21 Money Savers You May Be Ignoring

What eats up your paycheck: food, clothing, your home, your car? Well, you might be making these 5 common money mistakes or missing out on valuable savings. Here are a few simple money-saving tricks for your most common purchases.

Don't miss 104 more money savers you may not know about.

Food:

  • Stock up on grocery staples right after Thanksgiving. It's prime time: More food coupons are issued in November and December than in any other season.
  • Try amazon.com for nonperishables. Its "Subscribe & Save Program" typically gives 15 percent discounts (plus free shipping) on items such as paper towels.
  • Stop buying bottled water: At $1.50 per 20-ounce bottle, a family of four that goes through 20 bottles a week could save about $1,560 annually. The equivalent water from the faucet? Maybe $1. And it takes just seconds to fill a glass or a reusable water bottle.
  • Don't buy premixed: You can pay up to 50 percent more for foods with sugar, spices, or sauces already mixed in. Juice in cartons can cost a hefty 60 percent more than frozen concentrate.
Related: How to Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half and Readers' Best Money-Saving Secrets

Medical Care:
  • Fill prescriptions at Internet stores for savings. Check nabp.net for legit businesses.
  • Local pharmacies often have savings clubs. At Walgreens, a $20 to $35 enrollment fee gets members a 90-day supply of any of more than 400 generic meds for less than $1 per week.
  • AAA and AARP members get lower rates on eye-care costs - AAA's deals include 30 percent off exams and glasses.
  • Dental schools offer cut-rate care so students can, um, cut their teeth on procedures like cleanings and cavity fillings. All work is supervised, and it can be up to 70 percent cheaper than at a regular dental office.
Related: 10 Ways to Save on Health Care

Your Mortgage:
  • Document preparation and administration fees can be a rip off. Ask your bank or mortgage company up-front to waive these charges; the loan origination fee more than covers these costs.
  • Beware of inflated charges for credit reports and courier fees. Some companies may tack on as much as $65 for obtaining your credit report and $100 for courier fees. Before you sign with a lender, say you won't pay more than the going rate for these services - $6 to $12 per credit report, and about $20 for overnight delivery.
Related: 5 Common Fights About Money in Marriage and 50 Cheap (but Romantic!) Date Ideas

Clothing:
  • Hit the swankiest neighborhoods for top bargains on thrift-store goods. Ask what day they put out newly donated items, or stop by early in the week (most people drop off duds on the weekend, and it can take a day or two for them to hit the racks).
  • Shop liquidation sales - but wait until the last days for the best deals. Pay with plastic: If the item turns out to be broken, the Fair Credit Billing Act gives you the right to dispute charges for items that were not delivered as agreed.
  • Learn the sales cycle at your fave stores (every six weeks? every Wednesday?). The easy way: Ask a salesclerk.
Related: Savvy Secrets of Bargain-Hunting Experts

Your Car:
  • Slow down! Driving at 65 mph uses 15 percent more fuel than driving at 55 mph - that can be like adding 40-plus cents per gallon to the price of gas.
  • Keep wheels from tiring: Have them rotated every six months (or 6,000 miles) to distribute wear evenly. This occasional $25 (plus a monthly inflation check) could double your tires' life.
  • When negotiating for a new car, go to edmunds.com to get the manufacturer's invoice price (the amount the dealer pays); offer the dealer that price. He may sell you the car for as little as $100 more in order to get a profit called a "pullback" from the manufacturer.
Related: Try These Tricks for Lowering Your Credit Card Bills

Pets:
  • Watch what he eats. If you can't easily feel your pet's ribs, it might be time for a diet. Most pet food labels list recommendations for un-spayed or -neutered active adult animals - a "fixed" pet needs 25 to 30 percent of that, which will cost less, too.
  • Humane societies, animal shelters, and vet schools often provide quality routine services, like spaying or neutering, for less. Your local health department may sponsor rabies shots for as little as $5.
Related: 6 Penny-Pinching Habits You Should Adopt

Retirement:
  • Don't cut back on retirement savings in hopes of providing your kids with a full ride to college. Aim to save enough in a 529 plan to cover about half your expected college costs.
  • If you're young or middle-aged, don't increase your mortgage payments at the expense of your nest egg.
  • Don't stuff all your spare cash in your 401(k). Contribute as much as is needed to get your company's full match. A good option for some extra savings (if you have any) is a Roth IRA.
Related: 7 Steps to Retiring Rich

The Scary Truth About Budgeting: It only takes spending $27.40 a day to fritter away $10,000 per year. Mint.com will show you exactly what you're spending your cash on (shopping? groceries? fast food?) - and help you come up with a budget you can stick to.

What are your biggest expenses? How do you save on everyday items and cut down on your monthly bills?

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