50 Best Money-Saving Tips of the Year

SAVINGS FOR THE NEW YEAR

Another year is coming to an end, presenting a chance to reflect on what we learned during the past 12 months. From electricity costs to credit cards, we've covered it all on Cheapism.com. Continue on to see 50 of the best money-saving, reward-earning, and frugal-living tips from 2014.

1. Five stores match Amazon prices: Walmart, Target, Staples, Best Buy, and Toys R Us. There are many exclusions to watch out for, but checking prices with a smartphone before making an in-store impulse buy can save you money.

2. A Disney trip is possible on a budget if you plan in advance. Find discounted tickets; bring your own food and beverages; stay at value hotels; think twice about the Park Hopper pass; go during the off-season; and bring your own souvenirs.

3. Many retailers use price codes on their tags (for example, a price that ends in .97) to indicate whether an item is a final markdown or may be discounted further.

4. When should you negotiate? More often than you might expect. With market information in hand, go straight to the manager at a rental car agency or hotel and try to wrangle a deal. Even if the price doesn't budge, try getting more value for your dollar with an upgraded car or room, neither of which costs the company any extra.

5. Smart thermostats are hot right now -- they learn your preferences and can be controlled from afar -- but even a cheap programmable thermostat (set at a reasonable temperature) can save you a lot of money.
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6. The age for senior discounts starts at 50 at some restaurants, grocery stores, and clothing retailers. With deals ranging from 5 to 50 percent off, make sure to ask.

7. Don't waste money on toys that children will cast aside after a few months. Instead, consider toy swaps with local parents or rent toys using services such as Pley (for Legos) and Spark Box Toys.

8. Doctors tend to buy generic, over-the-counter versions of common medications. Chefs buy generic baking supplies such as brown sugar and baking soda. Follow the experts' lead and save money.

9. Looking for a diamond for a special someone? Get a good price by shopping online and knowing the five C's: clarity, color, cut, carat, and certification. Don't compromise on cut, which makes a diamond sparkle. A low clarity grade is harder to notice and can help you afford a larger stone.

10. Veterans can take advantage of a slew of discounts year-round. Lowe's and Home Depot, for example, offer a 10 percent discount to active and retired members of the armed forces and those receiving Veterans Affairs benefits.

11. Escape the contract and switch to an ultra-cheap cell phone provider such as FreedomPop or Republic Wireless. They use the same towers as some of the big telecom companies but charge consumers just a fraction of the price each month.

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12. Did you know you can test your way to a bachelor's degree from an accredited college? This path requires a lot of self-discipline but saves tens of thousands of dollars.

13. There are ways to reduce or eliminate airline baggage fees: Book using an airline-branded credit card; use a card that reimburses travel expenses; pack light or share space in a travel partner's bag; pay in advance; and avoid budget airlines.

14. Many consumers are joining the cord-cutting revolution. With a smart TV or a streaming media player instead of a cable subscription, monthly entertainment costs can dip to less than $10 per month and you'll still have plenty to watch.

15. Protect yourself from credit card fraud by monitoring your credit score for free using Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, or Quizzle.

16. Instead of buying bottled juices or doing a pricey, prepackaged cleanse, consider a home juicer. The time commitment and cleanup aren't for everyone, so start with a cheap juicer and upgrade if you're still using it months later.

17. When shopping online, check several sites before clicking "order." RetailMeNot finds coupon codes; Saveful compares the total price (inclusive of shipping and coupons) of identical products at multiple sites; Gift Card Granny shows you where to buy gift cards at a discount; and Mr. Rebates lets you earn cash back when shopping at any of 2,000-plus ecommerce sites.
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18. Upgrade your house with energy efficient light bulbs and appliances. The initial investment will pay for itself over time and the planet will thank you. Not sure where to start? Enervee rates electronics based on their efficiency relative to similar products.

19. If you want a taste of luxury travel on the cheap, locales where you can lodge at 4- and 5-star hotels for 3-star prices include Las Vegas, Bangkok, Shanghai, Cairo, and Mumbai.

20. Avoid purchasing items that (let's be honest) you probably won't use more than once, such as formalwear (rent instead), specialty kitchen appliances (they lose their novelty quickly), power tools (rent from home improvement stores or borrow from local lending sources), and items you're buying only because they're deeply discounted.

21. Common medicines and health and beauty products are often cheaper at Target and Walmart than at Rite Aid, Walgreens, and CVS.

22. Many credit cards offer extended warranties, full refunds if items are damaged or stolen up to 90 days after purchase, zero liability for fraudulent charges, and rewards programs that earn you money back on every purchase.

23. Libraries do more than offer free books. Save money by renting movies and ebooks and taking classes. Libraries are also great go-to work spaces -- they're quiet and there's no need to buy coffee or a snack every few hours.

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24. Looking for inexpensive date ideas? Try a happy hour, wine tasting, dog park meet-up, picnic, volunteer project, or visit to a local tourist attraction that you'll never get to otherwise.

