Did you know you can pay your taxes by using a cash-back credit card?
Why are you still paying $235 a year to rent your cable box?
You're leaving money on the table every day, with every transaction you make: changing your oil, withdrawing ATM cash, booking flights, buying insurance, shopping for clothes, squirting toothpaste. But in Pogue's Basics: Money, the third book of this New York Times bestselling series, David Pogue proves that information is money. Each of his 150 simple tips and tricks includes a ballpark estimate of the money you could make or save. Okay, you won't use every tip in the bookbut if you did, you'd come ahead by $61,195 a year.
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Pogue's Basics: Money
Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) About Beating the System
By David Pogue
Flatiron BooksCopyright © 2016 David Pogue
All rights reserved.
Here's the frustrating thing about money: As soon as you've earned some, the universe gangs up on you and demands that you spend it. Everywhere you turn, there's something else to pay for.
Fortunately, for every avenue there is to spend money, there's a loophole for spending less of it.
When to buy stuff
Prices fluctuate all the time. Supply, demand, the price of raw materials, the price of gas, location, the economy — it all affects product pricing.
You can't do much about any of that.
What you can do, though, is control when you shop. In certain industries, the prices for products always drop at certain times of year, like clockwork.
Actually, what's a little nonsensical is that there are usually two times for big price dips. First, there's the time when demand is highest (sales on toys before Christmas, TVs before the Super Bowl). Second, there's the time when demand is lowest (sales on candy after Halloween, bathing suits after swimming season).
Here's your master cheat sheet:
Bathing suits. What store wants shelves full of swimwear that's no longer selling? Prices are lowest for the year in August, as the swimming season ends.
Bicycles. New models roll out in September and October. That, therefore, is a great time to find sales on last year's bikes.
Cameras. New models usually debut in February, so you can count on big discounts on last year's models on Presidents' Day weekend.
Camping gear. Giant price cuts arrive in August; the summer's over, and so is demand for this stuff. Look for another rash of sales in October, too.
Candy. Right after Halloween, every store and its brother slash prices to unload all the unsold candy.
Car parts and service. April is National Car Care Month, so you may spot special sales that time of year.
Cars. Many car companies roll out next year's car models in the fall, so you can get fantastic deals on the current year's cars around September.
Chocolate. The fancy stuff goes on deep discount right after Valentine's Day (shocker).
Clothing. In general, clothing for each season goes on sale a couple of months before the next season begins. In February, for example, they put winter clothing on sale for 50 to 70 percent off, to make room for the incoming warm-weather stuff.
Similarly, spring clothing goes on sale in May, to make room for summer items; summer clothing's price drops in August; and, of course, discounts on fall clothes emerge around November.
Computers go on sale in September, once the back-to-school rush is over. There are more big discounts in November, on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Cookware. As graduation/wedding season approaches, you can find good deals on kitchen stuff in April and May (especially Memorial Day weekend).
Cruises. Sales on sailings usually arrive in January and February, when people are booking their spring break and summer cruises. In late October, there's another round of sales — both for people planning holiday cruises and for the cruise lines to unload cruise cabins that aren't selling well.
Electronics. In late November, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have taken on mythic proportions in the gadget world. Every category of gadget goes on sale: TVs, laptops, phones, tablets, cameras, and so on. Every store and online retailer fights for headlines, and the winner is you.
Fitness equipment. January, after the holidays and while New Year's resolutions are still in force.Huge deals, from 30 to 70 percent off.
Furniture. New models arrive every February and August, so the best deals (on outgoing models) are available in January and July. Also look for big sales in November, on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Office furniture often goes on sale in May and October.
Grills. The big rush to buy these is, of course, before July 4 — so the prices drop right afterward. Prices crash again in October, as the weather gets cold.
Gym memberships. The best deals, logically enough, sprout in June; that's when demand is lowest, as people head outdoors for physical activity.
Holiday decorations. As you'd guess, prices crash right after each holiday. Buy Halloween decorations right after Halloween, Christmas decorations right after Christmas, and so on.
Home improvement. Home Depot has its own special Spring Black Friday sale every April.
Jewelry. Scout for deals in July, when there are no gift-giving holidays for miles to boost stores' sales.
Laptops. Shop in June or during the back-to-school frenzy in August.
Lawn mowers. They go on sale in August and September, when nobody needs them anymore because winter is coming.
Linens. Look for the "white sales" in January.
Luggage. New styles appear around March, in readiness for the summer travel season — so you can snap up great deals on last year's suitcases. In August, another round of price cuts settles in, since people are pretty much finished with their summer travels.
Mattresses. The entire industry blows out last year's models over Memorial Day, so watch for crazy sales in May. More sales around the July 4 and Labor Day weekends.
Office furniture. May.
School supplies. August, of course. Back to school sales!
