- Have a Good Insurance Plan with a Low Co-Pays – It’s not easy, but any complete article would have to include some mention of insurance and co-pays.
- Pick the Right Store
- Buy at Wal-Mart – Wal-Mart has some great prices on medications. They’ve been pushing their $4 a month (or $10 for 90-day) prescription program. It obviously can’t cover any drug, but with hundreds of options there’s a good chance your prescription is covered. Wal-Mart also has some of the best prices on over-the-counter drugs I’ve seen
- Buy at Costco – I don’t know if it’s true of only Costco, but I’ve read that the big warehouse stores
- Buy Generic – I had a friend who was big on “not skimping on medication.” In theory that sounds fine, brilliant even. However, generic and brand name drugs are one in the same. As the FDA says, “A generic drug is the same as a brand name drug in dosage, safety, strength, how it is taken, quality, performance, and intended use. Before approving a generic drug product, FDA requires many rigorous tests and procedures to assure that the generic drug can be substituted for the brand name drug. The FDA bases evaluations of substitutability, or “therapeutic equivalence,” of generic drugs on scientific evaluations. By law, a generic drug product must contain the identical amounts of the same active ingredient(s) as the brand name product. Drug products evaluated as “therapeutically equivalent” can be expected to have equal effect and no difference when substituted for the brand name product.”
That said, I read last year that some generic drugs from China and India may not be safe. Looking at this article, it seems like the FDA might not even allow any generic drugs from China at this time. In looking into this more, it seems like it might be years before the US gets any significant part of it’s generic drugs from China. (Note: I don’t mean to pick on China, it’s just where I could find an authoritative source… plus the lead toy scare is still in people’s minds.)
- Buy in Bulk – I buy acetaminophen (Tylenol) in very large quantities. The problem with this is expiration dates. Confession time: I sometimes take expired over-the-counter medication when it’s to fix a sudden sympton: i.e. cold, headache, etc. I would never take an expired prescribed drug. However, please don’t follow my example on expired medication blindly. This is a case where there’s a large distinction between me saying what I do and saying you should do. It is my belief that some of those medications have half-lives and if I’m taking something expired by a little bit, I might not be getting the full dose. I’m okay with that in the case of acetaminophen. However, again, I may be very wrong on this. I don’t know if I could put more disclaimers on this.
- Ask Your Doctor if a Generic Drug Would Suffice – I think there are new laws to limit how doctors get kickbacks from drug manufacturers, but it wasn’t always this way. For years, doctors would get taken out to sporting events and the like. That may not happen any more, but I’m not sure the doctor is always looking out for the patients’ wallet (or pocketbook). Another idea is to again look towards the FDA for equivalent drugs. Of course, if there’s a good reason for the brand name, then go with that. Health comes first, right?
- If you are low-income, look into Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) – These programs can be a life-saver (literally) for those who qualify. One place to learn more is at the the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
- Buy Online from Canada? – This would be a very last option for me. For one thing, it strikes me as likely illegal (though I’m no lawyer and I haven’t done research into this). For another thing, I don’t know how much I can trust a company in another country that I only have an online relationship with. If you can deal with that it seems like the savings are there to be had.
- Exercise, Eat Well, and Take Care of Yourself – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?
Use Online Tools
I’m an Internet kind of guy and it just so happens that it is packed with ways to help you save money on hotels:
- Find the Best Prices – There are a number of place you can search for cheap hotel rooms. A few places to start with are Quikbook, Hotels.com, and Orbitz.
- Find the Best Quality – You can get hotel reviews from a number of places, but the gold standard in my mind is TripAdvisor. The reviews are aggregated from a number of users – in much the same way Amazon’s reviews are. Many minds working together make TripAdvisor a crowdsourcing success. It also gives estimated prices – making it one of the best places to start your hotel search.
- Search Ebay – You can get gift cards for hotel chains at Ebay. It could be a quick way to save 5-10% on your stay. Though the Ebay gift card tricks for any store, it’s worth mentioning.
