100 Top Money-Saving Tips for 2017
Another year is coming to an end, presenting a chance to reflect on lessons learned and goals for the future. From electricity costs to credit cards, Cheapism.com covered it all, and this roundup of 100 money-saving, reward-earning, and frugal-living tips includes some of the best recommendations from the past year, along with some perennial favorites.
Regular tickets to Disney World are more than $100 for ages 10 and up (and likely to increase again early next year), but there are ways to save on a Disney trip. One of the best strategies: Bring food, drinks, and even Disney memorabilia bought somewhere besides the overpriced gift shops (tell the kids a favorite character stopped by the hotel to leave them a souvenir). Disney World now allows outside food, and Disney cruises permit up to two bottles of wine or six beers in a carry-on (although the dining room corkage fee is $25).
Smart thermostats can be real money savers -- they learn residents' preferences and can be controlled from afar -- but even a cheap programmable thermostat set at a reasonable temperature can save $180 a year on average, according to the federal government's Energy Star program.
Earn extra cash by selling unwanted clothing on websites such as Poshmark, Vinted, Carousell, ThredUp, Twice, or The RealReal.
Some major retailers, including Walmart, Target, Staples, Best Buy, Office Depot, and Toys R Us, now price match Amazon. There are many exclusions to watch out for, but checking prices with a smartphone before making an in-store impulse buy can yield savings.
Don't waste money on toys that children will cast aside after a few months. Instead, consider toy swaps with local parents or rent toys using services such as Pley.
Looking for a diamond ring for a holiday engagement? Get a good price by shopping online and knowing the five C's: clarity, color, cut, carat, and certification. Don't compromise on cut, which makes a diamond sparkle, but a low clarity or color grade is harder to notice and can make a large stone more affordable. Also consider alternative synthetic diamonds or alternative gemstones.
Escape the contract and switch to an ultra-cheap phone provider such as FreedomPop or Republic Wireless. They use the same towers as some of the big telecom companies but charge consumers just a fraction of the price.
Many airlines charge for checked bags, but there are ways to fit everything into a carry-on and otherwise eliminate or reduce airline baggage fees. Watch out for budget airlines Allegiant, Frontier, and Spirit, which collect fees even for carry-ons. A new class of fare on United also limits free baggage to one personal item.
Consumers can save by joining the cord-cutting revolution and opting for a streaming stick from Roku, Google, or Amazon, or a set-top box such as Apple TV. Without a cable subscription, monthly entertainment costs can dip to less than $10 a month, and there is still plenty to watch.
It's a myth that keeping a small balance on a credit card improves credit scores. On the contrary: Paying off balances can help cardholders boost their scores -- and save money by avoiding interest payments.
For a high credit score, don't spend a large part of each card's available credit limit. The utilization rate -- the percentage of a credit limit that's being used -- is an important credit-scoring factor, and lower is better in the eyes of credit scoring agencies.
Consumers who have good credit scores but have trouble paying off credit card debt can move the debt to a card that charges zero interest on transferred balances during a promotional period. Some, but not all, such cards charge a one-time fee equal to a percentage of the amount transferred. Another option: Take out a personal loan with a lower interest rate than the credit cards and use it to pay down the debt.
Netting a discount can be as easy as typing the retailer's name and "coupon codes" into a search engine. Consumers can also check sites such as RetailMeNot, DealNews, and Brad's Deals for coupon codes before checking out online.
Savings need not stop after clicking "buy." Several price-tracking services alert shoppers to after-the-fact price drops so shoppers can ask for a refund of the difference -- or get one automatically (minus a cut for the service). DreamCheaper does this for hotels. Paribus and Slice monitor select retailers, including Amazon, through users' email accounts. Several credit card issuers offer a similar service for free.
Hotels are often cheaper farther from the city center or from major attractions. This isn't always true at holiday times, though. That's when business travel is at a lull, and rates may fall in a city's financial district.
Many credit cards offer extended warranties, full refunds if items are damaged or stolen up to 90 days after purchase, zero liability for fraudulent charges, and rewards programs that earn the cardholder money back on every purchase. Look at what's included before buying additional coverage.
Buy a wireless router or modem rather than renting one from an Internet service provider. The purchase often pays for itself in less than a year.
Switch to a bank with fee-free checking and ATM use or fee reimbursement -- often available from smaller local banks or credit unions. These institutions also typically offer checking accounts with no minimums and lower fees than large banks. Explore online services from Charles Schwab, Ally Bank, or USAA Bank (for members and relatives of military members and veterans).
Get a credit card that does not charge extra for foreign transactions. This can come in handy while traveling or when making purchases in a foreign currency while at home.
Save money on razors by drying the blades after each use and storing them in a dry space. This simple step can prolong the life of a razor blade by months. For more savings, consider switching to a service that delivers inexpensive blades.
Influenster and BzzAgent send free samples, and sometimes free full-size products, to consumers who write short reviews or tell friends about the products.
Use mobile apps to help save money while shopping for groceries, clothing, and everything else. Try RetailMeNot, Ibotta, Checkout 51, Grocery Smarts, SnipSnap, SmartSource, and the Coupons App.
