This information is provided under a cooperative agreement between the Better Business Bureau and the U. S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has prepared this information.
Facts for Consumers
66 Ways to Save Money
66 Formas de ahorrar dinero (español)
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From the Consumer Literacy Consortium, a working group of representatives from federal and state government agencies, consumer groups, business organizations, and educational institutions that seeks to develop and disseminate essential messages to inform and educate consumers.
Savings and Investment Products
First Mortgage Loans
Home Equity Loans
Renting a Place to Live
Food Purchased at Markets
You may lower the price of a round trip air fare by as much as two-thirds by making certain your trip includes a Saturday evening stay over, and by purchasing the ticket in advance.
To make certain you have a cheap fare, even if you use a travel agent, contact all the airlines that fly where you want to go and ask what the lowest fare to your destination is.
Be flexible, if possible. Consider using low fare carriers or alternative airports and keep an eye out for fare wars.
Web Resource: http://airconsumer.dot.gov/publications/bestfare.htm
Since car rental rates can vary greatly, shop around for the best basic rates. Ask about any additional charges (extra driver, gas, drop-off fees) and special offers.
Rental car companies offer various insurance and waiver options. Check with your automobile insurance agent and credit card company in advance to avoid duplicating any coverage you may already have.
Web Resource: http://ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/autos/aut07.shtm
You can save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a car by selecting a model that combines a low purchase price with low financing, insurance, gasoline, maintenance, and repair costs. Ask your local librarian for new car guides that contain this information.
Having selected a model, you can save hundreds of dollars by comparison shopping. Call at least five dealers for price quotes and let each know that you are calling others.
Remember there is no "cooling off" period on new car sales. Once you have signed a contract, you are obligated to buy the car.
Web Resource: http://ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/autos/aut11.shtm
Before buying any used car:
Compare the seller's asking price with the average retail price in a "bluebook" or other guide to car prices found at many libraries, banks, and credit unions.
Have a mechanic you trust check the car, especially if the car is sold "as is."
Consider purchasing a used car from an individual you know and trust. They are more likely than other sellers to charge a lower price and point out any problems with the car.
Web Resource: http://ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/autos/aut03.shtm
Don't decide to lease a car just because the payments are lower than on a traditional auto loan. The leasing payments may be lower because you don't own the car at the end of the lease.
Leasing a car is very complicated. When shopping, consider the price of the car (known as the capitalized cost), your trade-in allowance, any down payment, monthly payments, various fees (excess mileage, excess "wear and tear," end-of- lease), and the cost of buying the car at the end of the lease. Keys to Vehicle Leasing: A Consumer Guide, published by the Federal Reserve Board and Federal Trade Commission, is a valuable source of information about auto leasing.
Web Resource: http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/leasing
You can save hundreds of dollars a year by comparing prices at different stations, pumping gas yourself, and using the lowest-octane called for in your owner's manual.
You can save up to $100 a year on gas by keeping your engine tuned and your tires inflated to their proper pressure.
Web Resource: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/
Consumers lose billions of dollars each year on unneeded or poorly done car repairs. The most important step that you can take to save money on these repairs is to find a skilled, honest mechanic. Before you need repairs, look for a mechanic who:
is certified and well established;
has done good work for someone you know; and
communicates well about repair options and costs.
Web Resource: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/autos/aut13.htm
You can save several hundred dollars a year by purchasing auto insurance from a licensed, low-price insurer. Call your state insurance department for a publication showing typical prices charged by different companies. Then call at least four of the lowest-priced, licensed insurers to learn what they would charge you for the same coverage.
Talk to your agent or insurer about raising your deductibles on collision and comprehensive coverage to at least $500 or, if you have an old car, dropping this coverage altogether. Taking these steps can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Make certain that your new policy is in effect before dropping your old one.
Web Resources: http://www.consumer.gov
You can save several hundred dollars a year on homeowner insurance and up to $50 a year on renter insurance by purchasing insurance from a low-price, licensed insurer. Ask your state insurance department for a publication showing typical prices charged by different licensed companies. Then call at least four of the lowest priced insurers to learn what they would charge you. If such a publication is not available, it is even more important to call at least four insurers for price quotes.
Make certain you purchase enough coverage to replace the house and its contents. "Replacement" on the house means rebuilding to its current condition.
Make certain your new policy is in effect before dropping your old one.
Web Resource: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/housing/covered/covered.htm and http://www.fema.gov/
If you want insurance protection only, and not a savings and investment product, buy a term life insurance policy.
If you want to buy a whole life, universal life, or other cash value policy, plan to hold it for at least 15 years. Canceling these policies after only a few years can more than double your life insurance costs.
Check the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website (http://www.naic.org/cis/) or your local library for information on the financial soundness of insurance companies.
