100+ Smart Ways to Save Money on Almost Everything in Your Budget
Cutting the excess fat from your budget is not challenging as you might think. Although you may have little control over your mortgage or property taxes, you can save hundreds of dollars every year on groceries, utilities, cell phone charges, prescriptions, bank fees, insurance, dining out, textbooks, clothing, electronics, a tank of gas, and much more. This hub teaches you over 100 ways to save money on almost everything in your budget.
For your convenience, I have divided my article into the following categories:
- How to save money on utilities
- How to save money at the gas pump
- How to save money on cell phone charges, cable bills, and Internet service
- How to save money on a new car and car repairs
- How to save money on dining out and entertainment
- How to save money on a vacation
- Customer rewards programs
- Over 50 goods and services that have gigantic markups
- What to buy and what to avoid at the dollar store
- Fabulous freebies that will add joy to your budget
Author’s note: Although I have made every effort to provide you with accurate, timely, and trustworthy information, I cannot guarantee that such information is correct, effective, or up-to-date at the time of your access.
How to Save Money on Utilities
According to the United States Department of Energy (DOE), the average American household spends over $2,000 every year on utilities. Here are some estimates of how the money is allocated:
- Heating: $662
- Cooling: $394
- Water heater: $317
- Lighting: $269
- Clothes dryer and washer: $143
- Refrigerator: $95
- Electric oven: $90
- TV, DVD, VCR: $57
- Dishwasher: $49
- Computer: $28
Here are 75 large and small changes that you can make to keep your home more energy efficient and cut utility bills:
1. If you’re not using an appliance, unplug it.
2. Turn off the lights in a room you are not using.
3. During the summer, never leave home with the air conditioning on.
4. Have your furnace tuned up every two years and save up to 15% in fuel costs.
5. Clean or replace furnace filters once a month. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy consumption.
6. Raise the temperature of your refrigerator and freezer. They don’t have to be on the coldest setting.
7. Paint your rooms with light colors. This reduces the need for artificial light.
8. Turn off your outdoor lights when you get home.
9. According to the United States Department of Energy, you can save about 10% in utility costs by installing a programmable thermostat.
10. Soak your dishes before putting them into the dishwasher.
11. Unplug your battery charger when you are not using it.
12. Don’t leave your holiday or outdoor lights on during the day.
13. Turn off the lights when you are watching television.
14. Unplug the computer, scanner, printer, and fax machine in your home office if you are not using them.
15. Open the refrigerator and freezer doors as little as possible.
16. Don’t keep the television on if nobody is watching it.
17. Use table lamps instead of overhead lights to brighten a space you are using.
18. Watch less television. Instead of watching the evening news, why not opt to resolve the latest financial challenge in your life?
19. Use a manual can opener.
20. Air-dry your hair instead of using a blow dryer.
How to Save Money on Utilities
21. Turn off your Nintendo or PlayStation if you are not using them.
22. Use your toaster less.
23. Remove your clothes from the dryer while they are still damp. They will probably last longer as well.
24. Never use dish detergent in your washing machine.
25. Do multiple loads of laundry in succession. Your dryer will work more efficiently because it will not have to keep warming up.
26. Check the progress of your dryer periodically. This allows you to untangle sheets, bath towels, jeans, or overalls so that they will dry more quickly.
27. Just because you have set your dryer for 60 minutes doesn’t mean that it will take that long for your laundry to dry.
28. Do not overload your washer or dryer.
29. No washing machine can completely remove oil from your clothes.
30. Paint your roof white. You can save up to 40% in annual cooling costs--over $100 at current utility rates--by having a white roof instead of a black one.
31. Install compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL). According to EnergyStar.gov:
If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a light bulb that's earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.
By changing one bulb, you could save $40 or more over the lifetime of the bulb.
By changing 5 bulbs, you could save $200 or more over the lifetime of the bulbs.
Because the average U.S. household has more than 50 light bulbs, think of how much you could save if you switched them all to ENERGY STAR certified models.
32. Do basic household maintenance regularly. Here are 15 Quick Fixes to Make Around Your House.
33. Run full loads of laundry and dishes.
34. Air seal and insulate your home. HouseLogic.com points out that:
A typical family spends about a third of its annual heating and cooling budget--roughly $350--on air that leaks into or out of the house through unintended gaps and cracks. With the money you waste in just one year, you can plug many of those leaks yourself. It’s among the most cost-effective things you can do to conserve energy and increase comfort.
35. Insulate your water heater and pipes.
How to Save Money on Utilities
36. Check to see if your meter and utility bill match.
37. Plant tall shrubs and trees around your house to shade your home in the summer and block harsh winds in the winter.
38. Use a crock pot and reduce your cooking costs. According to TheSimpleDollar.com, a crock pot "is perhaps the best deal on earth for reducing cooking costs in a busy family. You can just dump in your ingredients before work, put it on simmer, and dinner is done when you get home."
39. Choose white curtains and blinds to reflect heat away from your home during the summer.
40. Here is the average daily water use for a family of four in the United States:
- Washing dishes – 15 gallons
- Cooking and drinking – 12 gallons
- Laundry – 35 gallons
- Bathing – 80 gallons
- Washing hands, etc. – 5 gallons
- Toilet – 100 gallons
Here are 100+ Ways to Conserve Water.
41. Take quick showers.
42. Do not use the toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket. Never put cigarette butts, paper towels, disinfecting wipes, cotton swabs, cosmetic puffs, coffee grinds, or plastic bags into the toilet.
43. Store cold water in the refrigerator.
44. Install a low-flow, water-saving shower head.
45. Do not let the faucet run while you are cleaning fruits and vegetables.
46. Get rid of the second refrigerator that you occasionally use for parties and family gatherings.
47. Put a layer of mulch around plants, trees, and shrubs. Mulch will slow the evaporation of moisture.
48. Buy a water-efficient toilet. If your toilet was manufactured prior to 1994, you are probably losing about 2 gallons of water every time you flush.
49. Did you know that the permanent press cycle on most washing machines uses about one-third more water than the regular cycle?
