How to Save Big Without Feeling Deprived

By Adam Eisenson

It’s easy to save money without changing your lifestyle or feeling deprived. But pinching pennies alone won’t put you on the road to financial freedom. The key to economic independence lies in what you do with the nickels and dimes you save. If you invest them in your credit card and other bills, you’ll soon be debt-free. That’s The Banker’s Secret in a nutshell.

For starters, you’ll need a piggy bank. Pop the pennies you pinch and your pocket change into it religiously. When you pay your credit card bill, use those nickels and dimes to save a fortune. Invest as little as $1 a week in your plastic, and save $3,350 in interest.

Shop Smart. You know what to do: Buy generics when possible, use coupons only for items you normally buy, avoid fast, processed and convenience foods.

REALLY stock up when your favorite items are on sale, whether it’s tuna at the supermarket, pantyhose at the drugstore, or water processed, hazelnut de-caf at the gourmet shop. Stocking up is better than putting money in the bank. For example, our favorite apple juice normally costs $1.89 a bottle. At $1.29, we save 32%, and buy all we can store.

“Hondl” — that is, bargain. Whether it’s for a new TV set or to hire a real estate broker … even a lawyer. Business is slow. Many merchants and service providers now have to be more flexible. Pretend you’re shopping in an exotic, faraway market. You lose nothing by asking, “What’s your best price?”

Barter opportunities abound. “I’ll fill Johnny’s cavities, if you’ll paint my family’s portrait.” “I’ll type your term paper, if you’ll cut the grass.” “I’ll watch your kids Saturday night, if you’ll take mine next week.” Nancy and I trade ripe tomatoes for some of Rose’s delicious, canned tomato sauce. Be imaginative.

Start a bidding war. Comparison shop for everything — insurance, cars, contractors, attorneys, plane tickets. You name it. Let the bidders know you’ll be getting at least 3 estimates, and that you’re going to give your business to the one with the best price.

Install a water filter if you regularly buy the bottled kind. You’ll quickly recover the one time charge, and it’ll be free drinking from then on.

Premium gas is not necessarily better for your car than regular, unleaded. If your car will run on regular, you’ll save about 12% with every fill-up. Even a 50/50 blend will save you 6%. Keep your tires properly inflated to save even more on gas — and on tires.

Start a purchasing club with neighbors, and buy it wholesale. Whether you need diapers, daffodils, toilet paper or tennis balls, find out who sells it in bulk, and you’ll pay half. Group buying can also cut the cost of oil, food — pretty much anything that’s sold.

Garage sales, thrift shops, and consignment stores are great sources for furniture, clothing, and tools … often at incredibly low prices.

Farmer’s markets are a fun, inexpensive source for fresh, wholesome foods … in season.

Weigh produce. As we’ve said before, you’d be amazed how often an extra quarter pound of carrots find their way into a one pound bag. Ditto for potatoes, onions, mushrooms, apples, oranges … any pre-packaged fruits or vegetables. Savings of 25% are routine.

Always count your change. Cashiers, waiters and waitresses, even bank tellers, make mistakes. Why should you pay for them?

Use a low interest credit card if you regularly run a balance. Five percent less on the standard $2,000 credit card bill will put $100 a year into your pocket.

Get no-fee cards if you pay your plastic bills in full every month. You’ll save $25 to $40 a year, or more, on each. With Americans carrying an average of 9 cards, that’s between $225 and $360 a year.

Complain vigorously when you get defective products, bad service, or shoddy merchandise. Chances are you’ll get a substantial price reduction. As a bonus, writing “I am outraged letters” can be very therapeutic.

Free is a great price. Nancy and I mulch our garden with tons of wood chips from power company line crews, as well as with leaves and hay from farm neighbors. We get our paper clips free from the bank, which can’t possibly use all the ones depositors bring in. We love libraries, and spend a lot of our free time bird watching, star gazing, and canoeing (in a very pre-owned craft). And we eat all the free mulberries, wild blueberries, and hickory nuts we can pick.

Scavenge. You’d be amazed by the perfectly useable things you can get — again for free — if you keep your eyes out. One recent find here included enough window screens to enclose the greenhouse I had just built for Nancy … creating a screened-in sunroom.

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