Web Resource: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/acli/index.htm
CheckingYou can save more than $100 a year in fees by selecting a checking account with a low (or no) minimum balance requirement that you can, and do, meet. Request a list of these and other fees (including ATM and debit card fees) that are charged on these accounts.
Banking institutions often will drop or lower checking fees if paychecks are directly deposited by your employer. Direct deposit offers the additional advantages of convenience, security, and immediate access to your money.
Web Resource: http://www.frbatlanta.org/invoke_brochure.cfm
Savings and Investment ProductsBefore opening a savings or investment account with a bank or other financial institution, find out whether the account is insured by the federal government (FDIC or NCUA). An increasing number of products offered by these institutions, including mutual stock funds and annuities, are not insured.
To earn the highest return on savings (annual percentage yield) with little or no risk, consider certificates of deposit (CDs) or U.S. Savings Bonds (Series I or EE).
Once you select a type of savings or investment product, compare rates and fees offered by different institutions. These rates can vary a lot and, over time, can significantly affect interest earnings.
Web Resource: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/money/fact-saving/fact-saving.htm and http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/roadmap.htm
You can save as much as a thousand dollars or more each year in lower credit card interest charges by paying off your entire bill each month or by using a check, cash or debit card for purchases.
If you are unable to pay off a large balance, pay as much as you can and switch to a credit card with a low annual percentage rate (APR). You can obtain listings of low-rate credit cards through http://www.cardlocator.com/ or http://www.bankrate.com/ (click on credit cards), which provide information at no charge to consumers.
You can reduce credit card fees, which may add up to well over $100 a year, by getting rid of all but one or two cards, and by avoiding annual, late payment, and over-the-credit limit fees.
Web Resource: http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/shop
If you have significant savings earning a low interest rate, consider making a large down payment or even paying for the car in cash. This could save you as much as several thousand dollars in finance charges.
You can save as much as hundreds of dollars in finance charges by shopping for the cheapest loan. Contact several banks, your credit union, and the auto manufacturer's own finance company.
Web Resource: /bcp/conline/pubs/autos/newcar.htm
First Mortgage Loans
Although your monthly payment may be higher, you can save tens of thousands of dollars in interest charges by shopping for the shortest-term mortgage you can afford. On a $100,000 fixed-rate loan at 7% annual percentage rate (APR), for example, you will pay over $75,000 less in interest on a 15-year mortgage than on a 30-year mortgage.
You can save thousands of dollars in interest charges by shopping for the lowest-rate mortgage with the fewest points. On a 15-year $100,000 fixed-rate mortgage, just lowering the APR from 7% to 6.5% can save you more than $5,000 in interest charges, and paying two points instead of three would save you an additional $1,000.
If your local newspaper does not periodically run mortgage rate surveys, call at least six lenders for information about their rates (APRs), points, and fees. You may also check http://www.bankrate.com/ for mortgage information in your area. Then ask an accountant to compute precisely how much each mortgage option will cost and its tax implications.
Be aware that the interest rate on most adjustable rate mortgage loans (ARMs) can vary a great deal over the lifetime of the mortgage. An increase of several percentage points might raise payments by hundreds of dollars per month.
Web Resource: http://www.fdic.gov/consumers/looking/index.html
Consider refinancing your mortgage if you can get a rate that is at least one percentage point lower than your existing mortgage rate and plan to keep the new mortgage for several years or more. Ask an accountant to calculate precisely how much your new mortgage (including points, fees and closing costs) will cost and whether, in the long run, it will cost less than your current mortgage.
Web Resource: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/housing/guide_finan/refinancing.htm
Home Equity Loans
Be cautious in taking out home equity loans. The loans reduce or may even eliminate the equity that you have built up in your home. Equity is the cash you would have if you sold your house and paid off your mortgage loans. If you are unable to make payments, you could lose your home.
Compare home equity loans offered by at least four reputable lending institutions. Consider the interest rate on the loan and the annual percentage rate (APR), which includes other costs, such as origination fees, discount points, mortgage insurance and other fees. Ask if the rate changes, and if so, how it is calculated and how frequently, as this will affect the amount of your monthly payments.
Web Resource: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/housing/home-line/homeline.htm
You can often negotiate a lower sale price by employing a buyer broker who works for you not the seller. If the buyer broker or the broker's firm also lists properties, there may be a conflict of interest, so ask them to tell you if they are showing you a property that they have listed.
Do not purchase any house until it has been examined by a home inspector that you selected.
Web Resource: http://www.hud.gov/buying
Renting a Place to Live
Do not limit your rental housing search to classified ads or referrals from friends and acquaintances. Select buildings where you would like to live and contact their building manager or owner to see if anything is available.
Remember that signing a lease probably obligates you to make all monthly payments for the term of the agreement.
