Keep your wallet fat: 5 tips

Is your budget tight? Or do you regularly look for ways to save your hard-earned cash? Here's a couple tricks to save a substantial amount or cut costs when you try them regularly.

Keep your wallet fat: 5 tips

There are lots of surprising ways to save money on your household budget. You can give a couple of these tips a try.

1. Tasty copycats

Generic brands are not always prominently displayed. They may be stacked on the top and bottom shelves and may have lacklustre packaging.

  • But remember that dried and canned goods don't need fancy packaging. These products are usually made by reputable companies that are often household names.
  • Even better, they're often more than 30 percent cheaper than name brands. A recent survey found 72 generic brand teabags cost 46 percent less, flour cost 56 percent less and mozzarella cheese cost 17 percent less.

2. If you're a cook, plant herbs — not vegetables — in your garden

Fresh herbs bought at a grocery store are incredibly expensive, no matter what time of year.

  • Serious cooks can save a small fortune if they can harvest basil, oregano, thyme, mint and rosemary from their own gardens.
  • However, you won't see the same cost benefit with vegetables. The week your zucchini harvest comes in is usually the same week that it comes in at local farms — meaning the grocery store will be selling them at a deep discount.

3. Don't double-buy long-distance service

For people with both home and cell phone services, it's highly wasteful to pay for expensive national calling plans for both.

  • Choose the most cost-efficient or convenient service for your long-distance calls, and use the other service for local calls only.
  • Or skip long distance on both if you use an Internet phone service.

4. Get free telephone service over the Internet

  • Phone companies don't want you to know this, but if you have broadband Internet service, then you can use your computer as a telephone at no charge!
  • All you need is a headset with a microphone or an inexpensive telephone that connects to a USB port on your computer and some free software that you can download in minutes.
  • There are many choices for software and apps that allow you to call any other computer with the same setup.
  • And some programs let you call regular phones in the United States and Canada, with just a modest annual fee, far less than the cost of one month of typical phone service. Calls to most countries overseas cost only pennies a minute.

5. Cash in on store courtesy cards

Sometimes called club or thank-you cards, store courtesy cards have proliferated in recent years. There's not a major drugstore or supermarket chain that doesn't offer one now.

And even some big-box electronics stores have their own version. The stores offer the cards because they want to make you a regular shopper, and some consumers are suspicious about the cards — especially if there is a fee associated with them.

  • But today most of the cards are free, the savings can actually be significant and there is no limit to how many stores you can have a card from. Some cards work by giving you a coupon rebate, say $5 off future purchases once you buy $100 worth of goods.
  • Others give you a reduced price on certain items when you flash the card. Either way you win, provided you regularly comparison-shop and make sure that you are not paying any more than you would at another store. So fill your key chain up with these little money-saving tags.
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