50. Do not flush the toilet unnecessarily.
51. Make sure that the water is not running continuously in the toilet.
52. When washing dishes by hand, do not let the faucet run needlessly.
53. Repair leaking faucets. A dripping faucet can waste over 300 gallons of water a month. That adds up to nearly 4,000 gallons a year.
54. Do not use hot running water to thaw frozen foods. Instead, allow ample time for frozen foods to that before cooking or eating.
55. Use a water-efficient “soaker hose” instead a sprinkler to water your lawn.
How to Save Money on Utilities
56. Since it takes about 70 gallons of water to fill a bathtub, taking a shower is more cost-effective.
57. If you are unable to take a shower, fill the tub about halfway. That’s about 35 gallons of water.
58. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth or shaving.
59. Buy Energy Star certified products. Energy Star is the partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Department of Energy (DOE) that identifies energy-efficient products. Energy Star acknowledges that “Heating and cooling costs the average homeowner about $1,000 a year - nearly half the home's total energy bill. Replacing your system with an ENERGY STAR certified model could cut your heating and cooling costs by 30%.”
Here are some examples of Energy Star certified products:
- Air purifiers
- Ceiling fans
- Central and room air conditioning units
- Clothes washers and dryers
- Dishwashers, freezers, and refrigerators
- Light bulbs and fixtures
- Ventilation fans
- Water heaters
60. During winter months, use extra layers of blankets instead of turning up the thermostat.
61. Pay your utilities on time to avoid late charges.
62. Water your outdoor plants and lawn early in the morning before the sun burns off moisture.
63. Carefully go over each of your utility bills before paying them. If there is something that you do not understand on a bill, call the supplier and ask for help.
64. To make paying utility bills easier, consider using a budget payment plan. Budget billing is designed to manage fluctuations in your monthly utility bills. It estimates the total annual cost for a utility based on past or estimated consumption and expected utility prices and fees. This estimate is used to determine your monthly budget payment for twelve (12) months.
65. If you need help paying your utility bills, most suppliers have customer assistance programs. CAPs can help you to reduce your bills and/or provide you with information on cash grants:
How to Save Money at the Gas Pump
1. Shop at supermarkets that have fuel perks programs. You can save 10 - 20 cents off a gallon of gas for every $100 you spend on groceries, prescriptions, and qualifying gift cards.
Here is a comprehensive list of grocery store fuel perks programs:
- Acme - Receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend. You can redeem your savings at Sunoco stations on up to 25 gallons of gas.
- Albertsons – Earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 spent. You can redeem your perks at Texaco and Chevron stations.
- Cub Foods - Receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend. You can fill up at participating Holiday stations on up to 20 gallons of gas.
- Food City – Earn 15 cents off per gallon for every $150 spent. You can redeem your savings at Gas n’ Go stations.
- Fred Meyer - Receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend. You can redeem your perks at Shell and Fred Meyer stations on up to 35 gallons of gas.
- Fry’s Food – Earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 spent. You can fill up at participating Circle K and Shell stations.
- Giant Eagle – Receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $50 you spend at Giant Eagle, GetGo, Market District, or Giant Eagle Express. You can earn fuel perks by purchasing groceries and health and beauty aids, having prescriptions filled, buying gift cards, and by using Giant Eagle’s dry cleaning, shirt laundry, and photo services. You can redeem your savings at GetGo stations on up to 20 gallons of gas. (By the way, this is one of the best fuel perks programs around.)
- Ingles – Earn five cents off per gallon for every $100 spent. You can redeem your perks at Ingles stations on up to 20 gallons of gas.
- Jewel-Osco - Receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 spent on groceries and prescriptions. Fuel perks expire at the end of the month following the one in which they were earned. For example, rewards earned in August can be used through the end of September. You can redeem your perks at participating Shell stations on up to 20 gallons of gas.
- Kroger – Receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend. You can earn fuel perks by purchasing groceries and health and beauty aids, having prescriptions filled, buying gift cards, and completing customer satisfaction surveys. Fuel perks expire at the end of the month following the one in which they were earned. For example, rewards earned in September can be used through the end of October. You can fill up at Shell and Kroger stations on up to 35 gallons of gas.
- Market 32 – Earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 spent. You can redeem your savings at Sunoco stations.
- Pay Less Supermarkets - Receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend. You can redeem your perks at Shell gas stations.
- Price Chopper – Earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 spent. You can fill up at Sunoco stations on up to 20 gallons of gas.
- QFC - Receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend. You can redeem your savings at participating Shell stations.
- Redner’s Pump Perks – Earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 spent. You can redeem your perks at Sunoco stations on up to 20 gallons of gas.
- Safeway – Receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend. Fuel perks expire at the end of the month following the one in which they were earned. For example, rewards earned in March can be used through the end of April. You can fill up at Sunoco stations on up to 20 gallons of gas.
- Shaw’s – Earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 spent. You can redeem your savings at Sunoco stations on up to 25 gallons of gas.
- Shop ‘n Save – Receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $50 you spend. You can redeem your perks at Sunoco stations on up to 30 gallons of gas. (This is also one of the best fuel perks programs around.)
- Star Market - Earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 spent. You can fill up at Sunoco stations on up to 25 gallons of gas.
- Stop & Shop – Receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 you spend. You can redeem your savings at Shell and Stop & Shop stations.
- Walmart partners with Murphy USA gas stations (not Murphy Express) to save you three cents per gallon when you pay with a Walmart gift card, Walmart MoneyCard, or Walmart MasterCard or Visa.
- Weis Markets - Earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $50 spent. This is double of what you would earn at most other fuel perks programs. You can redeem your perks at participating Sheetz stations on up to 20 gallons of gas.
(Author’s note: Fuel perks’ terms and conditions can change at any time and without notice. In addition, BI-LO and Winn-Dixie both discontinued their fuel perks programs in 2017.)
2. Clean your car's air filter every 10,000 miles.
3. Gas Price Watch lets you text your zip code to firstname.lastname@example.org. They will respond with the names and addresses of the cheapest places to buy gas in your area. You can also use the AAA Triptik or GasBuddy apps on your smartphone to find the cheapest gas prices in your locale.