- Name Your Own Price – If you’ve done the research above and found a couple of suitable places, why not try to undercut the published prices by naming your own price with Priceline?
- Look for Coupon Codes – Sites like Retail Me Not have discount codes for Marriott and other hotel chains. It’s worth a couple of minutes of entering codes.
Maximize Amentities and Reduce Other Costs
- A Hotel Gym – I used to belong to Boston Sports Club. It was a fine gym – as long as you went to the one you signed up. If you went to another affiliated gym, you had pay a fee. If your hotel has this amentity it can save you a few dollars.
- A Hotel With a Fridge and Microwave – Having a microwave available opens you up to all sorts of frugal dining options. Four words – Chef Boyardee / microwave popcorn. The refrigerator is great for saving leftovers. Even if you don’t have a microwave, you can save some milk and have cold pizza from the night before.
- Internet Access – My biggest pet peeve is that the more expensive, luxury hotels love to stick you with a $10 a day Internet access fee. However, if you go a discount Motel 6 or Red Roof Inn, it seems they almost always include Internet access. I like to call and ask specifically what the Internet policy is. Sometimes you find that becoming a member of the hotel’s loyalty club (which is free) gives you Internet access. The Omni hotel is one example of this.
- Get Free Breakfast – There are a lot of chains that offer free breakfast. It’s always worth checking to see if you can get this perk as it can put a few extra bucks in your pocket.
Other Ideas to Consider
- Join Every Hotel Program – We belong to every hotel program there is. My wife travels for work (as previously mentioned) and when she can chooses to stay a Marriott resort (since we own a timeshare there). She not only picks up a lot of reward points, but since she stays nearly 50 days a year there, she has a special membership and has special privileges. It takes only a few minutes to sign up for almost every major hotel chain. I store all my hotel membership numbers in my cell phone so I have them available in my pocket at all times.
- Use a Reward Credit Card – My wife uses a Marriott reward card which pays extra points for every dollar spent. Of course she charges everything she can to the room so when she pays it off with the reward credit card, it’s all eligible for points. (Though this is likely an unnecessary step, it just seems more fool-proof of a way to get all the points coming to us.)
- Use Reward Points – It’s pretty straight-forward. If you’ve been doing the above, you may be working up enough over time to earn a free room here and there.
- Book a Cheap Room You Can Cancel – The concept here is to book the cheapest room possible as a safety room, but make sure that you can cancel it. A few days before you travel, you may find a preferred hotel has a sale. If so, you can book that and cancel your safety room. This is a little dirty and you may find that it against your morals. If that’s the case, don’t do it. I’m putting the idea out there.
- Travel Off-Season – Everyone wants to go Aruba when it’s winter in New England. Hotels are cheaper if you go when the demand is low. (Of course you might not care to go to Aruba in the summer.)
- Military? Try Navy or Air Force Lodges – My wife is military. When we travel back home to Boston, we can stay at Hanscom Airforce Base for around $39 a night. You don’t get all the perks, but it comes with a nice bed, a refrigerator, microwave, and free Internet in the lobby. It’s everything we need when we are likely to be spending our time elsewhere.
- Check for Special Member Discounts – Government employees and AAA members get discounts. If you work for a big company, like General Electric, you may even find that they’re a special corporate rate for people that work there. I’m not sure if the corporate rate has to be for corporate business… but I’m not sure if they care.
So there you have it… the best tips I could come up with. What are your tips for saving money on hotels? Drop me a comment below.
Photo Credit: Fatty Tuna
How can you save money on Utilities? Let’s look at it two ways (note this isn’t going be a comprehensive list of tips – it would simply be too long):
Short-Term Ways to Save on Utilities
- Get a Programmable Thermostat – This is one of the no-brainers that everyone will tell you. It’s such an easy way to wake up or come home to a nice warm home – yet you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg heating it while you sleep or at work. That’s around 16 hours a day of saving heat for some people.
