Dollar Stretcher: Instant comparison shopping
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Spring mower maintenance
Each spring, I give my lawn mower a once over. I replace the spark plug and air filter, do an oil change and sharpen the blade. My mower will be entering its 13th year of service this summer and works just like it's brand new.
Snag an upgrade
I travel a lot and never book a luxury car or premium hotel. I just reserve what would be the minimum acceptable to me; however, when I check-in, I always politely ask if they could give me a free upgrade. Often if one is available, they'll do it.
I don't hesitate to call the company who makes a product I like. Whether it's canned goods or bedsheets, I call their 1-800 number. I always say what I like about it. I also ask if they have any coupons or discount codes that I can use to buy more. I get a lot of coupons and samples in the mail.
New vs. used
I just bought a new-to-me car. I wanted a Honda Civic. The 2017 model would have cost me a little over $26k. I found a used 2015 model with less than 15k miles for just over $20k. That's a 30 percent savings and I still have many miles left on the factory warranty. That lowered my payment by about $100 a month.
No matter if you do your own taxes or have an accountant, you still need to have receipts for any deductible expenses. Last year, after digging through a year's worth of receipts, my husband and I decided that we would keep one credit card for all deductible expenses. This year, all we needed to do was total up the charges made to that account. It was easy.
I'm a tool junkie. I've worked with my hands all my life and do any repair needed in my home; therefore, I've collected a garage full of tools. Living in the southeast means that metal tools will rust if left alone. I've found that if I put a dryer sheet in each drawer of my toolboxes and change them once a year, my tools don't get rusty. It's a simple money-saving solution.
One a day
My husband and I decided that we would declutter our home this year. Beginning in January, we each choose an item a day to discard. Some go to Goodwill, some are given to friends and some just get trashed. We're three months in and our house is looking much better. It's getting harder to find things, but we'll probably keep it up for another month or two before quitting or going to an item every week. It was the best New Year's resolution we ever made.
Fooling their software
You may have noticed that prices for flights seem to change every time you check them, and often they go up rather than down. I've learned that some sites place a 'cookie' on your PC or phone when you visit. If you come back within a set period, they assume that you're a serious shopper and raise the price; therefore, if I'm shopping for airline tickets, I use 'incognito mode' on my browser. They never know who I am unless I use a credit card to book a flight.
Instant comparison shopping
I always do some research on prices before I go shopping. You'd be surprised how much difference there is between different stores. Sometimes when I'm out at yard sales or a resale shop, I find something that looks like a good deal, but I haven't researched it; that's when my phone comes in handy. I can quickly check out what new or used prices are for that item to help me decide whether to buy it. This also gives me information to haggle on prices.
Christmas in April?
I know that no one is thinking about Christmas this time of year, but if you give any gift baskets for the holidays (or any other time), now is the perfect time to score cheap baskets. Right after Easter, stores will almost give them away. I don't care about the color since I can easily spray paint them any color I want. I love giving homemade jams, bath bombs, etc. What better way than in a holiday basket?
Cheaper building supplies
If you're doing any remodeling or just updating the appearance of your home, you should contact your town about something called a building supply exchange. Many towns have them as a way to prevent good materials from ending up in a landfill. You won't know what you'll find until you visit, but you could snag some real deals. Another place to look is a Habitat for Humanity ReStore if you have one nearby. We remodeled a bath and closet last year and found much of what we needed without paying full price.
My niece just got married and there was one thing they had at the reception that I thought was really smart; they bought a large painter's canvas and placed it on an easel with many colored markers. Everyone was encouraged to sign the canvas and leave a short message. My niece said that she was planning on hanging it in the living room of their new home. I'm planning a 65th birthday party for my husband and think I might do something similar.
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