4. According to GasBuddy.com, there is a 65% chance that you will find the best prices at the gas pump on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
5. Rapid braking and accelerating decrease fuel efficiency.
6. Fill the tank full. Instead of adding two gallons today and three gallons tomorrow, save time and money and fill up all the way all at once.
7. Combine errands. For example, you can do the grocery shopping, buy postage stamps, pick up a prescription, and even do your banking all in one trip to the supermarket.
8. Buy discounted Gulf, Shell, and Mobil gift cards at GiftCardGranny.com. You might pay $90 for a gift card but get $100 worth of gas.
9. Don‘t forget to tune up. A properly maintained engine can increase fuel efficiency by up to 10%.
10. Don’t carry around nonessential odds and ends in your car. You lose one mile for every gallon of gas for every 250 extra pounds.
11. Don't let your engine idle.
12. Don't speed. According to Fueleconomy.gov, each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an extra 24 cents per gallon for gas.
13. Don't pack items on the top of your car.
14. Use the air conditioning only when it is absolutely necessary.
15. Ride a bicycle to work. According to the U.S. Census, nearly 750,000 Americans bike to work. Bicycling is a popular mode of transportation in cities like Portland, Denver, and Washington, DC. Kiplinger.com agrees:
By leaving your car at home two days a week, you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions by more than 3,000 pounds a year. Plus, you’ll save money on gas and parking if you bike rather than drive to work. For example, you’ll save about $7 a day by biking rather than driving if you have a 15-mile round-trip commute. Use our How Much Can I Save Biking to Work? Tool to see what the financial benefits are for you. If biking isn’t an option, you still can drive less by organizing a carpool, using public transportation or walking.
How to Save Money at the Gas Pump
16. Buy a smaller car. Generally, smaller cars are lighter and get better gas mileage.
17. Anticipate stop signs and lights. Wikihow.com advises: “Look far ahead; get to know your usual routes. You can let up on the gas earlier. Coasting to a stop will save the gasoline you would otherwise use maintaining your speed longer.”
18. Take public transit to work or to the ballgame. In alphabetical order, here are 15 USA cities with excellent public transit systems:
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- Oakland, CA
- San Francisco
- Washington, DC
Port Authority Transit (PAT) is the public transportation provider for the greater Pittsburgh area. In 2016, PAT riders took a total of 62.1 million rides and saved 3,476,681 gallons of gas. Each rider saved an average of $7,486 compared to driving a personal vehicle. PAT was also 41% more fuel efficient than driving a car and took the equivalent of 19,000 cars off the road.
19. If your employer gives you a free transit pass, count your blessings and never leave home without it.
20. If you live in a city with excellent public transportation such as New York or San Francisco, you might not need a car. Of course, you can always rent one for special occasions.
21. If you ride public transportation frequently, buy a weekly, monthly, or annual transit pass. You could save lots of money.
22. Pump up your tires and save up to six cents a gallon. GoodHousekeeping.com reveals that “More than one-quarter of vehicles are driving on deflated tires. The average under-inflation of 7.5 pounds causes a loss of 2.8% in fuel efficiency.”
23. Maintain a safe following distance. Wikihow.com advises:
Don't stick to the bumper of the car directly in front of you. You will brake more and accelerate more to keep that unnecessary and dangerous narrow gap. This also gives you a lot more room to play with when you are timing traffic signals. Likewise, ignore tailgaters. They will tailgate you whether you go the speed limit, or 100MPH over the speed limit. Allow them pass when it's convenient.
24. Some gas stations charge you more when you pay by credit or debit card in order to offset the “processing costs” that banks charge them. As a result, look for gas stations where paying by credit or debit card is the same as paying with cash. You could save five cents or more per gallon.
25. For more ways to save money at the gas pump, go to How to Save Money on Gas.
How to Save Money on Cell Phone Charges, Cable Bills, and Internet Service
1. Do you really need 100 cable channels? Why not switch to basic cable and use the money that you save to pay off debt or boost your retirement savings.
2. Avoid signing term contracts with a cable company. Instead, choose a provider where you can cancel service at any time.
3. Instead of cable, consider Netflix. For only $7.99 a month, you can watch unlimited television shows and movies. Netflix also gives you one month for free.
4. Bundle your cable and Internet service into one monthly payment. Why pay for separate charges each month?
5. The average American household spent over $1,500 in 2015 on cell phones and services, and the biggest spenders easily spent twice that much. If overpaying for what you need sounds like a bad idea, here are 12 Tips to Cut Your Cell Phone Bill.
6. If you have a cell phone, get rid of your land line. Why pay $25 or more every month for a phone you rarely use.
7. Never pay late fees on your cell phone and cable/Internet service bills. Some providers charge as much as $10 for a late or missed payment.
8. Be careful about paying your cell phone or cable/Internet service bills by using the credit card option on the provider’s web site. Some providers charge you a service fee of up to $25 for the convenience.
How to Save Money on a New Car and Car Repairs
1. When buying a car, here are five factors that you must consider:
- Fuel economy
- Is new or used best for you?
- Does leasing or buying make more sense?
- What is your target price?
- What is the net worth of your old car?
2. You can find expert ratings and buying advice for new cars at ConsumerReports.org.
3. RedBookMag.com points out one way to save money on a new car:
Auto manufacturers roll out new models in October, so dealerships make room by discounting older stock in late summer. According to Phil Reed, consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com, September shoppers can save up to $2,000 with very little negotiating--as little as, 'I'm taking last year's model off of your hands, and I need a better price; what can you do?
Here is Red Book's "score anytime secret" on how to get a better price on a new car:
To score a deal on new wheels any time of year, ask your dealer about 'program cars,' which are driven by sales staff for up to 10,000 miles and are kept in tip-top shape by the dealership, then sold at a steep discount.
4. Here are two useful links that can help you to save money on car repairs:
How to Save Money on Dining Out and Entertainment
1. If you've been eating out more than twice a week, consider eating out no more than once a week, once every two weeks, or even once a month. You will appreciate eating out more and be amazed at how much money you can save.
