7 Easy Ways To Save Big Money

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Update: This story was originally published on July 2.
The feature I was most excited about when I upgraded to iOS7 was FaceTime Audio. It lets you place a call over the Internet to other iPhone users instead of going through your phone service — which means you don’t have to pay international fees (perfect for calling my family in Europe, Asia, and Australia) or eat up your monthly minutes if you’re running low. (Of course, the same is true for regular FaceTime, but sometimes you just don’t feel like chatting face to face.)

Over the past few years, I’ve also cut the cord with cable, nabbed an amazing deal on a top-of-the-line refurbished Vitamix to indulge my smoothie addiction, and paid half-price for massages, which I figure means I can get twice as many! Want in on money-saving tricks like these? Read on.
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Cable TV
More and more people are breaking up with their pricey cable service and opting for inexpensive alternatives. According to a Harris Interactive survey done in conjunction with CouponCabin.com, 11 percent of Americans used to subscribe to cable or satellite TV but don’t anymore, and 45% of people think cable is a waste of money.

Ready to go box-free? Swap in a device like Apple TV or Roku that streams content from the Internet. They cost about $100 (that’s a one-time fee), are simple to set up and let you watch movies and shows from Netflix ($7.99 a month), Amazon Prime ($79 a year), iTunes, Hulu Plus ($7.99 a month), NBA ($119 for the season), and others. Since one-third of Americans report paying more than $100 per month on their cable bill, you could subscribe to each of those services and still practically afford a trip to Europe just by making the switch.

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Cell Phone
Long considered a second-tier phone service compared to the biggies like AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile has been rolling out seductive new ways to entice customers — dropping the two-year contract stipulation, no longer overcharging for the cost of subsidizing a new phone and ditching overseas roaming fees. T-Mobile’s middle-of-the-road plan is only $60 a month, while a similar plan from Verizon runs $100 monthly.

Another interesting option: “Republic Wireless offers one of the most compelling price points for a smart phone service,” says Clark Howard, author of Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul. After buying a $299 Moto X — it runs Android software, has a camera, and 16GB of memory — you get unlimited calling, texting and data each month for $25. Talk and text, with no data, is only $10 a month. The company is able to charge such low prices because everything is routed over Wi-Fi if possible (when you’re not online, the phone taps into the Sprint network).
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Electronics & Appliances
Buying a refurbished product costs significantly less than a new model but comes with the same warranty and goes through even more rigorous inspection and testing. Some items are gently used; in many cases the packaging has just been opened before the item was returned. Before you shell out for a big purchase, it’s worth doing some Internet research. By Googling “refurbished [insert item name],” I found an iPad 4 for $379 (24% off the retail price), a Dyson vacuum for $275 (31% off) and a $129 Kindle Fire (44% below retail).

Gas
How annoying is it to fill up your tank and then pass another gas station a couple of blocks away with a cheaper price? The app GasBuddy has your back: It highlights the cheapest place to refuel in your area.

Another easy way to save on gas? Properly maintaining your car. “Keeping your tires filled with air and cleaning your air filter could improve your gas mileage by up to about 10%,” says Catey Hill, author of Shoo, Jimmy Choo: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spending Less and Saving More. Since the average household spent nearly $3,000 last year on gas, these routine maintenance practices are well worth the investment.

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Clothes
A couple of easy downloads could save you from fashion victim status. “PriceBlink (a free browser add-on) automatically compares prices while you online shop,” says Hill. “It stays hidden unless it can find the item for less or track down a special deal, like coupons or free shipping.” If you’re shopping old-school style at the mall, make the Retail Me Not app your best friend. “It’s synced up with hundreds of malls and will send you store coupons when you’re nearby one of them,” she says.

Hill also urges women to pick the right moment to shop for new clothes: Go once the season is winding down, six to eight weeks after merchandise has hit stores (that’s when the retailer is likely to slash prices) and shop on Thursday evenings — you can often take advantage of weekend sales, but you’ll still get good stuff to choose from because the crowds haven’t yet hit.

Prescriptions
All pharmacies are not created equal. “A pharmaceutical company may have a deal with a particular pharmacy based on volume that could make your script a lot cheaper at one place versus another,” says Howard. To make sure you score the best price, download an app like GoodRx or LowestMed, enter in the name of the medication and it’ll tell you which drugstore has the best price nearby. You could end up paying up to 80% less — some app reviewers report having saved hundreds of dollars on a single Rx.

Massages
The next time you get a mind-blowing rubdown at a spa with head-spinning prices, ask the masseuse if she does house calls. Many do and charge about half as much (around $1 a minute). It’s a win-win all around: You pay less to get a blissful massage without stepping foot outside your home; she earns more by circumventing the steep service cut that spas take.

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