Week two of our four-week Fiscal Fitness '09 challenge was very fruitful: If you squeezed everything possible out of Monday through Friday's money-saving strategies, you'd be well on your way to racking up $1,365.07.
If you add that to the $419.50 we showed you how to save last week, we're getting close to our $2,000 savings jackpot. (Granted, some of the tips pay off instantly while others bear fruit over the course of a year, but all put actual cash back in your pocket.)
Saving big won't hurt a bit, we promise
For those just tuning in, this four-week exercise is aimed at freeing up at least $2,000 to invest. Last week we trotted out some simple strategies to trim everyday expenses in five minutes or less a day. And, no, we're not talking about skipping morning lattes or switching to a ramen-only diet. We've got other tricks to help you curb the urge to splurge and pad your paycheck without working overtime.
This week was all about tackling those infrequent big-ticket expenses. With two phone calls, and an hour or so of research on the web, we found some serious cash hiding in the couch cushions. Let's roll tape and re-cap:
Monday: Brag to your insurer for $400 in discounts
If you make just one phone call all week, call your auto insurance provider. Trust us, it's worth your while. As we pointed out early in the week, the average car insurance premium is around $820. Simply raising your deductible from $200 to $1,000 could lower that outlay by more than $300. (That's certainly worth 10 minutes of your time, right?)
In our car insurance savings primer we ran down the list of ways to score discounts: It's simply a matter of asking the right questions and being willing to take on a bit of the insurer's risk. So, whether you use Progressive (NYSE: PGR ) and its comparison shopping tools, hang with the Geico gecko and cavemen, or frequent some more boring insurance company, pick up the phone and start saving.
Tuesday: Score cheaper drugs and save $232.27
The average person under the age of 65 who takes prescription drugs pays more than $300 out-of-pocket annually to stock up. Those older than 65 shell out about $1,000.
Going generic, signing up for your insurance plan's mail-order meds provider, and asking your doctor to prescribe from your plan's formulary are a few of the ways we showed you how to cut that drug tab down. Those require some time up front to set up, but the savings each month after that will make it worthwhile.
One of the simplest ways to save money on prescriptions is to switch dealers. A 2006 Consumer Reports survey found that the best prices for prescriptions -- from cheapest to costliest -- are typically: online pharmacies; mass merchants like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) , Target (NYSE: TGT ) , and Costco (Nasdaq: COST ) ; supermarkets; independent drugstores/pharmacies; and lastly, drugstore chains like Rite Aid, Walgreen (NYSE: WAG ) , and CVS Caremark.
However, it pays to shop around for your specific prescription (we provided a few of our favorite drug comparison websites in the article) and to see what the latest deals are on drugs. For example, a Rite Aid spokesperson wrote to tell us about the chain's free RX Savings Card, launched nationwide last September, which gives cardholders access to $8.99 30-day supply or $15.99 90-day supply of more than 500 generic medications.
On our Fiscal Fitness discussion board, HaltCatchFire weighed in with this advice:
If you are paying for your own prescriptions at retail, without insurance, it really pays to shop around. Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's Club are significantly cheaper than chain drug stores. The last time I had to do this, I saved 50% by using Costco instead of Walgreen's. Shop around!
pllntooz also added this warning:
Also, double check your prescriptions before you fill them. Ask a nurse to confirm that the doctor wrote out a prescription for the correct medicine. We spent a over $60 filling a prescription, only to discover that when it arrived, it was the wrong thing. The pharmacy (mail-order) had filled the prescription provided correctly, the doctor had written the prescription incorrectly. Under those circumstances, you're stuck with wrong meds, and need to pay again for the correct ones.
Wednesday: Trim $240 from your home insurance tab
Many of the same strategies for slashing auto insurance premiums can be used to cut the cost of covering your home, too. On Wednesday we went over three ways to get a 30% break on one of your household's biggest bills.
Increasing your deductible and making some safety improvements can instantly trim your premium by $240 or more without sacrificing your level of coverage. See our tips for saving money on homeowner's insurance as well as some sources to help you avert a major financial disaster should a natural disaster strike.
Thursday: Plan ahead and save $240 on your next vacation
"Staycation" is the term of the times. It's shorthand for "stay-at-home vacation," which is the only kind of getaway folks can afford in this economy. If you're planning an actual getaway -- one involving tan lines and tourist trinkets -- there's no time to waste if you want to save money.
Your first pit stop is Thursday's article where we provided a rundown of ways to score cheap airfare from places like Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE ) and Orbitz (NYSE: OWW ) . You can get even more great advice from seasoned travelers hanging out on our Best Travel Spots/Tips board.
Friday: Learn to love haggling -- it's worth at least $252.80
We capped off the week with some advice that'll come in handy whether you're shopping for furniture, electronics or your next root canal. It's all about the art of negotiation -- or haggling.
There are some clear dos and don'ts on getting the best price on just about everything. So before your next big purchase, make sure to review the rules of haggling so you're prepared to get the best deal possible.
$215.43 to go!
With week two of our Fiscal Fitness '09 workout ending, you deserve a break. Which reminds us, we'll be taking Monday, January 19th off in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. day. We'll be back next Tuesday with two Fiscal Fitness tips (after all, we promised you 20!).
Next week, we'll work over the next tier of spending and start sweating some of the small stuff -- and find ways to save big. Remember, our goal over the course of this month is to save $2,000 to invest for your future. And for that, we're serving up three of our best investment ideas on Jan. 30.
Read the latest from Fiscal Fitness '09: 1 Month, 2 Grand, 3 Stocks to get our other money-saving tips. You can also keep up with our tips through our daily Foolwatch email. Share your frugal insights and experiences through our Fiscal Fitness '09 discussion board, or leave a comment below.