I am a frugal shopper. I clip coupons, look for sales and comparison shop. Whether I am shopping for groceries or furniture or a car, I want to get the best deal I can get. I enjoy being a smart shopper and I take pride in it. If you are reading this article, you probably share my approach to shopping.
Have you ever considered, however, that saving money on a purchase or a money decision does not end when you actually make the purchase? I have learned over the years that even after I think I have assumed an obligation to pay for something, I can often find ways to reduce the obligation or to get a better deal, even after the bargain is made. Accordingly, several times each year, my wife and I look at our monthly expenses, especially the recurring expenses, and our monthly statements, and we try to identify inefficiencies. When we do, we work to correct them. Here are some money savings that we have regularly found in our reviews:
I have a high speed Internet connection at my home. Until about a year ago, my employer reimbursed me for my connection because I needed it in order to work from my home office. Accordingly, I did not think a lot about my connection. After I left my job and started having to pay for my connection on my own, I realized very quickly that $60 per month was a lot to pay. I called my Internet service provider and suggested that I might change to a new service because their service was too expensive. The customer service representative was very polite and eager to keep my business. With less than two minutes of discussion, my provider had lowered my monthly rate to $30 per month. For me, that amounted to savings of $360 per year, on a service that I had been using for more than 7 years. It also saved me the hassles of having to research other ISPs and having to deal with service calls. That one phone call saved me a lot of money and a lot of headaches.
I have subscribed to three different cable and satellite television services in the past eight years. Over that time, I have switched only when I was offered a truly great financial incentive. Usually, the incentives have given me great savings over the course of the first year. It is well worth your time to pay attention to current offerings and to take advantage of them when you have the opportunity.
On several occasions, I have also found ways to save money even without switching services. A few years ago, for example, I called my then-service provider to suggest that I would change services. My provider cut my bill substantially for the following twelve months following my call. Twelve months after that, I called again. Although my provider would not give me the 12 month discount that I had been enjoying, my provider did give me a free year of all of the HBO channels that the provider offered. If you see a good discount or offer that your provider has advertised, you should always call the provider to try to take advantage of it. Very often, they will give existing customers the chance to participate, if you only ask.
I also recently took a more proactive approach to cutting my television bill. My wife and I had 5 converter boxes on 4 TVs and one computer, just so that we could watch TV wherever we wanted. We realized that we really only use 3 of the 5 TVs so we called our satellite provider and had 2 of the boxes shut off. That will save us $120 per year.
Insurance premiums tend to start at a reasonable level and increase every year. My wife and I shop around for new car insurance and homeowners insurance every year during the months leading up to renewal of our policies. We have found on a few occasions that we can get more competitive rates from other companies on a new policy rather than continue with the policy that we already hold.
About two years ago, my wife and I sat down with a representative at our bank so that we could discuss investment vehicles. Among other things, the banker looked at the interest rate on our accounts and told us that she could raise it by 2% because that was a special deal that was running on new accounts. We were confused because we thought we were already getting the higher rate because that was the rate that the bank advertises. We were wrong. The banker explained that our rate locked in when we opened the account and that the accounts do not track to the advertised rate. We had several accounts at the bank and the added interest was material (about 4 mortgage payments per year at the time).
We now go to the bank every three to six months and try to get a better interest rate on our savings and checking accounts. We succeed just about every time.
Refinance you Home
Okay. I know this is an obvious one but, given the low mortgage rates that are prevailing at this time, if you are among the few who have not yet refinanced, please at least explore the possibility. My wife and I have refinanced our home three times (once with absolutely no cost). Over 8 years, we have gone from a 7% adjustable rate mortgage to a 5.375% fixed mortgage. The savings have been enormous and it is great to see our monthly payments and our outstanding indebtedness go down.
Thirty Day Price Guarantees
We read the sales flyers every week. If we make a purchase of more than about $20, we save the receipts and then look for prices better than we paid on those items. Many stores will offer to refund the difference between what we paid and a price advertised anywhere else over the 30 days following our purchase. This can result in substantial savings (especially during the Christmas season) if you are diligent in reading sales advertisements every week.
Any time we purchase an item that costs more than $50, I search the Internet for rebates available on the item. Once, I found a $200 rebate on a washer/dryer that my wife had purchased. The rebate made her really good deal turn into a truly outstanding deal.
Keep track of your product warranties. If a product breaks down after you have purchased, check the warranty before you throw the item away or pay to have it repaired. Items that break down during the warranty period should be replaced or repaired at no cost to you if you alert the manufacturer, but you cannot forget about the warranty or it is of no use to you. Also, even if a warranty has expired, many manufacturers will provide replacement parts so that you can repair the product on your own.
With respect to your car, always make sure that you take the car in for a thorough tune up about a month before your warranty expires. Your mechanic will do a good job of looking for repairs that would be covered by your warranty claim so that is a good time to have your car fixed with minimal cost to you.
Redeem Expiring Miles and Points
If you have airline miles, frequent traveler points or other points that you have amassed as a frequent user of a product or service, check your balances at least once per year to make sure that you use expiring points/miles. Even if you do not need to use them, you can donate them to charity rather than let them go to waste. This year, my wife and I will probably use points from one of our reward programs to buy a new HD LCD TV for our master bedroom. A few years ago I actually found some points that should have expired ten years earlier but I still called to redeem them and the company allowed me to do so.
At least every six months, review your company benefits to determine what benefits you receive but may not use. Many companies offer discounts on consumer goods and services but do not do a great job of advertising such discounts to their employees. You should always know what benefits you receive and then make sure you use them as much as you can.
The above list should not be seen as limiting. You should always look at every purchase you make and consider ways that you can save money on it, whether at the time of purchase or afterwards. Have you ever negotiated the price down on a product or service after purchasing it?
Image courtesy of Noonika