Ten Money Saving Tips

Money saving tips for the average consumer.

1. Eliminate annual fees on your credit cards. Most companies will do this for you. They just don't tell you that. All it takes is a phone call.

Call the customer service number listed on your monthly statement and ask if they will waive the annual fee. You don't even have to give a reason why you want it waived.

2. Read the weekly sale ads from your local grocery stores and shop the specials. When ketchup is on sale for 99¢ instead of $1.79, buy four or five bottles and stash them in your cupboard. The same goes for other non-perishable items. Make a list of what's on sale in each store and make your stops as you run other errands.

Buy in bulk whenever possible (room permitting). Buy chicken leg quarters and cut them into thighs and drumsticks yourself. You'll save at least 20¢ per pound, possibly more. Buy the 5-pound package of ground beef and divide into 1-pound sections, then freeze.

3. If bills have been turned over to a collection agency, read your statement carefully. It is illegal for collection agencies to charge interest on accounts they are paid to collect.

Ask to speak to a supervisor if necessary. Explain that you are aware that they are being paid to collect this debt (usually ten percent of whatever they collect). Also explain that you are aware that the Federal Trade Commission prohibits collection agencies from charging interest.

4. Plan your automobile trips around town to save gas and time. Think about the route you will be taking and drop off bills on your way to your child's soccer game.

5. Read the labels on items purchased. Most generic products have the exact same ingredients as the name brand but sell for half the price.

6. Buy the do-it-yourself legal kits (available in most office supply stores) for items such as divorce or bankruptcy. Explanations are in simple, easy-to-read language with sample forms already completed.

If you still find this too complicated, hire a Document Preparer to prepare your paperwork. They complete the forms with the information you provide and charge less than a lawyer. Most are paralegals; some are not. Document Preparers are skilled office professionals and most have been doing this for years. Check your Yellow Pages.

Of course, you should still consult a lawyer for advice regarding complicated issues, but most offer a free consultation during which you may be able to obtain the information you need to do it yourself.

7. Perform necessary maintenance on your vehicle as outlined in your owner's manual. Regular tune-ups and oil changes will help prevent costly repairs in the future. The same advice applies to appliances in your home.

Lint build up in your dryer's lint filter can burn out the heating element. Dirty filters in your furnace prevent warm air from circulating properly. All those dust bunnies under your refrigerator increase your electric bill and make the motor work harder, eventually causing it to burn out.

8. Invest in a fix-it-yourself guidebook. Many home repairs are simpler than you think. These guidebooks come complete with diagrams and instructions that walk you through step-by-step. You'll save money (especially that $35.00 service charge) and gain a sense of satisfaction as well.

9. Your public library, college library, and school library has a wealth of research material, including popular magazines and periodicals. These are easily obtainable to assist you (or your students) in completing school assignments, and they're free.

If you are having trouble with a topic, ask the librarian. They are specially trained and know how to weed through the information to get to the specific information you are looking for.

10. Utilize the Internet. There's a world of information out there. If you don't have a personal computer at home, Internet access is available through your public library. Your librarian will help you with any questions and there's no charge (except for copies you might want to print).

Schools and colleges also have Internet access available free of charge to students. Check the computer labs for open hours. If you bring your own paper, there is usually no charge to print any information you want to use at a later time.

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