- Switch to CFLs – This is another you’ve heard 1000 times. I just include for completeness and the two people out there who haven’t switched.
- Know How Much Electricity You are Using – Sometimes I wonder how much power I’m using. I don’t need surround sound to watch Thomas the Tank Engine do I (not that I watch Thomas the Tank Engine because there are no kids in my home.) How much power does that surround sound use? Plug in a Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor
and find out. If you don’t want to buy that, you can usually find some version of estimated power rating in the manual or on the manufactures site. I’ve read that they aren’t always accurate, so you might find that your mileage varies.
- Kill that DVR – I love my DVR, but one thing that didn’t know is how much power they use. CNET.com has an article about DVR electricity use.
- Put a Bottle of Water in your Toilet – Instead of going out and buying a whole new toilet, this is a way to use less water. Simply take a bottle, fill it up with something that will weight it down and put in the water tank. This will lower the amount of water that it takes move the bulby-thing (yes that’s my handyman technical speak) to the place where it shuts off the water. You’ll have to experiment with this, because obviously toilets are set to use the amount of water they do for a reason.
- Save money on your landline phone
- Cut the cable television
Long-Term Ways to Save on Utilities
There are some changes you can make to you home that will have a large up-front cost, but will start to pay for themselves over time. Some of them may never get there, so you may have to do some research. For instance, if you live in an area of no wind, setting up a windmill isn’t going to do a whole lot for you – other than waste your money.
- Downsize Your Home – It’s not easy to heat a McMansion. Sure you can shut off some rooms, but you’ll need to heat them at least minimally so the pipes don’t freeze. And if you aren’t going to heat the whole McMansion, why buy it? Not that saves on utilities, but my wife is quick to point out, “Who is going to McClean the McMansion?” Having a McMansion is certainly not the Lazy way.
- Insulate Your Home/Attic – Heat rises so why not trap it in by insulating your home. If you are staying in your home for a good length of time (and you live in a cold climate), it should pay off for itself in a few years.
- Get Some New Windows and Shades – They are doing some amazing things with windows these days. You get triple pane glass with gas, and probably some other technical advances I don’t know about yet (since I rent). I looked into this a few years ago for my condo and it seemed like it might be worthwhile. If you are lazier like me, you could look into weather-stripping your windows. Another cheaper fix for the windows may be to get some insulating shades. They make some hexagon shaped shades that you can get at Home Depot. They are much easier to install yourself and can really make a difference.
- Solar and Wind – A few people are starting to install windmills, but I’m not sure the technology is there yet. Plus your neighbors may not appreciate the view of a windmill (but maybe if it’s done right…?). Solar panels are starting to make sense in some areas. If I knew I was going to live in Silicon Valley for a number of years and it made sense to buy a home, I’d definitely look into solar power. I’ve even seen them pop up in places not known for their sunshine – like Boston.
- Get a Dual Flush Toilet – When I was in Australia you couldn’t find a toilet without this feature. For some reason, I’ve seen it in the United States only once. If you don’t know what a dual flush toilet is, I’ll just say that you can choose to use less water if your “activity” required it and more for other “activities”.
- Move to a Better Climate – It may cost you more to move to a place with less drastic changes, but it could be worth it. We moved from Boston to Silicon Valley and instead of paying around $150/mo. or heating and air conditioning, we pay closer to $50/mo. Those are estimates… during extreme months like February and August, the difference seems a lot more pronounced.
Earlier this week I bought a new laptop. My currently laptop is around 3 years old and it’s starting to show it’s age. It has 768MB of memory, much less than many computers have nowadays. When I have my 700 Firefox tabs open, it really slows down to a crawl. I realize I could fix this fairly cheaply by buying some additional memory. The other problem is that if I’m not careful about leaving all the vents open to air, the laptop will overheat and reboot (without warning). I’ve lost a good amount of work this way. My friend says that I could take a can of spray air to the vents and fix this problem. So in reality it would take me $30 to make it a fairly functional computer again.
