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10 Incredible Ways You Can Save a Lot -- Right Now!

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In December, I offered up 11 great and easy ways that consumers could save money in 2013. These ideas ranged from paying off your high-interest credit cards and buying generic brands all the way down to customizing your health plan and eliminating your checking fees.

But yesterday, my grandfather lost his battle to cancer, and today I honor his memory by sharpening my pencil and dishing out an additional 10 ways that you can save money, right now, without significantly altering your living habits.

Getting a great deal
My relationship with my grandfather was built upon jokes. Literally, joke after joke, with perhaps the only serious moment coming when the check at the restaurant we'd meet up at came due. If there was one thing he truly loved, it was in knowing he was getting a great deal. The family quip between my dad and me when he wasn't around was that we were "going to sharpen our pencil" when we we're in search of a good deal on something. 

Here's some fresh ideas inspired by my memory of my grandfather that could help save you money.

1. Refinance your mortgage
This is an easy one that I completely overlooked last time. What on Earth are you people with mortgages rates at 5% or higher still doing paying your loans? Stop trying to second-guess the next move in interest rates and be happy that we're trudging along at a seven-decade-low in lending rates. A family with a 30-year mortgage at a 5% APR will pay nearly $280,000 in interest over the life of the loan. The current 30-year rate of 3.625% will lower your interest payment by roughly $87,000 over the life of the loan! That's not chump change! Also, be decisive but picky when looking for your loan or a refinancer, as you can occasionally obtain lower costs by shopping around.

2. Stop living like you're in the tropics
Unlike you Floridians and Southern Californians, I live in Seattle where we get these things called "seasons." Seasons, for the remainder of the country, mean a noticeable use of the thermostat in the winter and summer. The key here to saving money is to reduce the extremism to which we utilize the thermostat. In the winter there is practically no need to set the needle at 78 degrees Fahrenheit, nor is there a need to peg the household temperature at 68 degrees if its 106 degrees outside. The California Energy Commission states on its webpage that every degree above 72 that you place your thermostat at in the summer will save you 1% to 3%. I tried this out myself and lowered my thermostat to 68 degrees from 70 degrees and noticed a nearly $50 cumulative reduction in my energy bill over the course of two months.

3. Buy LED lights
I admit to having bashed the heck out of Cree last week on a valuation basis, but its LED light bulbs are a smart way for consumers to save money in the long run. Cree's new 40-watt LED bulb will cost just $9.97, but boasts the same luminosity as an incandescent bulb of the same wattage while supplying energy savings of 84%, and burning for 25,000 hours (or 25 times longer than your typical incandescent bulb) without the need for replacement.

I'm in the process of buying a house and I have a strong suspicion I know what LED bulbs will be gracing the inside. You can pick up these LED bulbs exclusively at Home Depot.

4. Utilize commuter benefits
There are two primary ways you can utilize commuter benefits. The first would be to organize a carpool group with your fellow co-workers which helps share the pain of gas costs and has the added benefit of being able to use the normally wide-open carpool lane (notice I said normally – I'm looking right at you, San Diegans!). The second method is to take advantage of benefits your company may already offer. For instance, The Motley Fool offers its employees completely subsidized on-site parking or a partial subsidy for a Metro rail pass. If your company offers these perks, taking advantage of them could save big money! 

5. Drive smarter
This is one I admittedly don't follow, but I should. Driving faster may get you to work a minute or two sooner than the car going to the speed limit, but it also puts you at a greater risk of getting a ticket, having higher insurance rates, and definitely burns through your gas faster. Driving at the suggested speed limit without rapid accelerations can help improve your gas mileage by an average of 31%, according to Even U.S. automaker Ford has a page devoted to its car owners alerting them that their savings could be as much as 33% and 25% if they'd simply stop driving aggressively and slow down!

6. Cancel unused memberships/bills
How many of you have a landline phone in your house, or a newspaper delivered daily, or a gym membership? Now, think back to the last time you actually used your landline phone, read the newspaper, or went to the gym. Chances are a good third of you just answered "I can't recall," and had a light bulb go off in your head (and hopefully it was an LED one from Cree!). Canceling unwanted memberships and bills is one of the easiest ways to reduce waste. I've had a landline for years that I might use twice a year. Let's just say my cable service provider received a cancellation notice within the past week, and I'm well on my way to saving $480 each year!

