How to Save Up to $3,000 a Year
The Leak: Paying Bills by Snail Mail
Savings: Almost $79 a year in postage.
The Leak: Using Cash to Pay Tolls
Savings: 15 to 50 percent per trip.
The Leak: A Cell-Phone Plan That Doesn’t Match Your Needs
The fix: Too many minutes and you're wasting money. Too few and the overages can send your cell-phone bill into the stratosphere. On average, according to the consumer research firm J.D. Power & Associates, cell-phone subscribers use only 64 percent of the minutes they pay for. If you're still under contract, call your cell-phone company and ask it to analyze your usage. You may find that buying fewer monthly minutes but, say, getting unlimited evening and weekend minutes may work better than a more expensive plan―and you won't pay a termination fee of $100 or more. If your contract is up and you're thinking about switching carriers, shop for the best plan on myrateplan.com/wireless. Analyze special offers carefully.
Savings: An average of $16.50 a month, according to J.D. Power & Associates.
The Leak: Letting the Water Run
Savings: $189 a year, or nearly 40 percent off the average U.S. household's annual water bill of $476, according to a 2003 study prepared for the National Rural Water Association.
The Leak: Too Much Insurance
Savings: 15 to 30 percent on home and auto bills.
The Leak: Not Taking Advantage of Flexible-Spending Accounts
Savings: Vary depending on your tax bracket.
The Leak: Paying Online Shipping Fees
The fix: Pool purchases with friends to qualify for free or flat-rate shipping offers. For example, several sites, such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Circuit City, and Sony Music Store, offer free standard shipping on most orders of $25; Tower Records offers it on orders of at least $25. For other deals, use a shopping search engine, like shopzilla.com or shop.com. Enter your ZIP code and compare retailers' prices, including shipping and handling. You can even specify "Free Shipping" as an option in your search (on Shopzilla, search for "Special Offers" and then "Free Shipping Offers").
Savings: $5 to $20 per order.
The Leak: Frequent Trips to the ATM to Withdraw Moderate Amounts of Cash
The fix: On average, consumers withdraw $60 from an ATM four times per month, estimates David Gosnell, an editor at ATM & Debit News. That's about $240 a month in unaccountable spending. "As soon as you turn money into cash, you have no paper trail," warns Deena Katz, a financial planner based in Coral Gables, Florida. Instead, withdraw the exact amount of cash you'll need each week from your bank (to avoid other institutions' $1.50 to $3 ATM transaction fees).
The Leak: Eating Out on Vacations
Savings: $70 or more a day for a family of four after the cost of groceries.
The Leak: Bounced Checks
Savings: $14 to $100, taking into account bank and merchant penalties.
The Leak: Paying Airlines for Extras
- Weighing luggage at home to make sure each piece stays under 50 pounds. Divide contents into two bags if necessary (savings: $25 or more).
- Skipping curbside check-in and using a time-saving kiosk or checking in online at home (savings: $1 to $2).
- Bringing your own headphones (savings: $2) and snacks and meals (savings: $2 to $9).
The Leak: Paying for Credit Reports
Savings: $30 or more.
The Leak: Getting Cable, Internet, and Phone Service From Three Different Providers
Savings: $10 to $20 a month.
The Leak: Paying the Minimum on Credit Cards
Savings: $10 to $20 a month.
The Leak: Purchasing a Supplemental Life Insurance Policy Through Your Employer
The Leak: Taking Your Time to Redeem Gift Cards
Savings: $1 to $2.50 a month.
The Leak: Springing for a Pricey Renovation Before Putting Your Home on the Market
Savings: Vary with type of renovation.
The Leak: Thinking That "All-Inclusive" Means "All-Inclusive"
Savings: Vary with salary.
The Leak: Paying an Annual Fee of $60 or More for a Frequent-Flier Credit Card
Savings: $60 a year.