2. Stop spending $5.00 or more on a latte and muffin every morning on the way to work. Use the money that you save to pay off debt or build up emergency savings.
3. Go to a matinee at the movie theater. It's cheaper than going at night.
4. Give up the daily or weekly lotto. Your chances of winning on a single ticket are one in 175 million. If you're spending $10 a week on scratch-off tickets, that adds up to over $500 annually. Use the money for your debt reduction program or to build up cash reserves.
5. Stop gambling at land-based or online casinos as well because the odds are also against you.
6. Get rid of magazine subscriptions that you no longer need. If you have a pile of unread magazines around the house, it's probably from a subscription or two that you should cancel.
7. Are you looking for something to do this weekend? Get a free newspaper and check the listings for free or low-cost theatre, exhibits, festivals, kid stuff, etc.
8. Use your AAA discount to save on entertainment and attractions in your area as well as total vacation packages.
9. Entertain at home instead of going out. For example, consider having a potluck with friends.
10. When eating out, look for half-priced dinner specials.
11. To learn where you can get free food on your birthday, go to 110 Restaurants That Offer Free Birthday Food.
12. Here is a list of over 50 places where kids can eat for free or inexpensively: Kids Eat Free.
13. Sign up with Groupon.com and save 50%-90% on restaurant meals, movie tickets, and more.
How to Save Money on a Vacation
1. Vacation during the off-season.
2. The average price for a gallon of gas nationwide was $1.87 in January, 2016. With gas prices so low, why not consider a road trip? Here are 10 Simple Ways to Spend Less on the Road.
3. To get a lower price on airfare, book your flight at least 21 days in advance and be willing to stay over on a Saturday night.
4. Sign up with an airline’s frequent flyer program to accumulate points toward free flights.
5. Don't forget to travel light. Moneyning.com advises that "Airlines are starting to charge for everything now and if you have 2 bags or more, expect to be charged for it. Remember to not use oversized bags whenever possible and try to keep it all within one bag per person."
6. Use Hotwire.com to compare prices on hotels, rental cars, flights, and cruises.
7. You can also use Trivago.com to compare prices on hotels. I have used Trivago several times and have always had favorable results.
8. Be specific with car rentals. According to Moneyning.com:
One way car rentals (when the pickup and drop off locations are different) are sometimes more than twice the price of standard rentals, especially if the two locations are in different states (or country). If you need the car for 7 days and will be in the same city for 5 and another city for 2 for example, break the rental period in two and have a 5-day same location rental and another 2-day one day rental. You might need to go back to the rental facility but it really doesn’t take that long and it might save you a few hundred dollars.
9. Check out daily deals from Groupon in the city that you’re traveling to. You could save up to 80% on select things to do.
10. Bank of America cardholders can receive free admission to more than 150 museums on the first full weekend of every month. Here are some examples:
- Atlanta - Atlanta History Center, High Museum of Art, Center for Civil and Human Rights
- Boston - Museum of Fine Arts
- Chicago - Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago History Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art
- Los Angeles - Autry National Center of the American West, LACMA, Skirball Cultural Center
- Miami - Coral Gables Museum
- New York City - Brooklyn Historical Society, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Philadelphia - National Constitution Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art
- Phoenix - Heard Museum, Phoenix Art Museum
- Pittsburgh - Carnegie Museum of Art
- San Francisco - Contemporary Jewish Museum, de Young Museum, Legion of Honor
11. There are 398 national parks in the United States. At least 265 of them have free admission.
12. Here is a list of over 50 places where kids can eat for free or inexpensively: Kids Eat Free.
Customer Rewards Programs
Be sure to sign up with every customer rewards program that comes your way. Lindsay Kolowich tells us that a rewards program is a loyalty program offered by a company to customers who frequently make purchases. A rewards program gives a customer free merchandise, rewards, coupons, or even advance-released products.
Here is a list of over 200 rewards programs by category:
Department stores, clothing stores, home improvement stores, etc.:
- 84 Lumber
- Ace Hardware
- Andy's Frozen Custard
- Best Buy
- Big Lots
- CVS Extra Care Rewards
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
- Gap Rewards Program
- Gilt Insider
- J.C. Penney
- Jeweliq's Heart Rewards
- Kohl's Yes2You Rewards
- Macy’s Star Rewards
- Men's Wearhouse Perfect Fit Rewards Program
- Neiman Marcus
- Nordstrom Fashion Rewards
- Office Depot
- Petco Pals Rewards
- Sally's Beauty Club Card
- Sears Shop Your Way Member Program
- Sephora Beauty Insiders
- Sports Authority
- Target REDcard Debit Card (To join this program, you must present a voided check to the Target team member.)
- The Home Depot
- Ulta Beauty
- Walgreens Balance Rewards Program
- West Elm - This loyalty program gives rewards on seven brands including Mark and Graham, PBteen, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, West Elm, Williams-Sonoma, and Williams-Sonoma Home. According to WestElm.com
Reward Dollars are eligible on merchandise prices only; taxes, shipping, and processing charges, delivery charges, and purchases made with a Williams-Sonoma, Inc. brand gift card are not eligible to earn rewards. Reward Dollars are currently available on U.S. purchases only. At this time, Canada is not included. Key Reward Dollars cannot be earned with the use of a Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn or west elm credit card.