7. Buy a bobble!
If you're like most Americans, you buy water by the case, or even the gallon. Well, break that habit and consider buying yourself a bobble. A bobble will run around $10; is made entirely of recyclable materials that are free of BPAs, PVCs, and phthalates; and has a filter designed into the bottle allowing users to enjoy approximately 300 cups of water before the filter should be changed. Another way of thinking about this is one bobble filter will eliminate 300 bottles from reaching the landfill. I know I pay about $3 for every 24-pack I buy, so that's around $37.50 for every 300 bottles versus $10 for one bobble, or, what I estimate is a monthly savings of around $5 every month. That does add up to $60 each year, folks!

8. Eat out for breakfast or lunch
There's not much I enjoy more than not having to cook my own meal and going out for food. However, consider what time of day you eat out, as that same meal can cost considerably more in the evening when restaurants command higher traffic and can punch up prices in order to match that increased demand. Simply dining out for breakfast or lunch, and not for dinner, can keep quite a bit of money in your pocketbook.

9. Use your loyalty rewards
In 2011, Cincinnati-based research firm Colloquy undertook what I believe was the first quantification of U.S. loyalty reward points. Its findings concluded that roughly $48 billion worth of rewards flowed into consumers' hands each year, but that a staggering $16 billion (one-third!) wasn't being used due to either a lack of understanding by the user or plain negligence. The solution here is very simple: if a retailer or credit card issuer offers you benefits, use them! Drugstore Walgreen (NASDAQ: WBA  ) , for instance, was upgraded on Wednesday by UBS analyst Steven Valiquette, who noted that the company's disciplined use of its loyalty card program was keeping margins up. How much would you like to bet that it's also a function of Walgreen customers not utilizing their points efficiently?

10. Barter with your utility provider
Little-known secret: You can occasionally bargain your cable and Internet service provider, as well as your electric provider, down to a lower rate. You might think cable companies have the impression that with few choices they have you right where they want you, but the threat that you could leave often pressures them into lowering your rate -- at least temporarily. In addition, don't discount the idea of utilizing programs offered by most electric utilities and cable companies if you've fallen on a financial hardship. They'd much rather work something out with you than shut-off your cable or electric completely.

My pencil is now a bit dull after that, but I hope it's given you another 10 beneficial ways you can keep a few more dollars in your pocket than you had before!

If you've got a money-saving idea, feel free to share it with the community in the comment section below.

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Read/Post Comments (13) | Recommend This Article (22)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 15, 2013, at 7:37 PM, TheRealRacc wrote:

    Call up your cable company, say you want to downgrade to basic cable, and you'll instantly save 25% on your bill for the same package you already have. At the very least, just try it.

  • Report this Comment On March 15, 2013, at 11:48 PM, Shedbabe wrote:

    " for every degree you place thermostat at " ?

    Who is editing this? "At" does not belong I this sentence.

    Make your grandfather proud; improve your grammar.

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2013, at 12:59 PM, earlyseller wrote:


    Thanks for helping me realize that I am a "Cheapskate" ahead of my time and wallet. Your grandfather and I would have decisively enjoyed each other's saving angst.

    You don't need my litany of saving deeds nor my self kudos for already being invested and divested of your listed items. But, even 'right' thinking/acting can create negative paybacks. My house is on a hill and who'd thought flood insurance was necessary. Irene & Lee & 13 inches of rain.

    Some tens of thousands of $ losses and expenses later (FEMA aside), "S--t Happens" and the savings were gone. Almost like being sentimental about a stock position. e.g. stories available on request.


    Jack Ludwig aka earlyseller

    PS I am working on a "Style Guide for TMF video presenters" for visual and verbal upgrades.

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2013, at 3:39 PM, midnighteye wrote:

    Cree's new 40-watt LED bulb will cost just $9.97, but boasts the same luminosity as an incandescent bulb of the same wattage while supplying energy savings of 84%, and burning for 25,000 hours (or 25 times longer than your typical incandescent bulb) without the need for replacement."

    This doesn't make sense. All 40 watt bulbs will use the same amount of electricity and will not result in a lower bill. Presumably Cree's bulb does not really consume 40 watts, which seems very high for LED lighting, if so, why not let us know? If it's going to save 84% of electricity, then it should be rated at 6.4 watts.