Small-business owners looking to attend conferences can save money or even go for free by volunteering or speaking. Book early and split the cost of transportation or accommodations with other attendees. If the conference price is still out of reach, just go to the after-parties and networking events -- often the most valuable parts.
Electric bikes and scooters offer inexpensive and relatively sweat-free alternatives to a car for consumers eager to cut transportation costs.
Chrysanthemums, carnations, and alstroemerias (Peruvian lilies) cost less than roses and last longer. No matter the type of flowers, call a local florist near the recipient instead of ordering online. The florist may offer savings or prepare a better bouquet for the same price.
Some weight-loss methods are too good to be true. Avoid paying for creams, seven-minute workouts, shakes, pills, and fad diets that do not address the needs of the body as a whole. Choose a plan that emphasizes healthy eating and exercise over a quick fix. The instilled habits are more valuable in the long run.
Priceline, Hotwire, and other travel sites aren't the only ones that let consumers name the price they want to pay. Greentoe has a similar setup for photography equipment, home theater items, appliances, and more.
At least five days of the week (generally not Friday and Saturday) there's a restaurant chain that lets kids eat for free after the purchase of an adult entree.
Borrowers whose financial situation has improved since graduation may want to look into refinancing their private student loans to potentially lower interest rates. Lenders look beyond credit scores to the borrower's income, job, education level, degree, and other financial obligations.
Refinancing federal student loans can also lead to lower interest rates, which can save borrowers money. Be aware, though: After refinancing with a private lender, borrowers are not eligible for federal payment plans based on income or forgiveness programs.
Renters may benefit from an insurance policy even if they don't have many possessions. Renters insurance could cover theft of personal property even if it occurs outside the home, and liability protection in the event someone is injured and sues. Installing smoke detectors, buying a fire extinguisher, or paying premiums for a full year all at once usually generates a discount.
Students are often on a shoestring budget, but there are plenty of savings opportunities. Some clothing stores, including Madewell, Asos, and Topshop, offer a 10 percent to 15 percent student discount. Restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, gyms, and technology companies also offer discounts for students.
To decrease premiums on your insurance, raise the deductible (the amount the policyholder must pay before the insurance company starts to cover costs).
When the cost to replace possessions or fix a vehicle is less than an insurance deductible, it may make sense not to make a claim. The policyholder has to pay for the damages out of pocket either way, and reporting the incident may result in higher premiums.
Standing desks can encourage workers to be less sedentary and offer a nice change from sitting in front of a computer all day. Retail prices can reach into the thousands, but there are cheaper alternatives, including a wall-mounted shelf or stacking books or boxes to raise the height of a laptop or monitor. Keep feet relaxed by standing on a folded yoga mat or anti-fatigue mat.
Get a tax deduction for the current year by contributing to an Individual Retirement Arrangement right up to the tax-filing deadline in the coming year. The IRA contribution limit for 2016 is $5,500 ($6,500 for taxpayers 50 and older).
Small-business owners who record the miles they drive for work can take a deduction of 54 cents a mile in 2016. Taxpayers who don't own a business can deduct 14 cents a mile driven for charitable purposes, or to and from a volunteer event.
Before hiring a contractor, figure out if someone with specialized training is needed and get recommendations from friends and family. Set a budget and ask contractors for an itemized task and quote list. To be safe, budget for cost overruns up to 20 percent of the initial quote.
When taking a trip or traveling to a new state, look for representative souvenirs that are small, lightweight, and inexpensive. Macadamia nuts or Kona coffee from Hawaii, saltwater taffy from the New Jersey shore, or an album from one of Nashville's well-known record shops are popular examples.
Even infrequent travelers can save money by enrolling in hotel loyalty programs. Basic membership comes with free Wi-Fi, late checkout, and complimentary newspapers at some chains.
Credit unions are nonprofits owned cooperatively by members (people with an account at the credit union). They offer many of the same services as banks but give more savings and profits to members. Fees and interest rates may be lower on credit cards and loans, and checking and savings accounts may pay higher interest compared with other financial services firms.
Many fast food and fast casual restaurants offer unlimited refills. Chains with this perk have included Taco Bell, Chipotle, Five Guys, Olive Garden, McDonald's, and In-N-Out.
Some car repairs, such as an oil change or brake pad replacement, are relatively easy DIY chores. Other fixes generally require a trained mechanic and could be costly. If a problem arises after the warranty has expired, it may be possible to save money by contacting the manufacturer for "goodwill assistance."
Many sound sleepers advocate buying a mattress online. Shops such as Casper, Leesa, Tuft & Needle, and Yogabed sell high-quality foam mattresses starting at $500. Search for discounts and coupon codes for further savings. There are also inexpensive options on Amazon, but they don't offer the same warranties or trial period.
Check monthly bills and think twice about memberships that aren't used often. Whether it's a subscription box with products that aren't often to your liking or an infrequently visited gym, if the service isn't providing value, stop paying for it.