Finding places to trim your budget can be difficult. After all, there are only so many places you can make cuts, and those reductions can only go so far. However, you may be paying too much for some things have cheaper alternatives – along with the potential for big savings.
It’s surprising how much the cost of a gallon of gas can vary even within the same metro area. A difference of 30 cents per gallon is not unusual in some cities. According to CNN Money
the biggest reason for this variance is taxes. While some states and cities do have different tax rates on gasoline, this doesn’t explain why stations in the same city and county, separated by only a few miles, can have vastly different prices.As drivers, we simply must accept this and then figure out a way to make sure we’re getting the best price. There are a few websites and several smartphone apps that can help accomplish this. Some, like GasBuddy.com, have both a website and a mobile app. Costs run from free up to $2.99 for the apps. Local TV stations often keep track of area gas prices on their websites. To find a site that works in your area, simply type “cheap gas” and the name of your city into your favorite search engine.Just being observant can also help you locate the cheapest gas. As you’re driving around town, take notice of gas prices at different stations and in different neighborhoods. Over time, you’ll get a good idea of which places typically have the cheapest gas.Be wary of loyalty cards offered by some gas stations. Even if you’re getting 10 cents off per gallon, make sure the base price you’re paying is competitive with other gas stations in the area.
Some people equate free music with stolen music because often they don’t pay for the tunes that wind up on their computers and mobile devices. Copying a CD from the library, or even from a friend, is considered illegal .While it’s unlikely that you’ll be prosecuted for it, it isn’t fair to the artist who created the music.Borrowing a CD from the library or from a friend is great way to see if you like all of the songs on a given album. Online stores, after all, only let you listen to about a minute of each song. After listening to an entire album, you may find that you like only a few songs. Since most songs can be purchased individually, you can save by purchasing just the ones you like instead of the entire album.On the subject of libraries, see if yours is associated with Freegal. This service allows you to download and keep up to seven songs a week for free, and the artists get paid. Many online music retailers, such as iTunes and Amazon, offer free music – usually by up-and-coming artists.
More people seem to be cutting the cord (or breaking the dish) when it comes to TV viewing. Instead of cable and satellite, they rely on a combination of streaming services and over-the-air TV signals. Take a look at your TV viewing habits and find out exactly where your favorite shows come from.Using an antenna to pick up the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, and the CW), can be a huge money saver. Plus, the high-definition (HD) picture is a little sharper when it’s sent to your set directly from the TV station instead of through a thin cable wire.If your favorite shows are found on cable, you may still be able to get them through one of the major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. For most people, subscribing to one – at about $10 a month – is sufficient. The library is also a good source if you can wait for the DVD release of the series.Services like Crackle, Pluto TV, and Hoopla are adding free content all the time. Crackle is the home of Jerry Seinfeld’s acclaimed series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, as well as repeats of his ‘90s sitcom. Other old sitcoms and new, original programs like Chosen can be found there as well. Also, many cable networks offer a limited slate of programs via their websites and mobile apps.
Finding a place to park in a major urban center can be frustrating and costly. Big cities like Chicago and New York can be particularly frustrating, but any major downtown area has the potential to be a parking nightmare.Fortunately, there are plenty of websites and apps that can help. Among the most popular are BestParking, ParkMe, ParkWhiz, Parker, and SpotHero. SpotHero lets you reserve a spot in any of several major U.S. cities it serves, so you’re not hunting all over town for a place to park. It’s great for overnight parking and can save a lot in comparison with hotel parking rates. If you can’t plan that far ahead, Parker uses GPS technology to find you an available lot. It also lists prices, so there’s no confusion. BestParking works much the same way.
Besides paying attention to sales and clipping coupons, there are plenty of ways to save on groceries. Start with store brands. Over the years, these have improved greatly in quality. Many of the products that are sold under a store’s house brand are in fact made by national manufacturers. Often you can experiment without losing anything, as most grocers will guarantee their brand’s quality.Shopping at so-called discount supermarkets can also be a great way to reduce your grocery bills. Like the store brands at major chains, discount supermarkets overall have improved greatly in recent years. Aldi, for example, is the sister store of trendy grocer Trader Joe’s.
As technology marches on, many things that we’ve used all of our lives have become virtually obsolete. The landline phone is headed in that direction. Forty-one percent of American households had no landline phone as of 2013, according to The Huffington Post
. That’s because most folks have decided to simply use their cell phones, computer-based systems like Skype or magicJack, or both.Having a landline can cost anywhere between $30 and $50 a month. In California, phone companies no longer need to ask regulators for rate increases. They can raise prices whenever they want. According to the Los Angeles Times
they’ve done just that, upping landline bills by 30% between 2011 and 2013.The average landline phone bill is about $40, compared to $3 for Skype, $5 for magicJack, or free for Google Talk. The only compelling reason for keeping a landline is for emergency situations, says The New York Times
. Landlines are still more reliable for interacting with 911 services –but as the technology of cell phones continues to improve, this soon may not be the case.
A recent episode of NPR’s economics podcast Planet Money
, started with a reporter recalling the purchase of his first high-definition television (HDTV) a few years back. In order for the TV to work, he needed an HDMI cable – which cost $45. Today, that same cable can be purchased for around $3.That’s not an unusual scenario, either. Phone cases, cords, batteries, adapters, and other accessories can all be found at varying price points – particularly after the device they are being used with has been on the market for a few years. In most cases, a cheap version does just as well as one made for (or recommended by) the manufacturer.The only thing to consider is how you’re going to use the particular accessory. If it’s going to travel or be moved around a lot, opting for the more expensive version may prove to be the better value in the long run. If the accessory or cable is going to stay in the same place, a cheap version should work just as well as a pricier version.