Grocery store rewards programs:
- A&P Fresh Club Card
- Bi-Lo Bonus Card
- Big Y Express Savings Club Card and Silver Savings Club Card
- Brookshire’s Thank You Card
- Buehler’s Advantage Card
- Carrs/Safeway Plus Club Card
- City Market
- CountryMart My CountryMart Rewards Card
- D&W Fresh Market yes Rewards
- Earl of Sandwich
- Family Fare Yes Rewards
- Food City ValuCard
- Food Emporium
- Food Lion MVP Card
- Food4Less Plus Reward’s Card
- Fred Meyer Rewards Card
- Fry’s VIP Card
- Gerbes Plus Shopper’s Card
- Giant Eagle Advantage Card
- Giant Food Card
- Giant Food Stores Bonuscard
- Glen's Markets Yes Rewards
- Hard Times Cafe
- Harris Teeter VIC
- Homeland Stores One Card
- Ingles Advantage Savings & Reward Card
- Jay C Plus Shopper’s Card
- King Soopers SooperCard
- Kroger Plus Card
- Lowes Foods Fresh Rewards Card
- Martin’s Advantage Card
- Meijer MPerks
- Owen’s Plus Card
- Panchero's Mexican Grill
- Pathmark PERKS Club Card
- Pavilions ValuePlus Club Card
- Pay Less Supermarkets Plus Card
- Piggly Wiggly Pig Card
- Price Chopper AdvantEdge Card
- QFC Advantage Card
- Ralph’s Rewards Card
- Randalls Remarkable Club Card
- Safeway Club Card
- Shop ‘n Save Perks
- ShopRite Price Plus Club Card
- ShurFine Supermarkets Gold Card
- ShurSave Gold Card
- Smith’s Rewards Card
- Stop & Shop Card
- SuperFresh my+REWARDS Card
- Tom Thumb Reward Card
- Tops Markets Bonus Card
- VG's Grocery yes Rewards
- Vons VonsClub Card
- Waldbaum’s my+Rewards Card
- Wegmans Shoppers Club Card
- Weis Shoppers Club Card
- Winn-Dixie Rewards with Plenti
Restaurants, pizza shops, coffeehouses, etc.:
- Auntie Anne's Pretzels
- Backyard Burgers
- Bar Louie
- Black Angus Steakhouse
- Burger King
- Bob Evans
- Buffalo Wild Wings
- California Pizza Kitchen
- Caribou Coffee
- Cold Stone Creamery
- Corner Bakery Café
- Cups Frozen Yogurt
- Dairy Queen
- David's Tea
- Del Taco
- Domino's Pizza
- Dunkin' Donuts
- Elephant Bar
- Fox and Hound
- Jamba Juice
- Joe's Crab Shack
- Krispy Creme
- Moe’s Southwest Grill
- Native Foods Café
- Noodles and Company
- Panera Bread
- Papa Johns
- Pink Berry
- Pizza Hut
- Raising Cane's
- Red Mango
- Red Robin
- Rita’s Italian Ice
- Salad Works
- Sweet Green
- Taco Cabana
- TGI Fridays
- Taco Bell
- Travel rewards:
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
- American Airlines Aadvantage
- Amtrak Rewards
- Delta Skymiles
- FREE Spirit
- Frontier EarlyReturns
- Jetblue Trueblue
- Southwest Rapid Rewards
- United Mileageplus
- Virgin America Elevate
- Hotel rewards:
- AMC Stubs
- Best Western Rewards
- Choice Priveleges
- Club Carlson
- Fairmont President's Club
- Hilton Honors
- Hyatt Gold Passport
- IHG Rewards Club
- Intercontinental Hotels Priority Club Rewards
- Kimpton Karma Rewards
- LaQuinta Returns
- LeClub AccorHotels
- Leaders Club
- Loews YouFirst
- Marriott Rewards
- National Car Rental Emerald Club
- Omni Select Guest
- Regal Cinemas' Crown Club
- Ritz-Carlton Rewards
- Starwood Preferred Guest
- Stash Hotel Rewards
- Wyndham Rewards
Car rental rewards:
- Alamo Insiders
- Avis Preferred
- Budget Business Program
- Dollar Express Renter Rewards
- Enterprise Plus
- Hertz Gold Plus
- National Emerald Club
- Thrifty Blue Chip Rewards
- AMC Stubs
- Regal Cinemas' Crown Club
- Starpass Rewards
Gas station rewards:
- Acme Fresh Market Fuel Rewards
- BP Driver Rewards
- Certified Oil Rewards
- Exxon and Mobil Return and Earn Rewards
- Fred Meyer Fuel Rewards
- Giant Food Gas Rewards
- Hy-Vee Fuel Saver
- Irving Rewards
- Lassus Handy Dandy Rewards
- Pavilions Gas Rewards
- Price Chopper AdvantEdge
- Randalls Gas Rewards
- Safeway Gas Rewards
- Save Mart Supermarkets Gas Rewards
- Shell Fuel Rewards Network
- Speedy Rewards
- Stop&Shop Gas Rewards
- Sunoco APlus Rewards
- Tom Thumb Gas Rewards
- Vons Rewards
- Winn Dixie Fuelperks
Bank debit card rewards:
- Bank of America Debit Card
- Bank of Internet Visa Debit Card
- Capital Bank CashBack Checking
- Chase Disney Visa Debit Card
- Chime Visa Debit Card
- Discover Cashback Checking
- First National Bank Checking
- Fulton Bank Visa Debit Card
- KeyBank Debit Card
- Mechanics Bank Debit Rewards
- PayPal Business Debit Card
Cash back checking:
- Bank of Internet USA’s CashBack Checking
- Bank of Internet USA’s Rewards Checking
- Consumers Credit Union’s Free Rewards Checking
- Discover’s Cashback Checking
In alphabetical order, here are 12 of the best rewards programs on the planet:
- Bloomingdale’s Loyallist Rewards Program
- CVS ExtraCare Rewards
- DSW Rewards
- Home Depot Pro Xtra Loyalty Program
- Macy’s Star Rewards
- My Best Buy Rewards
- My Starbucks Rewards
- Nordstrom Rewards
- Sephora Beauty Insider Program
- Target REDcard Debit Card
- Walgreens Balance Rewards Program
- Wyndham Rewards
(Author’s note: There are many companies on the web that promise to reward you for reading emails, shopping online, surfing the net, completing online surveys, etc. I strongly recommend that you do not sign up with any of these companies. Many of them have unethical business practices and sell your personal information to third-party companies.)
Over 50 Goods and Services that Have Gigantic Markups
How can you tell whether a product or service has a high markup? When it’s always on sale. Here are several classic examples: Clothing, furniture, mattresses, and pizza.
Here are over 50 goods and services that have gigantic markups:
- Airline tickets – 389%
- Bakery goods – 100% (You are paying for convenience.)
Batteries – up to 100% (Solution: Buy batteries in bulk at Costco or when they go on sale for buy one, get one free at the drug or grocery store.
