Experts share laid-back ways to rein in spending without feeling the pinch.
By Joann Pan
Shop Now, Buy (And Save) Later
To avoid paying too much for seasonal clothing, "give yourself a few weeks lead time," says Hukkster cofounder Erica Bell. With a little planning, you won't pay full price for breezy dresses, sheer tops, strappy sandals or relaxed denim this season. Keep tabs on your most coveted items using online shopping tools such as Hukkster.
Here's how it works: After pulling a "hukk it" bookmarklet to your browser similar to Pinterest's"pin it" button -- shoppers can "hukk" an item wherever they're shopping online and choose to receive notifications when the item goes on sale. The average Hukkster user waits one to two weeks before receiving an email alert and saves nearly $44 per transaction, according to Bell.
Bulk Up On Discounted Movie Tickets
You don't have to fork over the contents of your wallet in order to see every superhero flick and book-turned-movie on your summer blockbusters list. Instead, purchase reduced-price tickets on BulkTix.com ($32 for a pack of 4 or $8 a pop), says Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance expert and author of When She Makes More. If you live in New York City, Miami, San Diego or another city where tickets cost more than $11, you're saving approximately $3 to $5 per ticket. You can also buy bulk tickets from theater chains or Costco at around 30 percent less.
Avoid ATM Fees (Without Going Out Of Your Way)
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We all try and avoid paying the $2 to $3 ATM surcharge, but when in a desperate situation (with friends in a cash-only restaurant at midnight), we will begrudgingly accept the extra fees to spare ourselves the hassle. Using the free smartphone app AllPoint for iOS and Android devices to scope out the nearest surcharge-free ATM machines can save you a couple dollars the next time you're in a desperate situation. The app also comes in handy when you're traveling the AllPoint network spans across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Australia with over 55,000 surcharge-free locations.
Learn To Hang A Shelf Or Fix Up Your Patio
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Not all Pinterest-inspired home improvement projects can be as straightforward as this: Spray paint two rocks = voila, stylish bookends! To help you get started on more complicated projects, Our Freaking Budget bloggers Johnny and Joanna Galbraith suggest taking a free workshop at your local Home Depot store to learn how to do things like operating a miter saw, staining your deck or building a hanging garden. The home-improvement store offers hands-on classes at its locations in all 50 states. Workshop schedules including the Do-It-Herself series inspired by popular pins on Pinterest are posted one to two months before the class and updated on a regular basis. "Customers do not need to bring anything with them unless they have their own tools they'd like to use," says Katherine Ellison, corporate communications specialist at The Home Depot.
Request The Discount Because You Won't Get It Any Other Way
Unlike rent or utility bills, theres one monthly expense you can talk down: your insurance. It's one of the most negotiable rates, Torabi says. You can potentially save a few hundreds of dollars by inquiring about discounts and lower rates. Everyone should do this every year. No matter if you've made improvements or not," Torabi says.
Start with your home insurance. Here's what to say: "My contract is about to renew, I'd like to look at some ways I can save going forward." Mention any improvements you've made to make your home more secure such as upgraded plumbing, new smoke detectors, mounted deadbolts, window guards, security system or even, a new watch dog. Your best bet is to keep receipts in case they need proof of purchase. "That can shave up to 20 percent discount off your monthly premium," Torabi says. Considering the average homeowner's insurance premium is around $1,000, that's around $200 in savings a year.
The average U.S. household is part of 18 consumer-loyalty programs, and, in 2011, racked up $622 in rewards from banks, retailers, restaurants, hotels and other businesses, according to a study by <a href="http://www.colloquy.com/press_release_view.asp?xd=95" target="_blank">Swift Exchange and Colloquy</a>. That's a lot of money back -- or would be -- but people didn't redeem, on average, nearly a third of those rewards, leaving $205 on the table. Since rewards often expire and certainly don't accrue interest, it's best to cash in as soon as you can. If you have the choice of cash or a gift card, consider this: Not only will a gift card tie you to one specific retailer, but also, recent <a href="http://www.acrwebsite.org/volumes/v35/naacr_vol35_334.pdf" target="_blank">decision-making studies</a> have found that <a href="http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2008/09/credit-cash.aspx" target="_blank">people plan to spend more with a gift certificate than cash</a> -- meaning that $25 gift card will likely disappear faster than $20 cash back.