How to save money all year
Saving money can seem like a full-time job, but it's easier than it seems. With a little insider information and a roundup of the best bargain websites, there is no reason why you can't save money all year. Start saving right now!
Try the off season
Heading to big name destinations at their least busy times can mean huge savings and great deal packages. Staycation deals are often offered by hotels catering to in-town guests looking for a little R&R — and the savings can be big. Warmer climates where tourist numbers spike in the cooler months have huge savings during the summer, and winter or ski towns also offer great deals for the warmer months when the ski lifts are closed. Avoiding areas during special holidays or festivals is also a great way to save a few dollars. Off-seasons vary around the world, so do a little research on your potential destination and see when the best savings occur.
Fly on certain days of the week
According to Farecompare.com, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are the cheapest days of the week to jet off. Airlines list lower prices for these days only. Remember that flight times and prices can change hourly, daily or weekly, so if you see a good deal, don't hesitate.
Choose a different flight time
Reduced airfare can also be had by taking some of the less optimal flight times, according to Farecompare.com. That early morning option, after lunch slot or dinnertime flight are the best to cut back on prices. This is generally due to the fact that no one really wants to fly at those times. There are perks besides a lowered cost however, including shorter security lines and more efficient boarding.
Free music from surprising sources
Some websites make special playlists for their followers to download for free. The music is usually from lesser known bands and new songs, but it's an easy and cheap way to bulk up your iPod. Buy more songs from artists that you like and invest in a sound you know you'll love. Some bands even offer free music on their websites — no sign-up required. Urban Outfitters has a large selection of trendy new music. iTunes has daily free downloads of music, music videos and more.
CD price cuts
Amazon's MP3 Daily Deal was recently written up by Kiplinger as one of the best bargains of 2011. With daily $4 album specials, we can see why! In addition to the daily deal, the Amazon MP3 site also has a selection of 100 albums for $5 covering everything from classic rock to electronic dance.
Sign up for a free membership on this "radio" site that allows you to stream free music from your computer. You cannot download songs, but you can choose individual songs or entire albums to make your own savable playlist. Grooveshark even puts together playlists for you based on popularity or music genre. It's a great way to try out new artists or create a party list of all those hits you'll never listen to again.
Best Untraditional coupon savings
No more clipping, printing or forgetting your coupons. There are tons of different sites that will download coupons on to your shopper's card and the savings are taken off your total when you swipe it at the store. Some supermarkets offer these perks right on their websites, but there are a few middlemen who offer additional offers. Shortcuts.com is one of the most extensive of these sites, partnering with over 28 stores and offering name brand deals.
Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites might be a bit ridiculous and overwhelming at times, but there are benefits to logging on other than photo stalking your ex or following celebrities. Many companies and brands have their own Facebook and Twitter pages devoted to sharing information about their products and services. Special deals are available only to followers or "friends" and can mean a discount on your purchase or even free stuff! Head to your favorite brand's website and see if they have social media links. Check out their page to see if they post the kind of deals you're looking for — then sign up.
Cut the cost of eating out
Daily deal sites
These websites are designed to give members cheaper prices on just about everything. Sites feature a seriously discounted deal every day that acts as a gift certificate. Since so many people are purchasing these deals, the sites are able to offer lower prices and the businesses still benefit. It's a win-win!
Restaurant.com allows you to search by zip code for $25 gift cards to eateries for only $10 with lower and higher value cards available for different prices as well. Many of these restaurants require a minimum purchase to use the gift card, but the savings can still be big, just make sure to read the fine print.
Groupon and Livingsocial don't exclusively feature food like Restaurant.com, but they have some great deals, too. Sign up for their free emails to get notifications of the deals and buy the vouchers before they sell out.
That little piece of paper restaurants offer you to sign up for their newsletters might seem like it's going to be more annoying than anything, and maybe it will be, but they usually ask for your birthday and that means free food! One free meal during the year might not sound like a lot, but if your whole family loves the restaurant anyway, it's a good way to save a little bit. Plus, everything tastes better when it's free. Special events with lower prices and other savings might be sent your way as well.
Textbooks are ridiculously expensive and usually only used for one class, making them a huge cost especially for college students. Renting can save a lot of money, especially for science textbooks that are offered for a fraction of the purchase price. Some college campuses offer rentals right from the school bookstore, but websites can have the best deals for all levels of schooling. Many offer free returns when you need to send the books back and come with pre-printed labels to do so. Chegg.com is one of the biggest and the best, and as an added bonus, they plant a tree for every order. BookRenter.com is another big name site with fast shipping that donates money for every order to help get books to children in need.
Buy electronics in the summer
Stores know that kids are going to be needing new products right before school starts in the fall, so many offer deals after graduation. Computer and laptop deals are the most common and also some of the best bargains. College students can often get an add-on like a printer, gift card or this year even an Xbox with a Microsoft laptop purchase.
Wait until July for supplies
Although stores set out their back to school sections early on in the summer, they really don't start offering the big savings until it's crunch time. They need to push the product, so the longer you wait, the more you can get for your dollar. Don't forget to check the dollar store. Packs of pencils, scissors and plain folders are the same everywhere — and you can save big.
Daily deal sites
Free membership gets you access to some incredible shopping deals. This growing market offers clothes for men, women and children, not to mention lingerie, home goods and even food and vacation deals. Many of the clothing deals offer lower prices on brand name and even high-end clothing and accessories. The offers change daily and although sales last for a few days, sizes and styles deplete quickly. Some shoppers hit the sales the minute they start and buy up fast, so check the upcoming sales lists and see if there's a brand you really want. Then be sure to log on as soon as they start. RueLaLa.com, Beyondtherack.com, Hautelook.com and Gilt.com have some of the bigger deals. Be careful before you buy, though, as some sites only offer store credit for refunds.
Outlet malls are the equivalent of Black Friday shopping all year round. If you're willing to put up with crowds, craziness and dedicating some time to it, there are great deals out there. Some bigger malls are even travel destinations because of the savings to be had on huge name items. There might not be an outlet mall in your town, but there probably is one a few hours away. They might not be practical for everyday shopping, but a yearly trip can be worth it.