- Bottled water – up to 2,000% (Solution: Drink tap water.)
- Brand-name pain relievers – up to 400% (Money.CNN.com confirms that “Brand names may give us more peace of mind, but the cheaper stuff works just as well, and in exactly the same way. It's required to, by law.”)
- Brand-name prescription drugs - 200% to 3,000% (To get the best prices on prescription medications, I recommend GoodRX.com. You should also ask your physician about generic equivalents for brand-name medications.)
- Cap and gown – Over 1,000%
- Cellphone charger – Nearly 700%
Check cashing stores – (Check cashing businesses are generally located in neighborhoods that have no commercial banks, credit unions, or super stores like Walmart. They charge a fee of 2–20% to cash a government, payroll, or personal check. The processing fee is based on the check’s face value ($500, $1,000, etc.). Check cashing stores also sell money orders for as much as $5.00, which is nearly five times what you would pay at a grocery or drug store.)
- Chicken tenders, eggs, entrée salads, fried rice, guacamole, ice cream, pancakes, pasta, pizza, salad entrees, shellfish, soup, and waffles when ordered in a restaurant.
- Coffee-on-the-go – The freshly brewed coffee that you buy every morning at Starbucks has a markup in the 250% to 400% range.
- College textbooks – 163% (The average college student spends more than $1,200 per year on textbooks.)
Credit card interest – The average USA household has almost $16,000 of credit card debt. According to a recent study, over two-thirds of American families carry credit card balances from month to month and the average household is paying nearly $7,000 in credit card interest every year. This is about 9% of their average annual income.
Let’s say that you have $30,000 of credit card debt with an average APR of 21.5%. Assuming that you make no additional purchases or cash advances, it will take you to 128 months to become debt free if you make a fixed monthly payment of $600. You will pay $46,629.20 in interest and a grand total of $76,629.20 (principal + interest).
- Cutting the lawn – 492%
- Designer handbags - 100% (Because of the 100% markup, many retailers like Macy’s frequently put handbags on sale for 50% off regular retail.)
- Designer jeans vs. brand - 650% (According to the Wall Street Journal, the cost to produce a pair of True Religion Super T Jeans is around $50. From there, the jeans are marked up around 260%.)
- Diamonds - 50% to 200% (Timothea Xi points out that “The web is leveling the practice of marking up diamonds 100 percent of the wholesale price, known as keystone pricing. Online diamond merchants such as Blue Nile are driving markups down to a rock bottom of 18 percent.”)
- Domestic beer – About 700%
- Ethernet cable – 1,000%
- Eyeglass frames - 1,000% (For the best prices, focus on warehouse stores as well as the Internet.)
- Flowers (Did you know that an orchid can cost up to $25 per stem?)
- Fountain soda – 300% to 600%
- Furniture and mattresses - up to 100% (CBS Money Watch reports that "most furniture stores mark up their prices in the 80% range. This is especially true at boutique shops and high-end department stores like Macy's and Nordstrom.")
- Greeting cards – 200%
- High school ring – 1,329%
- Hotel minibars – 400% (For example, Lay’s Potato Chips and Snyder’s Pretzels both have an average markup of 300%.)
- House cleaning – 5,900%
- Interior painting – 6,329%
- Mixed drinks - 1,150%
- Movie theater popcorn and candy – 1,275% (According to Diane Dragan, “A bag of popcorn that costs 37 cents to make can easily sell for $5.”)
- Movie tickets - 192%
- New roof - 650%
- Ordering a soda when you dine out – 300% to 1,200%
- Packaged coleslaw or salads at the supermarket. (Why pay $2.49 for a 16-ounce package of coleslaw if you can buy a head of cabbage for as little as 49 cents a pound?)
- Pre-cut fruits and vegetables at the grocery store - 100%
Payday loans are one of the worst kinds of bad personal debt. According to recent statistics, the average payday loan amount is $392. Chris Morran points out that:
The average payday borrower is not someone with a high-paying job. Only 4% of payday loans are made to consumers earning more than $60,000 per year. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of payday borrowers have annual incomes below $30,000. The largest chunk of borrowers came from those making between $10,000 and $20,000 per year; this group accounts for nearly one-third of all payday loans.
Lenders generally make money on these loans by charging a fixed fee for every $100 borrowed. These fees generally range between $10-20 per $100 borrowed, with the median being $15 per $100. The median APR on a payday loan is 322%, with the average APR being slightly higher at 339%.
Yes, you read that correctly!
- Printer ink – 300% (Joe Mont tells us that "The ink and toner you need to keep your computer's printer from being more than a paperweight is among the costliest substances you can buy -- many times more expensive than gold, champagne and gasoline.")
- Produce – 75% (Look for deals on broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, papayas, tangerines, and tangelos in January and February. Likewise, look for deals on apricots, blueberries, cantaloupe, corn, cucumbers, green beans, kiwi, lettuce, peaches, peppers, plums, raspberries, strawberries, summer squash, tomatoes, and watermelon in July and August.)
- Psychic phone call – 9,186%
- Restaurant wine and champagne - 400%
- Salad bars - For example, chick peas at the salad bar have a 386% markup, avocados (31%), baby corn (277%), beets (212%), black olives (78%), broccoli (50%), carrots (50%), celery (150%), chow mein noodles (50%), croutons (87%), cucumbers (274%), grape tomatoes ((13%), green beans (201%), hard-boiled eggs (167%), mandarin oranges (188%), mushrooms (200%), pepperoncini (97%), sunflower seeds ((63%), and radishes (302%). On the other hand, bacon bits have a 55% markdown, blue cheese (57%), cheddar (14%), dried cranberries (11%), grilled chicken (44%), ham (14%), peas (40%), and walnuts (19%).
- Snow removal – 3,900%
- Skin care products - 300%
Spices and seasonings at the supermarket - Grocery stores generally have huge markups on spices and seasonings. You can almost always find lower prices on store brands at the drug and dollar store or at Aldi.
