HERE'S THE DEAL
Money is often tight in January, when the holidays finally end and the bills come due. But for a variety of products and services, discounts are so easy to find that there's no reason to pay full price. Be sure to seek out deals before making any of these 20 purchases.
There are all sorts of ways to save money when planning a night at the movies. Head out for an early-bird matinee or wait for the discount days offered by many theaters, including chains such as Cinemark. Some employers provide discounted movie tickets or gift cards to employees, and similar savings are available to AAA and Costco members.
Doesn't a gift card worth $50 cost $50? Surprisingly, the answer isn't so clear-cut. Store-specific gift cards are sometimes offered at a discount, such as $40 cash for a $50 iTunes gift card. There also are marketplaces that buy and sell unwanted gift cards, such as Raise, Cardpool, and Gyft, at prices below face value.
Staples offers deals on printer paper so often that unless it's an emergency, there's no reason to pay full price. Although paper isn't that costly to begin with -- about $6 to $8 for 500 sheets -- packs frequently go on sale for 1 cent after an "easy rebate" that can be redeemed online.
Coupons for contact lenses are almost always available for both online and in-store purchases. Wearers must supply a prescription and contact information for the optometrist so the retailer can verify the details. For eyeglasses, online sites such as Zenni Optical and 39 Dollar Glasses offer deals for less than $40 a pair.
Renters insurance can be a worthwhile investment. Policies often cost less than $200 a year and provide reimbursement for liability, medical, and personal property losses. There are many ways to save on renters insurance, such as buying a fire extinguisher and installing smoke detectors.
A new term at college means spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks. Students can avoid paying full price by renting textbooks for the term or buying used or electronic editions on textbook websites. Selling used textbooks when the term is over is a good way to recoup some of the cost.
National crafting store Michael's stocks supplies for all sorts of projects -- and almost always offers a deal. Look for big 40- or 50-percent-off promo codes and coupons available online or printed on a purchase receipt. In-store shoppers often come across percentage-off or buy-one-get-one sales on particular items.
For some people, negotiating a price is the worst part of buying a car. Paying the sticker price, however, can mean spending thousands of dollars more than necessary. Seek quotes from multiple dealers and have them vie for your business, or use a car-buying program such as the one available to Costco members, AAA members, and to clients of some banks and credit unions.
ALMOST ANYTHING AT BED BATH AND BEYOND
Bed Bath Beyond expects to scale back distribution of 20-percent-off coupons, according to numerous news reports, but there are still plenty floating around. Hold off on a purchase until one shows up.
Coupons and discount codes aside, online shoppers can earn cash back when making a purchase using sites such as Ebates and Mr. Rebates. The cash-back websites give users a percentage of the price paid (and take a cut for themselves) simply for using links on the site to popular ecommerce platforms such as Staples, Groupon, and select categories on Amazon.
Auto insurance is a legal requirement for drivers in the U.S., and there are many routes to policy discounts. Some are age-based, but others require action, such as installing an anti-theft device or buying an auto policy along with another type of insurance. Teens often cost more to insure but may be eligible for teen-specific discounts, such as lower rates for good grades. Ask about available discounts because they're not granted automatically.
Many homes have access only to a few Internet providers, but even the low level of competition is enough to keep the companies on their toes. After the first year's promo rate expires, call and ask for the discounted rate again. At worst, the company says no or offers a smaller discount; at best, you keep the promo rate. Buying a modem instead of renting from the provider also lowers the monthly bill; the purchase usually pays for itself within a year.
There are many ways to save money on groceries, and savvy shoppers leverage those opportunities. Store brands or generics are almost always cheaper than name brands, for example, and buying in bulk also means savings. Consumers with brand loyalties can cut into the full retail price by using smartphone apps and online savings sites to find coupons and cash-back offers.
A Netflix subscription starts at $7.99 a month for standard-definition video while an upgrade to $9.99 delivers HD video and streaming to two screens at once. Share the higher-priced subscription with a friend and each person pays just $5 a month (and saves $5).
Rather than pay full price for a formal dress or suit you'll wear just once, rent luxury clothing for less. Several services offer dress and accessory rentals, the largest being Rent the Runway, where four-day rentals start at $30.
PHOTO PRINTS AND GIFTS
Whether printing a single large photo, ordering a pack of prints, or creating a photobook of the year's best memories, it's almost always possible to find a coupon code for photo-printing websites and stores. Offers for free printed photos when first creating an account are common, although the cost of shipping offsets some of the savings.
Cable and satellite TV service providers work hard to keep current customers from cancelling their service. Periodically call and ask if there are discounts or promotions available. Sometimes the bill may be lowered temporarily or extra channels added to the subscription for free.
Vouchers for discounted massages are common on daily deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. Some may be intended for first-time customers, so look for deals at multiple locations and rotate from one to the next. (A good practice is to tip the masseuse based on the standard rate, not the discounted rate.)
FITNESS AND YOGA CLASSES
Fitness and yoga devotees should be on the lookout for deals on classes. Packages that offer a discounted first month or series of classes to new students pop up with regularity and provide the chance to check out various studios. Discounted vouchers for first-time students frequently are posted on daily deal sites. Some studios offer classes with sliding-scale rates based on what students feel they can afford.