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Archive for Monday, April 29, 2002

Small changes can add up to big savings

April 29, 2002

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I love to save a buck. I get giddy when I can find new ways to save money.

So I was delighted to get my May issue of Consumer Reports. The cover story is called "50 Ways to Save."

I have to say that Consumer Reports is my buying bible. Rarely do my husband and I make a major purchase without consulting old copies of the magazine or its annual buying guide. We use the publication to help with buying everything from cars to cameras.

For example, I'm in the market for a better dishwasher. Lucky me. The May issue has a review of the best dishwashers, including great information on the ones that use less water, which translates into yearly savings.

As any good penny pincher knows, one of the best paths to financial security is not just finding the best stock or mutual fund but saving money from your everyday budget. That's the surest way to free up extra cash to invest.

Here are some of the money saving tips from Consumer Reports in addition to some other penny-pinching tips I've come across:

OK, I'm guilty of this, but Consumer Reports says don't rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

Pre-rinsing, the editors say, doesn't improve cleaning. On average, people who pre-rinse waste 20 gallons of water a load or 6,500 gallons a year per household, along with the energy needed to heat that water. Depending on your own water and energy rates, pre-rinsing could cost up to $70 a year. I know that might not sound like a lot of money. But if you put that $70 in a simple savings account earning a puny 2 percent annually, you could boost your savings by more than $1,700 after 20 years. That's enough to pay for a nice vacation all from eliminating your pre-rinsing routine.

Turn off computers and TVs when they're not in use.

According to Consumer Reports, a 36-inch color TV left on for eight hours a day can cost about $44 a year. Running a computer and its monitor 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, uses about 1,800 kilowatt-hours. At the national average rate of 8.4 cents a kilowatt, that adds up to about $150 a year. The experts at Consumer Reports say that putting the central processing unit and monitor on sleep mode will save about three-quarters of that expense.

Avoid using directory assistance.

This is a strict penny-pinching rule in my house. At 30 cents for local numbers and as much as $2 for long-distance numbers, the fees can add up, according to Consumer Reports. Two long-distance requests a week could end up costing $200 a year.

Idolize movie matinees, Consumer Reports says.

Many movie chains offer matinee discounts. In addition, the American Automobile Assn. offers members discounts on movie tickets. I have a dear friend who often saves me money by showing up with her AAA discount movie tickets, which she graciously shares with me. In some cases you can save as much as $3 off the price of a movie ticket. For information about AAA discount movie tickets, go to www.aaa.com.

Deflate your credit card rate.

Recently, the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group found that many customers with good credit were able to significantly reduce their annual percentage rates (APR) with a simple call to the credit card company. Volunteers participating in the PIRG survey called their credit card companies, saying they would switch to another company unless given a lower interest rate. With one 5-minute phone call, 56 percent of the volunteers were able to lower their APR. Those who were successful reduced their APRs by an average of more than one-third. That translates into real savings.

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