Here is an up-to-date list of the low-priced spices and seasonings that you can buy at Aldi, CVS, Dollar Tree, Rite Aid, Trader Joe's, and Walgreens:
Aldi- basil leaves, chili powder, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, garlic salt, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, Italian seasoning, minced onion, onion powder, oregano leaves, paprika, parsley flakes, seasoned meat tenderizer, and steak seasoning. Aldi also carries a variety of organic spices and seasonings that are over 60 per cent cheaper than what you would pay at a traditional grocery store or even at Target. Here is their selection: cayenne pepper, garlic granules, ground cinnamon, ground cumin, and Italian seasoning.
CVS - basil leaves, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, garlic salt, ground black pepper, ground cayenne pepper, ground cinnamon, Italian seasoning, lemon pepper, minced onion, onion powder, oregano leaves, paprika, and parsley flakes.
Dollar Tree - bacon flavored bits, cayenne pepper, chili powder, chopped garlic, chopped onion, cinnamon sugar, crushed red pepper, dried basil, French fry seasoning, garlic pepper, garlic powder, garlic salt, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground pepper, ground sage, Italian seasoning, kosher salt, lemon pepper, minced garlic, onion powder, oregano leaves, paprika, parsley flakes, poultry seasoning, salt-free seasoning blend, and seasoned salt.
Rite Aid - crushed red pepper, garlic powder, ground black pepper, ground cinnamon, onion powder, and parsley flakes.
Trader Joe's - Basil, cumin, garlic powder, ground cinnamon, Himalayan pink salt, organic oregano, pumpkin pie blend, rainbow peppercorns, red chili pepper, smoked paprika (very highly recommended), South African smoke seasoning, and Spanish saffron.
Walgreens - chili powder, crushed red pepper, garlic powder, garlic salt, ground black pepper, ground cinnamon, Italian seasoning, minced onion, onion powder, oregano leaves, and parsley flakes.
- Text messages - 6,000% (Diane Dragan acknowledges that "Phone users commonly pay 10 cents per text message, but sending the message only costs the carrier a sixth of a cent. If the phone company applied text-message mark-up to a short phone call, you’d pay $120 for the call.”)
- Valentine’s Day roses – 220%
- Valet airport parking – 313%
- Vitamins and supplements at regular retail prices – (Always buy brand-name and store-brand vitamins and supplements when they go on sale for “buy one, get one free.” Drug stores like CVS and Walgreens and grocery stores like Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle frequently reduce the price of vitamins and supplements to 50% off regular retail. From time to time, CVS also offers in-store coupons which can save you even more money. If you’re an Aldi shopper, you might have already noticed that their selection of vitamins and supplements is limited to multi-vitamins and fish oil.)
- Wedding cake - up to 500% (Dave Roos and John Kelly tell us that “One slice of a multi-tiered, painstakingly decorated wedding cake will cost you around $15, about five times what you'd pay for a whole box of Betty Crocker cake mix.”)
- Wedding dresses - 290% (Brooke Shunatona reports that “research company Edited recently released a study that shows that stores will charge customers roughly 3.9 times more for a ‘wedding’ dress than they would a similar white dress not labeled as ‘wedding.’ That means a $500 white dress . . . would cost almost $2,000 if you were to buy it as a bridal dress.”)
What to Buy and What to Avoid at the Dollar Store
Here are over 50 dollar-store bargains that you can’t afford to miss:
- Artificial flowers
- Baby oil
- Baking soda
- Bath fragrances
- Best-selling books
- Bingo markers
- Bubble bath
- Clay pots
- Clothes pins
- Coffee filters
- Coloring and puzzle books
- Corn starch
- Cotton balls
- Craft supplies (poster board, construction paper, etc.)
- Decorative gift bags and baskets
- Drinking glasses and mugs
- Fake snow
- Fly swatters
- Gardening gloves
- Glue sticks
- Greeting cards
- Hand sanitizer
- Handy wipes
- Holiday decorations (Author's note: Never buy holiday light strings or metallic Christmas garlands at the dollar store.)
- Hula hoops
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Ice cube trays
- Kitchen dish clothes
- Large bowls for chips, snacks, etc.
- Masking tape
- Office supplies (paper clips, ruled index cards, security envelopes, highlighters, calculators, etc.)
- Packing tape
- Painters drop cloths
- Party supplies
- Petroleum jelly
- Picnic supplies (packages of napkins with American flags, paper plates, etc.)
- Plain white socks
- Popsicle sticks
- Potting soil
- Rubbing alcohol
- Scotch tape
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Shaving cream
- Small picture frames
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Wrapping paper
Here are 30 items that you should never buy at the dollar store:
- Aluminum foil wrap
- Canned goods
- Chewing gum
- Detergents and cleaning products
- Electronic accessories (for example, power strips, USBs, chargers, and ear buds)
- Hair accessories
- Holiday light strings
- Metal children's jewelry
- Metallic beads
- Metallic Christmas garlands
- Oven mitts and potholders
- Paper products (paper towels, toilet tissue, facial tissue, napkins, etc.)
- Perishable foods
- Pet food and treats
- Plastic cooking utensils
- Plastic food containers
- Plastic food storage bags
- Plastic wrap
- Pregnancy tests
- Silly straws
- Skincare products
- Vinyl floor coverings
- Vitamins and supplements
Here are the three leading dollar store chains in the USA:
- 99-Cent Only Stores operates over 250 stores in California, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada.
- Dollar General operates nearly 15,000 stores in 35 states.
- Dollar Tree operates over 13,500 stores in 48 states.
Fabulous Freebies that Will Add Joy to Your Budget
1. Here are 10 websites where you can score lots of free stuff including free groceries:
- AllYou.com – Get 59 birthday freebies as well as coupons for groceries and household items. Be sure to read their articles on “45 Uses for Vinegar” and “Super Cheap Meals: $1 or Less!”
- Coupons.com – Find coupons on over 2,000 brands for everything from laundry detergent to canned tomatoes.
- FreeSamples.org – Get free beauty, food, health, household, and pet samples. You can also receive free household and restaurant coupons.