25. Make this the year to zero-out fees. Buy a router or modem and stop renting one from your internet provider; switch to fee-free checking and ATM use at Charles Schwab, Ally Bank, Bank of Internet, or USAA Bank (for members and relatives of military members and veterans); and get a credit card that doesn't charge extra for foreign transactions when you travel.

26. If you're starting a diet in the new year, choose a plan that emphasizes healthy eating over a quick fix (e.g., a three-day juice cleanse). The instilled habits are priceless in the long run.

27. Save money on razors by drying them after each use. This simple step can prolong the life of a razor blade by months. For even more savings, consider switching to a service that delivers inexpensive blades.

28. Earn extra cash by selling your unwanted clothing on Poshmark, Vinted, Carousell, ThredUp, Twice, or Threadflip.

29. Save on school lunches by buying ingredients in bulk and packing in reusable containers. Prepare dinners that can double as tomorrow's lunch for you and your children.

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30. Influenster, BzzAgent, and PinchMe send free samples, and sometimes free full-size products, to consumers who write short reviews or tell friends about the products.

31. Considering a new pet? Experts say purebred cats and dogs are most prone to illness -- and accompanying vet bills. In general, the larger the animal, the higher the cost of boarding, grooming, and food over time.

32. Large hotel chains often have locations on the outskirts of the city. Save up to $189 per night by staying farther afield and commuting into the city with everyone else.

33. Being too cheap can hurt you financially. Don't blindly choose the least expensive item; opt for affordable and well-reviewed products (here's where Cheapism.com buying guides can help you out).

34. Microfiber cleaning cloths generally cost more than a standard cotton towel, but even the priciest options pay for themselves over time when factoring in durability and cleaning ability.

35. Looking for an interesting vacation stop that's cheap or free and just a little offbeat? Try Death Valley in California, free kayaking and canoeing in New York City, the "American Stonehenge" in Georgia, the Golden Driller in Oklahoma, or Natural Rock Face in Alaska.
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36. These days many retailers manage to compete with Walmart on price, especially online, but Cheapism.com identified 10 types of merchandise that are still cheapest at Walmart: school supplies, air conditioners, brand-name groceries, baby products, razors, cleaning supplies, feminine products, contact lens solution, sunscreen, and laundry detergent.

37. Use the following mobile apps to help save money while shopping for groceries, clothing, and everything else: RetailMeNot, Ibotta, Checkout 51, Snap by Groupon, Grocery Smarts, SnipSnap, SmartSource, and The Coupons App.

38. To prolong the life of clothing, set the dryer on low or hang dry your clothes.

39. Small business owners looking to attend conferences can save money or even go for free by volunteering, speaking, or being a sponsor. Book early and split the cost of transportation or accommodations with other attendees. If the conference price is still out of reach, try to attend the after-parties and networking events -- often the most valuable part.

40. A DVR cable box, laptop computer, inkjet fax machine, and an idle desktop computer cost more than $125 per year to power. Unplug these devices and other electronics when not in use to eliminate "vampire drain" and lower your utility bill.

41. Forget about spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a wedding cake. Ask skilled friends or family members to bake the cake(s) as a wedding present. Only one small cake needs to be gussied up for presentation -- the rest can be decorated simply and held in the back before being served to guests.

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42. Shopping while traveling abroad can save you money if you know what to buy where. In Italy, look for leather. Electronics are cheap in Singapore, and Antwerp is known for deals on diamonds. Another potential money saver, albeit with some risk, is traveling abroad for medical procedures.

43. If you can afford to spend a little more, don't go rock-bottom-cheap on these household items: skillets, knives, storage containers, furniture, and vacuums. Stepping up a bit in price will net goods that will last far longer than a few months or years and save you money in the long run.

44. If you're looking for a way to see the world and also give back, consider a volunteer vacation. The experience can be personally rewarding and much less expensive than a resort.

45. Whole Foods doesn't always eat your whole paycheck. In a side-by-side comparison, Cheapism.com found 25 items that actually cost less than they do at Safeway. The list includes organic whole milk, shredded mozzarella, pretzels, pasta sauce, organic balsamic vinegar, and cream cheese.

46. Chrysanthemums, carnations, and alstroemerias (Peruvian lilies) cost less than roses and last longer. No matter what type of flowers you send, call a local florist near the recipient instead of ordering online. You'll often save money or get a better bouquet for the same price.

47. Electric bikes and scooters offer an inexpensive and relatively sweat-free alternative to a car for consumers eager to cut transportation costs.

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48. Some weight-loss methods are too good to be true. Avoid paying for creams, 7-minute workouts, shakes, pills, and fad diets that don't address the needs of the body as a whole.

49. Amazon recently announced a new option that lets shoppers name the price they want to pay on collectibles and fine art. Priceline and Hotwire do the same for travel (check Better Bidding first for tips); Score Big handles event tickets; and Greentoe offers photography equipment, home theater items, baby products, and more. No guarantees that you'll close the deal.

50. Almost every day of the week you can find a restaurant that lets kids eat for free. The purchase of an adult entree is usually required.