Web Resource: http://www.hud.gov/renting/index.cfm
Home repairs often cost thousands of dollars and are the subject of frequent complaints. Select from among several well established, licensed contractors who have submitted written, fixed-price bids for the work.
Do not sign any contract that requires full payment before satisfactory completion of the work.
Web Resource: /bcp/conline/pubs/services/homeimpv.htm and /bcp/conline/edcams/homeimp/index.html
Consult Consumer Reports, available in most public libraries, for information about specific brands and how to evaluate them, including energy use. There are often great price and quality differences among brands.
Once you've selected a brand, check the phone book to learn what stores carry this brand, then call at least four of these stores for the prices of specific models. After each store has given you a quote, ask if that's the lowest price they can offer you. This comparison shopping can save you as much as $100 or more.
Web Resource: http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/appliances/index.cfm/mytopic=10020
To save as much as hundreds of dollars a year on electricity, make certain that any new appliances you purchase, especially air conditioners and furnaces, are energy-efficient. Information on the energy efficiency of major appliances is found on Energy Guide Labels required by federal law.
Enrolling in load management programs and off-hour rate programs offered by your electric utility may save you up to $100 a year in electricity costs. Call your electric utility for information about these cost-saving programs.
Web Resource: http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/electricity/index.cfm/mytopic=10390
A home energy audit can identify ways to save up to hundreds of dollars a year on home heating (and air conditioning). Ask your electric or gas utility if they can do this audit for free or for a reasonable charge. If they cannot, ask them to refer you to a qualified professional.
Web Resource: http://hes.lbl.gov/hes
At least once a year review your phone bills for the previous three months to see what local, local toll, long distance, and international calls you normally make. Call several phone companies, including wireless companies, to find an inexpensive calling plan that meets your needs.
If you make very few toll or long distance calls, avoid calling plans with monthly fees or minimums.
Check your phone bill to see if you have optional calling services you don't use. Each option you drop could save you $40 or more each year.
Before making calls when away from home, compare per minute rates and surcharges for different prepaid phone cards and calling card plans to find the one that saves you the most money.
Dial your long distance calls directly. Using an operator to place the call can cost you up to $10 extra.
If you use a wireless phone, make sure your wireless calling plan covers the calls you typically make. Understand promotions, peak calling periods, area coverage and roaming, and long distance requirements to avoid paying too much.
Web Resource: http://www.fcc.gov/cib/
Food Purchased at Markets
You can save hundreds of dollars a year by shopping at the lower-priced food stores. Convenience stores often charge the highest prices.
You will spend less on food if you shop with a list.
You can save hundreds of dollars a year by comparing price-per-ounce or other unit prices on shelf labels. Stock up on those items with low per-unit costs.
Web Resource: http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/thriftyliving/tl-savefood.html
Since brand name drugs are usually much more expensive than their generic equivalents, ask your physician and pharmacist for generic drugs whenever appropriate.
Since pharmacies may charge widely different prices for the same medicine, call several. When taking a drug for a long time, also consider calling mail-order pharmacies, which often charge lower prices.
Make your wishes known about your funeral, memorial, or burial arrangements in writing. Be cautious about prepaying because there may be risks involved.
For information about the least costly options, which could save you several thousand dollars, contact a local memorial society, which is usually listed in the Yellow Pages under funeral services.
Before selecting a funeral home, call several and ask for prices of specific goods and services, or visit them to obtain an itemized price list. You are entitled to this information by law and, by using it to comparison shop, you can save hundreds of dollars.
Web Resource: /bcp/conline/pubs/services/funeral.htm
Membership in the Consumer Literacy Consortium does not imply endorsement
of all its messages or the products and services of other members.
American Association of Retired Persons
American Council on Consumer Interests
American Council of Life Insurers
American Financial Services Association Education Foundation
Bank of America
Call For Action
Center for the Study of Services - Checkbook Magazine
Consumer Federation of America
Credit Union National Association
Fannie Mae Federal Citizen Information Center
Federal Reserve Board
Federal Trade Commission
Food Marketing Institute
MCI Communications Corporation
National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators
National Foundation for Credit Counseling
National Institute for Consumer Education
U.S.D.A Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service
Single copies of this brochure are available for $.50 each from Save Money, Pueblo, CO 81009. Make your check or money order payable to the Superintendent of Documents.
For information on bulk orders contact: Save Money, Consumer Federation of America, 1424 16th Street, NW, Suite 604, Washington, DC 20036.
Additional information for improving purchasing decisions is available at local libraries, which also provide access to Internet sites intended to help consumers.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
This information is provided under a cooperative agreement between the Better Business Bureau and the U. S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has prepared this information. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid these practices. To learn more about the FTC and its services, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.