- FreeStuff.com -Categories include automotive, baby, bags, books, calendars, cards, cell phones, clothing, computers, education, games, gaming consoles, hats, health, Internet stuff, kits, magazines, medical, movies, music, music players, photographs, shoes, software & apps, stickers, survival, television, and travel.
- SmartSource.com – Get free coupons for groceries, beauty products, and weight loss products.
- TheBalance.com offers free food samples for beverages, cereal, chips, crackers, entrees, meat, produce, and much more.
- TheKrazyCouponLady.com – Find over 4,000 free grocery coupons.
- Get free samples from Procter & Gamble at PGeveryday.com.
- Get free coupons from Kraft Foods at KraftFirstTaste.com.
- Get free Kellogg’s coupons at KelloggsFamilyRewards.com.
- Get a free piece of chocolate every month at participating Godiva boutiques. To qualify, sign up for Godiva’s Chocolate Rewards Club at Godiva.com/get-rewards
2. Here is a partial list of companies that will send manufacturer’s coupons to those who ask. According to BecomeACouponQueen.com, “Many companies will send you coupons if you simply ask for them. Call or email them and tell them how much you love their product and ask if they have any coupons they could send you.”
- 8 O’Clock Coffee - (800) 299-2739
- Alka Seltzer
- Angel Soft Bath Tissue
- Apple & Eve
- Bar-S - (800) 699-4115
- Better Oats - (866) 888-8757
- Bigelow Tea
- Birds Eye
- Blue Bunny Ice Cream
- Bolthouse Farms - (800) 467-4683
- Bush Brothers
- Campbell’s Soup
- Carnation Instant Breakfast
- Celestial Seasonings
- Challenge Butter
- Coffee-Mate Creamers - (800) 637-8534
- Dannon Yogurt
- Del Monte - (800) 543-3090
- Dial Soap
- Dole Fruit
- Duncan Hines
- Enfamil - (800) BABY123
- Florida’s Natural Juice
- Fresh Express
- Gerber - (800) 284-9488
- Hillshire Farms
- Huggies - (888) 525-8388
- Hungry Jack
- Iams Pet Food
- Johnson & Johnson - (800) 526-3967
- Johnsonville - (888) 556-2728
- Kellogg’s Cereals
- Ken’s Dressing
- Kimberly-Clark - (888) 525-8388
- Lance Snacks
- Land O Lakes
- Lea & Perrins
- Lindsay Olives
- Lucky Leaf
- Oscar Mayer - (847) 646-2000
- Palermo’s Pizza
- Pepperidge Farms
- Perdue - (800) 473-7383
- Proctor & Gamble - (800) 331-3774
- Purex - (800) 457-8739
- Rayovac Batteries
- Rhodes Rolls
- Sara Lee
- Sargento Cheese
- Schick Razors
- Scott Paper Products
- Sea Pak Shrimp
- Smucker’s - (888) 550-9555
- Snyder’s of Hanover
- Sweet Baby Ray’s - (877) 729-2229
- Turkey Hill - (800) MY-DAIRY
- Uncle Ben’s
3. Here is a list of banks that offer free or low-cost checking:
- Capital One 360
- Schwab Bank
- Ally Bank
- UFB Direct
- USAA Federal Savings Bank
- Aspiration Summit
- Radius Bank
- FNBO Direct
- Salem Five Direct
- BBVA Compass
- Mutual of Omaha Bank
- First Internet Bank
4. Here are more than 50 restaurants that will give you free food or beverages on your birthday. Please note that offers vary by location and that many restaurants require you to sign up for their loyalty program or register with them first in order to receive your birthday freebie. I also suggest that you call the restaurant ahead to make sure that the offer is still valid.
- Alfy's Pizza
- Au Bon Pain
- Austin Grill
- Bakers Square
- Banjara Indian Cuisine
- Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
- Black Angus Steakhouse
- Bob Evans
- Bob's Big Boy
- Burger King
- Charlie Brown's Restaurant
- Charlie's Seafood
- Cheesecake Factory
- Chevy’s Fresh Mex
- Coldstone Creamery
- Crazy Buffet
- Dairy Queen
- Dave and Busters
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Einstein’s Bagels
- Ernie's Steakhouse
- Hard Rock Cafe
- Hometown Buffet
- Johnny Rockets
- King Buffet
- Longhorn Steakhouse
- Marie Calenders
- Max and Irma
- Mexican Village
- Noodles & Company
- Olive Garden
- Outback Steakhouse
- Panera Bread
- Pizza Express
- Red Robin
- Rock Bottom
- Ruby Tuesday
- Steak and Ale
- Steak ‘n Shake
- The Loft
- Tony Roma's
- Uno Pizzeria
5. Here are 15 food apps that will give you freebies and discounts just for signing up or after making a minimum purchase. Please be aware that offers vary by location and are subject to change without notice.
- Baskin Robbins - Get a free regular scoop.
- Burger King app – Receive Whopper BOGOS
- Auntie Anne's My Pretzel Perks app - Receive a free pretzel after your first purchase.
- California Pizza Kitchen app - Receive a free small plate.
- Carl's Jr./Hardee's app - Receive a dollar off menu items.
- Chili’s app – Get 60 free points.
- Dairy Queen app – Get a free small blizzard.
- Dunkin’ Donuts app – Receive a free beverage.
- Jamba Insider app – Get $3.00 off your next purchase.
- Krispy Crème app – Get a free donut.
- McDonalds app – Receive BOGO deals.
- Panera app – Receive a free pastry,
- Quiznos app – Get $1.00 off a sub or large salad.
- Sonic app - Get a free medium slush.
- Taco Bell – Receive a coupon worth $2 off a $10 purchase.
100+ Smart Ways to Save Money on Almost Everything in Your Budget
This hub has taught you 100+ ways to save money on almost everything in your budget. Now that you have learned how to receive a longer receipt for less money, here is another important way to live fiscally fit: Write down every cent you spend. “Every cent” includes the $150 gas bill you paid yesterday as well as the $6.99 pastrami sandwich you bought today for lunch. Every week or so, go over your list of expenses and decide which ones can be reduced or eliminated. You will have more money left over at the end of the month and will not be burdened with trying to make ends meet.
© 2014 Gregory DeVictor