So why didn’t I go that route? I asked myself my five questions before making a purchase. As these problems crept up, a new laptop was getting closer and closer from going from a “want” to a “need” to protect my income. The other side is that there are some productivity gains to be had as well. Simply having the extra memory and faster processor should get me through tasks quicker. In addition to these, I’ll have a web camera for the first time. It’s a small thing, but I’m sure I can talk with my niece and nephew back east. I got a WXGA+ screen which is a 1440×900 resolution instead of my current 1200×800. That’s going to lead to a sharper picture. I also will get an HDMI out, which will be great streaming Netflix movies easy to my televisions. Finally, I got a built-in bluetooth card, which means I can teather to my phone and get Internet anywhere my phone has data.
However, I am most excited about the price. I had done some research and came really close to buying a refurbished system on CompUSA’s site. I saw a computer that gave me most everything (no bluetooth) for $610. A friend said that if I go that way, I should look at the Dell Outlet. I saw deals that were similar, maybe a little more – nothing to sway me much. I remembered that at times Dell has coupons. As luck would have it, one of these coupons was for 20% any refurbished laptop over $500. And then I found that I could get all the above with a Intel Core 2 Duo T5750 and 4GB of memory (just a tad more than the 768MB I have now) for $503 it was impossible to resist. Yes, I did get a refurbished system and that may be a concern to some. (Who knows, maybe I’ll be writing an article about How I Lost Money on a New Laptop 6 months from now). Pricing the computer new, it would cost $869… after a $279 instant savings that Dell is running now.
So my tips for saving money on a laptop… look for refurbished, and try to stack coupons from places like Ben’s Bargains. You can also follow Fat Wallet’s Laptop message board as they show good deals that in stores. For instance, Big Lots is currently getting some overstock from Circuit City and clearing it out at very cheap prices. Each store only gets a few and it seems like they sell out quickly, but that was my plan B. I liked the Dell laptop better.
Some things in life are quite expensive. Here are some ways to save money on golf
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Golf is a passion for many, but it can also be a very expensive hobby. If you are looking for ways to indulge your love of this sport and still have money left over, there are some great ways that you can cut costs.
- Do your shopping at a online discount golf pro shop. While on-course pro shops usually have a pretty good selection and they are very convenient, there is definitely a price for that convenience. You can save a lot of money on golf clubs
- Look for specials on a course’s website. This is one of the easiest ways to save money on greens fees, but many players overlook it. Before you book your next tee time at your favorite course, take a look at their website and see if they are offering any specials. Most courses will offer monthly specials, but they may not let you know right off the bat. By taking the time to take a quick look at their website, you may be able to get a sizable discount on your next green fee.
- Purchase used golf balls. This is another easy way to get a great deal without sacrificing quality. You can find some terrific prices on used golf balls from designer brands and most will provide you with many rounds before they give out. This is ideal for those that are still learning the ropes and have a tendency to dunk their golf balls in the nearest water hazard. When shopping for used golf balls, make sure that there are no dents or cracks since this can impact how well they will perform.
- Check out stay and play packages. Many hotels and resorts now offer stay and play packages for local courses. If you are planning a trip and would like to get in a little golf, this is a great way to save on fees. In many cases, you can not only get a reduction on your green fees, but your lodging costs will also be reduced.
- Take advantage of yearly packages. Most golf courses will offer a package deal where you can purchase full access for an entire year at a reduced rate. This is usually best for those that golf regularly. To see if this would be a good deal for you, add up how much you would normally spend on a year’s worth of green fees. If it’s more than the package deal, take advantage of that savings.
These are just a few ways that you can easily save money on golf. You can also take advantage of twilight specials on many courses, or get a group discount if you play with several friends. Golf doesn’t have to be expensive and with these great money saving tips, you can enjoy it even more.
Photo Credit: Fevi Yu