Welcome back, contest-lovin' Fools! Today, we're pleased to announce the winners of the Money-Saving Tips contest from last week. Take the time to read through the winning entries, as well as all of the suggestions that were graciously submitted on our Fool Contests board, and your wallet will be the better for it. Our panel of judges had another tough time this week, because almost every single entry demonstrated a sound money-saving technique that can add up to significant savings over the long run.
We'll get to the tips, but first a quick update on the race for the $500 grand prize. With five of the six contests now past us, the top five spots remained unchanged. jack24k, shawnr33, BroadwayDan, and altaboy all failed to place, while FixitWoman picked up a point to remain in fifth place. The complete standings and an explanation of the rules are available here.
Here now are this week's winners:
First place (10 Contest Points)
Contest newcomer poorartists takes the prize this week (a Fool sweatshirt and ballcap) for describing a way to save significantly on long-distance bills.
How to Save Money (on Long Distance)
Sign up for a long distance account with Onesuite.com. By dialing a toll-free access number, they offer nationwide long distance at 2.9 cents per minute (decent international rates, too, though I have no use for them).
-Same rate any time of day
-No monthly fees
-No per-call minimum charges
-No switching long distance carriers
-Can be used from any phone (saving much on calling card costs)
For $10, for example, I get 344 minutes of anytime long distance, which I use in a little over a month. I'll assume the average long distance rate is 7 cents/minute, and that the average person calls 3,200 minutes a year, both low estimates in my opinion. (I'm leaving out any monthly fees.)
Average annual long distance cost: $224
My cost with the same use: $92.80
If I (I'm in my 20s) invest this money monthly in a no-load index fund in an IRA that averages 10% per year, I could make almost $40,000 by the time I retire, just by using this long distance carrier.
I'm trying to make this sound impressive, so that I can win. :-) I do not have any connection to Onesuite.com except that I use them for long distance.
Second place (9 points)
Congratulations to Teafor2, who has coined a new phrase: Stash n Run. Sort of reminds us of squirrels storing nuts for the winter.
My best money-saving technique is something I call the Stash n Run. It all started with $50. I realized if I can physically SEE money in an account, or more specifically my checking account, then I WILL spend it. So, I set up an account with our company's Credit Union, which is located across the country in California. I split my direct deposit between my checking account and my new account across the country -- $50 in the new account, the rest to my checking account. I chose $50 because I knew mentally it wouldn't be such a big deal to see only $50 less each paycheck.
A little while later I set up a savings account connected to my checking account that I put another $50 into every paycheck. After a few more months, I started a Drip-type account online, this time with $50 once a month.
Thus my title, Stash n Run. I'm so busy stashing little bits of money and running away from them that when asked how much money I make every month, I really have to think about it. My salary has now become only what is direct-deposited into my checking account. Still, all the stashing doesn't seem like much because each stash is $50 and I think, "Oh, $50 no big deal." For me it was the small amount that enabled me to do it. I NEVER, EVER add up all the stashed amounts, because then I would think I had a lot more money to spend.
Stash n Run!!
Third place (8 points)
Want to save a lot of money? According to wintbill, start by lightening your wallet.
My best important money-saving idea deals with my wallet. The idea is to remove all of its contents and replace only the bare essentials. For me, the bare essentials means my driver's license, my bank's ATM/check card, one credit card, and a $20 bill. Here's how a simplified purse or wallet can save money for everyone:
It's best if the credit card in your purse or wallet provides rewards for using it, whether they are in the form of cash rebates or frequent flyer miles. If you don't have a card with such rewards yet, it's okay to use your existing credit card (more on this later). Remember, you're going to Foolishly pay off this card at the end of each month, so try and use the card as much as you can for everyday expenses.
If you cut down the contents of your wallet, you won't be carrying any credit cards from department stores or gas stations, so you won't be tempted to spread out your debt among multiple accounts. You won't have any checks with you, so instead of taking the money out of your checking account right away, you can leave it alone for four weeks until the credit card statement is due. This is especially rewarding if you are Foolish like me and earn a little interest in your checking account.
It also makes tracking expenses a lot easier, as each month your credit card statement details each transaction you performed. Use the statement to establish a monthly budget, and compare a few monthly statements to see how you can lower your budget and save more money. All this time you're earning rewards for every dollar spent using the card, and you're also building a strong credit history by paying your account in full every month. And for those without a card that gives rewards, you'll soon be able to apply for a new account earning rewards with your strong credit history to back you up.
Since you're using your credit card for as many of your expenses as you can, you should try and make the $20 bill in your wallet last as long as possible. Don't spend the $20 by going out to lunch. Instead, make your lunch at home. Don't buy gas with your cash. Remember, you use your credit card for that. Try and keep the cash for as long as you can, using it only for necessary expenses at places that don't take plastic (for example, paying tolls on bridges and turnpikes or feeding parking meters).
If something costs more than $20, chances are you can charge it to your credit card. When the $20 runs out, don't run straight to the bank to replace it. Wait as long as you can before using your ATM card to withdraw more cash. (And if you're afraid of being caught somewhere without any money, stash some of the leftover change from your first $20 in your car or at work.) Holding on to your cash means never having to answer the proverbial question, "Now where did all that cash I just withdrew go?"
Keeping my wallet as thin as possible really has made a difference in the money I am able to save. I typically can go an entire month with the same 20 dollars in my wallet, and I have earned over $720 in rewards over the past three years (I've used my rewards for my $20/month Internet service provider fee since 1998). Cutting down to the bare essentials takes no more than 10 minutes to do, but it results in money-saving practices that last forever.
Here now is the rest of this week's top ten:
4. Frugal Food, by drippinfool
5. Taking Stock, by gardenel
6. Insurance Match, by JGOwens
7. Online Banking, by Phileo
8. More Long Distance Savings, by monica3674
9. Home Savings, by quasie
10. Community Cash, by FixitWoman
That's it for this week! We'll leave you with this creative entry from the aptly-named BroadwayDan (and you won't be able to get the tune out of your head for the rest of the day).
Please hum along to the tune of the Disney classic "Be Our Guest" as you experience my contest entry. Ready gang? Thpectacular! Here we go. A one, a two, a you know what to do...
Be a Fool
Be a Fool
Save so much you'll drool
Join our sweet community, cherie
And do not be a tool
From car repair to clipping hair
Why we only live to save
Try the Drip Port, you will love it
Don't believe me? Ask Mr. Buffett!
We can nickel
We can dime
And still have a good time
Browsing here is really pretty cool
So dump your broker
He's a joker, and
You'll be a Fool
Oui a Fool
Be a Fool
Life insurance, income taxes
From stocks and bonds to bikini waxes
We'll scrimp and save with flair
Even hurl some verbal axes
You're a shmo
Who's over-spended, and
Your wallet's been rear-ended
So come make up a silly name
And clip coupons without shame
We swap stories
I yak rants
Sometimes even without pants!
Just boot up your computer
And the boards will be your tutor
To be a Fool
The ultimate penny pinchin school
Be a Fool
Be a Fool
BE A FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!