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2013, at 10:25 PM, FloridaJo wrote:

    I've got 50 ways to save your dollar. Been a tightwad for years. Why? Because to spend $1 you have to earn $1.30. The best lesson I've ever learned.

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2013, at 10:46 AM, StopPrintinMoney wrote:

    LED bulbs will get cheaper and better over time. Same thing heppened with CFLs, remember? They were expensive and slow to light to their full extent. Now they're cheap and give you skin cancer and contaminate soil and water. But hey, who cares, you save moolah, right?

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2013, at 10:00 PM, Gato337 wrote:

    ugh, it bugs me that people still drink so much bottled water! I understand it has its place, especially while traveling, and its always good to have on hand for emergencies. But in the US we have the advantage that MOST of the population has potable water coming through their tap. Yeah sometimes people might think it 'tastes' a little off, but a tap filter or filter pitcher will usually make it palatable. Its just SO wasteful to buy water by the case and drink it bottle by 16oz bottle (even at home?!?) when a tap filter would do you up just fine! I have 2 roommates who do this and they don't recycle the plastic bottles either! Even when I have to buy bottled water (I live in hurricane country), I try to buy the gallon jugs and re-fill my re-usable water bottle from that. I wish people were more conscious of all the plastic waste they generate with overpriced water. sigh. you can't win at everything.

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2013, at 10:10 PM, Estrogen wrote:

    11: Weddings for $1000. My best friend from childhood just completed round 2. 30 people, catered corn beef and cabbage meal, beer, wine, round of golf for the minister, and back yard of a friends. Unlike his first $30,000 into a wealthy brides family, I anticipate this one will last!

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2013, at 10:15 PM, Estrogen wrote:

    12: drive $5,000 cars. Since the economic downturn many dealerships have an "under $10,000" corner. They go through the cars at 30,000 feet before they sell them. If they see a big issue, they'll offload it at to an auction. Not only do you not have a car payment, but there is really no need to pay for comp and collision insurance. I have 2 teenage drivers, my wife, and myself, and our annual car insurance bill is $1200.

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2013, at 10:36 PM, Chuck2010 wrote:

    LED bulbs do save power for the equivilant light output. The sweet spot economically seems to be at 40 watts. The higher wattage equivilants are extremely expensive. The electronics built into LED's generate heat which eventually kills electronics. This problem has not been solved when you want a 60 watt or 100 watt LED light. Their lifespan and high cost don't offset the energy savings yet compared to CFLs.

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2013, at 8:54 AM, gaminsky wrote:

    I am very sorry for your loss, Sean.

    I love these kinds of articles. Number 1 way to save money? Keep your families together. Think immediate and extended. Walton style. Or if like me, go the other way and live in a very small shoe box,ride a bike, and work from home. Kind of lonely, but cheap.

    I watched The Grapes of Wrath yesterday and was reminded of how important family is, especially during hard times. "The Grapes of Wrath" is an awesome movie, and after watching probably not too hard to make a few cutbacks in the comfort department.

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2013, at 9:10 AM, TMFPennyWise wrote:

    We had programmable thermostats installed and we had a significantly lower energy bill in the past year.

    According to our billing records from Duke Energy we went from above the average for our house size to well below the average bill since installed. I was surprised.

    I wonder if we would save even more if we switched to one of these alternate energy providers (like First Energy in our region). I did a little google research and it seemed not so, but then some customers must find switching an advantage or First Energy wouldn't be doing as well as it is... Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks for the savings ideas. J.

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2013, at 9:25 AM, TMFPennyWise wrote:

    One more thought about your refinance recommendation: The HARP refinance program thru the government.

    A lot of people think they can't refinance because they are under water on their mortgages. But our bank called us and offered a refinance with a very attractive interest rate thru the HARP (Making Homes Affordable) government program. This was for a rental property we own although the program is available for personal residences too.

    Using this program a qualified mortgagee can get attractive rates despite the lack of equity in the property. And there are no restrictions for high income borrowers--You just have to have a good credit record, not have refinanced in the recent past, and have an FHA type loan.

    If you need to refinance I suggest you google for HARP refinancing and then call your bank and other providers (comparison shop) to request more information.

    We did one house through Chase and it was a breeze to do. It took five weeks to close and we had no out of pocket expenses at closing (they didn't even do an appraisal).

    We are now working with CITI on another property but CITI is being very very slow and seems quite incompetent, but I still think the refinance will be well worth it.

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