If you think saving money means giving up your morning Starbucks fix, relinquishing your restaurant habit and never going out again, think again. Austerity can make you miserable — and it's nearly impossible to sustain.
Thankfully, you can still tighten your belt without sucking the fun from your life.
Here are three easy ways to do so:
1. Ignore the price and check the "unit price"
More costs less when you buy in bulk: That's especially true for items like butter, toilet paper, booze, nuts, office supplies, pasta and rice, all of which Women’s Day included in a list of 17 products to buy in bulk, along with trash bags, toiletries, light bulbs and even gift cards.
Wholesale membership clubs like BJ’s, Sam’s and Costco are all good places to shop for bulk purchases. Items to go for include tires, electronics, batteries, paper cups and plates, medications and laundry detergent, according to a Today Show investigation.
There's a big, big caveat though: Remember that not all bulk buys are deals. Sometimes stores get sneaky and post signs that say you can get two bottles of orange juice for $5, for example, but sell the single bottles for $2.50 — so there is actually no benefit in buying more.
Lesson: Check prices carefully before you buy.
The best way to make sure you're getting a deal is to pay attention to the "unit price" on the shelf label just below the item. You'll still need to be careful (and maybe bust out that calculator) because unit prices can sometimes be misleading when the units used to compare similar items are different.
But in general seeing the unit price will quickly show you — no math required — that the $6 box of 1000 brand-name Q-tips ($0.006 per swab) is not as good a deal as the $10 pack of 2500 generic cotton swabs ($0.004 per swab).
2. Call your credit card company
"There is no reason for you to ever pay interest on your credit card balance," says investment adviser John C. Neyland told Mic. "Take advantage of balance transfer offers where you can transfer your card balance to a no interest credit card. There may be a small fee, but you ultimately save in the interest you would be paying."
Before you commit to a new credit card, however, be sure to read all terms and fees. Some cards offer a year or more of no interest, for example, but may also charge an annual fee. Others, like Citi Double Cash, offer rewards like 2% cash back on all purchases in addition to that free balance transfer.
You can also avoid pesky late fees and get your interest rate lowered: Sometimes all you have to do is call your credit card company and ask nicely.
Credit card analyst Matt Schulz of CreditCards.com notes that among cardholders who asked, 89% successfully had their late payment fee waived and 79% got their interest rate lowered.
With a little luck, you may even get your annual fee waived.
Schulz told US News & World Report that he called his credit card provider and said he liked his card, but not enough to maintain the account and was planning to cancel. He was direct, but pleasant and ended up getting a deal where if he spent at least $95 on the card within the next 30 days, the credit card company would credit him the $95 annual fee.
3. Raise your deductible to lower your monthly premium — the smart way
Tired of crazy high monthly premiums? Shop around for a better deal on your health, auto or renters insurance and consider plans with higher deductibles.
Raising your deductible means you pay less up front but will have higher out-of-pocket costs if something goes wrong. Before making a switch, consider how many times you'll need that insurance. For example, anyone with a chronic illness or who takes expensive prescription drugs is better off paying higher health premiums. Same for anyone without an emergency fund who might fall into debt over a rusted-out radiator or a single emergency room visit.
When it comes to car insurance, you can save hundreds of dollars a year just by raising the deductible. While pricing varies between carriers and states, on average you'll save 7% for raising the deductible from $250 to $500, 9% when you go from $500 to $1,000, and a whopping 16% when you bump the deductible up from $500 to $2,000, according to a 2014 study by Quadrant Information Services.
"The idea is to then invest or save the money you aren’t paying to the insurance company," Neyland says.
Be sure to shop around for the best insurance deal. Each insurer has its own set of pricing criteria, Consumer Reports notes, so just because you’ve been a loyal customer don’t count on always getting the best rate.
For health coverage, check out Get Covered America for calculations.
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