By now you think you’ve probably heard every money-saving tip ever invented. But here are some lesser known penny-pinching techniques I unearthed in researching my new book How to Retire the Cheapskate Way. Whether you’re retired, saving for retirement or just trying to make your paycheck go a bit further, give these simple tips a try:
1. Kill the Dust Bunnies: Keeping the coils underneath your refrigerator clean and dust-free can save you 5 percent or more on the cost of operating that appliance. Just remove the detachable grate on the front of most models and use a vacuum attachment to suck up the dust bunnies.
2. Tip the Nozzle: When you’ve finished filling your car’s gas tank and the pump has shut off, invert the pump nozzle 180 degrees while it’s still inserted in the tank. There’s an extra ounce or two of gasoline hiding in there — which you already paid for — that will drain into your tank.
3. Click the Cap: And speaking of saving on gas, always twist the gas cap until is “clicks” after a fill-up. If the cap isn’t fully twisted or, worse yet, if your gas cap is missing, you can lose up to 10 percent of your precious fuel through evaporation.
4. Kool-Aid in the Toilet: Many toilets slowly leak water — which you can’t detect with your ears — literally sending your money down the drain. Pour a packet of grape Kool-Aid in the toilet tank; if purple-colored water starts appearing in the bowl without flushing, you have a slow leak in need of repair.
5. Piggyback Phone Plans: Check with your employer’s phone provider to see if they offer discounted phone plans for employees of their corporate customers. Many phone companies do, with savings sometimes as high as 20 percent off regular rates.
6. Skip the Membership: Prescription drugs at “membership warehouse clubs” like Costco and Sam’s Club can be a great value. And since prescription meds are regulated by the federal government, you can’t be required to buy a membership to purchase them at warehouse clubs.
7. Generic Pet Meds: You can save on Fido’s prescription and non-prescription medications by buying generic brands. Many national retailers (including Target and Kroger) and Web sites offer generic versions of common pet meds at a substantial discount. Obviously, double check with your vet first to be safe.
8. Skip the Cart: When you run into the market for “a few quick items,” don’t use a shopping cart or basket. Force yourself to carry items in your arms, and you’ll cut down on impulse purchases, which account for nearly 50 percent of things we buy during quick trips to the grocery store.
9. Weigh Bagged Produce: When buying produce like potatoes, onion and apples by the bag, always take a minute to weigh a few different bags. The weight specified on the bag (e.g. 5 or 10 pounds) is the legally required minimum weight; some bags may actually contain more, all for the same price.
10. Check the International Aisle: The international food aisles in supermarkets often offer surprising bargains, and not just on exotic ingredients. Everyday staples like beans, rice, pasta, spices and canned goods are many times less expensive, usually because they’re off-brands sold only in that aisle.
11. Zip Up: Washing and drying clothing is harder on the fabric than daily wear and tear. Try laundering clothes less often, wash in cold water only and line-dry whenever possible. And also, always zip up jeans and other garments with metal zippers before laundering; otherwise they’ll tear up other garments in the wash.
12. Online Thrift Store Treasures: You can find some real treasures like antiques, original artwork and collectibles at thrift stores — if you have the time to do the treasure hunting. But now Goodwill has an online auction site (shopgoodwill.com) where you can bid on treasures they’ve discovered in Goodwill thrift stores across the country.
13. Free Money: Last but not least, there are a lot of scams on the Internet promising to help you find money that may be due you or a family member — for a price, of course. But nonprofit Web site unclaimed.org is legit and FREE, and has helped hundreds of thousands of people — including me! — find funds they can file to collect, including forgotten bank accounts, security deposits, inheritances and a wide range of other assets.
Here’s to a happy — and frugal — New Year!
Check out Jeff’s 7 Secrets for Retiring the Cheapskate Way, on the Crown Publishing site.