2011 ($6,150 for family coverage).
Annual Savings: $854. (for 28% bracket and maxing out self-only contributions)
Saving on drugs is possible using several strategies. When feasible, buying generics should be your first step. And you should ask your doctor whether you can save money by splitting any of your pills. For example, the cost of a 30-day supply of 10-milligram tablets of Crestor is the same as it is for 20-mg tablets. That can result in a $63-a-month savings. But the single best strategy, aside from using generics, is buying your medications through mail order, where you may be able to get a 90-day supply for about the same price as a 30-day supply at a local pharmacy. Example: You'd save almost $95 per month on Lipitor.
Annual Savings: $1,140.
Total Annual Savings: $1,994
Drop the pricey packages.
Don't pay for dozens of TV channels you don't watch. Go basic and save big. Although cable packages and prices vary by region, most providers offer a bare-bones plan. Verizon's FiOS TV Local Digital, for instance, delivers local channels for $13 a month. And rather than pay for premium channels, sign up for Netflix's streaming service. For $8 a month, you can watch unlimited movies and TV shows (albeit not always the latest offerings) via your home Internet connection.
Annual Savings: $648 (basic cable plus Netflix versus average digital cable bill of $75 a month)
Timing is everything when you travel.
Off-peak bargains. Dreaming of a trip to Hawaii? Consider hitting the islands earlier in the year, during the off-peak season. According to Kayak.com in late December, airfares from Washington, D.C., to Honolulu start at $879 round-trip for flights in mid July, but drop to as low as $719 round-trip for early-March trips. And because we're talking Hawaii, the weather will be just as gorgeous.
Savings Per Couple: $320
Take off on Tuesdays. Flying during the week instead of on weekends, when most people travel, is a great way to save. For example, going from New York City to San Francisco on a Friday in mid May and returning the following Friday will cost $388 a ticket. A Tuesday-to-Tuesday round-trip would cost just $338 a person.
Savings Per Couple: $100
Procrastination pays. Last-minute deals that offer great bargains on unfilled plane seats and hotel rooms are regularly posted on many travel Web sites, including AerLingusVacationStore.com. In early January, for example, two people heading from New York to Dublin could get a package with two plane tickets and four nights at the three-star Regency Hotel for $1,449 if they booked by mid January for an April trip. But if the couple could take off before late February, the cost would drop to $1,189.
Savings Per Couple: $260
Total Annual Savings: $680
Click and Clack
Save on repairs -- and skip the new-car payments.
Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers -- a.k.a. Tom and Ray Magliozzi -- spout their brand of wry car advice on National Public Radio. Their top tips for saving big bucks on your vehicle:
Drive gently. Accelerate slowly, without snapping your head back. Brake gently and avoid panic stops. Don't weave in and out of lanes on the freeway, and keep your highway speeds down -- for every mile per hour over 55 that you travel, your fuel economy goes down by 2%.
Go indie. If your car is off warranty, take it to an independent repair shop. We commissioned Murky Research and Development to do some research and found that, overall, dealers charge 15% more than independent repair shops for the same repairs. Why? Higher labor rates.
Don't drive. If you're near public transportation, leave your car at home and use the bus or train. Or ask if you can telecommute. If your commute is 30 miles a day and you cut out one day of driving, you'll save gas and wear on your car. Plus, you'll find it more relaxing than dodging cell-phone-addicted commuters.
Keep the clunker. Even if it doesn't score you the babe or hunk of your dreams, owning an older car offers something else: a truly liberating experience. You no longer care about dents or bird droppings. And best of all? It's paid for!
Savings: $1,670 (based on skipping a new-car payment and typical ownership costs for a five-year-old car)
Total Annual Savings: $2,533
Shop all the websites to guarantee the lowest price.
Use RazorGator.com, StubHub.com and TicketsNow.com to find seats for games and shows. The trick is to check each resale site and original sellers because price differences can be dramatic. Examples (prices are for two tickets):
Event: Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Atlanta Hawks, in Atlanta.
Best Price: StubHub, $115.
Comparable Seats: Ticketmaster, $214.
Event: Orchestra seats at Broadway musical West Side Story.
Best Price: Ticketmaster, $258.
Comparable Seats: RazorGator, $605.
Event: Taylor Swift concert at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles.
Best Price: StubHub, $350.
Comparable Seats: TicketsNow, $550.
Total Annual Savings: $745 (based on two sporting events, one show and one concert)