Ski stuff. The big sales are usually in March, since nobody's buying gear for that winter anymore.
Sneakers. You can find delicious deals as high as 50 percent off in April, as shoe stores try to shoe you up and shoo you outdoors.
Tools. Shop in July, since Father's Day is now over.
Toys. Are you kidding? January, right after the holidays. Everything's marked down. (Then again, you may also find some big sales before the holidays, especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.)
TVs. February, to make room for the new models and to accommodate the Super Bowl frenzy.
Wedding dresses. Nobody's buying wedding stuff in November and December, so that's when the bridal shops mark down their wares to make room for the new year's designs.
Savings ballpark: $855 a year
$855 = 5 percent savings on $17,100, the annual U.S. family spending on clothing, entertainment, and other consumer goods
Discounts on everything: RetailMeNot
If you don't visit RetailMeNot.com before you buy anything, you're crazy.
This site is a massive collection of coupons — both printable ones to use at physical stores and coupon codes to use when you buy things online. (Millions of fans find these deals and submit them to the site.)
You just search for the store you're shopping in or the thing you're about to buy. You'd be amazed at how many times out of 100 there's a discount waiting for you.
A huge collection of online and real-world shops, restaurants, and services offer coupons and discount codes here.
A few examples:
Babies. Babies "R" Us, Diapers.com, Pampers.
Clothes. Dressbarn, OshKosh B'gosh, Abercrombie & Fitch, Disney Store, Banana Republic, Ralph Lauren, Hanes, Under Armour, Forever 21, L.L.Bean, Garnet Hill, The Limited, Saks Fifth Avenue, Victoria's Secret, Old Navy, Aéropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, H&M, Gap, Lands' End, Sports Authority, Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart.
Department stores. Macy's, Amazon, Target, Sears, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kmart, Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Costco.
Drugstores/health. CVS, Drugstore.com, GNC, Walgreens.
Electronics. Best Buy, Apple Store, Verizon, HP, Newegg, Netflix, Audible.
Food (takeout). GrubHub, Dunkin' Donuts, Seamless, Starbucks.
Gifts. Edible Arrangements, FTD, 1-800-Flowers.com, ProFlowers, Teleflora.
Home. Home Depot, Lowe's, Pottery Barn, Ace Hardware. (Also PetSmart and Petco.)
Office. Staples, Office Depot, OfficeMax.
Restaurants. Pizza Hut, Subway, Ruby Tuesday, Domino's, Olive Garden, Boston Market, Outback Steakhouse, Denny's, Burger King, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Chili's, Restaurant.com.
Shoes. Payless, Foot Locker, Famous Footwear, Nike, UGG Australia, Shoes.com, Adidas, Converse.
Tickets. Ticketmaster, Fandango.
Travel. Airbnb, Hotels.com, Budget Car Rental, Avis, Enterprise, Hertz, SuperShuttle, Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline, Southwest, Frontier Airlines, Uber, Spirit Airlines, Hotwire, Dollar Rent a Car, CheapOair, Amtrak, Alamo Rent A Car, Park 'N Fly, Emirates airline, CheapTickets, Thrifty Car Rental.
The trick here is to remember to visit RetailMeNot whenever you're about to buy something.
There's an excellent free RetailMeNot app for your smartphone, too. When you're actually out in Shopping Land, about to make a purchase, you can check the app to see if this store has coupons available. The app can also make your phone chirp and vibrate when you're walking by a store with coupons available.
Bottom line: RetailMeNot is like free money. You should take it.
Savings ballpark: $600 a year
$600 = An average savings of 15 percent, assuming that you use RetailMeNot on half your purchases (average consumer expenditures on physical goods: $8,000 annually)
The eight great ways to get cheaper movie tickets
The movie industry got it all wrong. It predicted that if home VCRs and DVDs were allowed to proliferate, we'd all stop going out to see movies. The entire movie industry would collapse.
Instead, what happened? We go out to see movies more than ever before. Our habit of watching movies at home turned us into a nation of movie nuts.
Along the way, what was once the ultimate cheap family getaway has become an expensive family getaway. In big cities, movie tickets are $15 each, popcorn is $8, and soda is $5; add in parking, and suddenly you're looking at over a hundred bucks for the family.
Fortunately, if you're willing to plan ahead, it's possible to snag discounted entry to the multiplex. Let us count the ways:
Harness the power of the group. You can read about Groupon.com here — but one of its most attractive offerings is frequent deals on discounted Fandango tickets. (Fandango sells movie tickets to every theater near you.) A typical deal might be $16 for a pair of movie tickets, which saves you about 30 percent.
AAA and AARP memberships get you movie-ticket discounts, too (here and here).
Sam's Club, Costco. These membership discount stores (here) sell discounted tickets to local movie theaters. You just have to ask for them at the customer service desk. You might, for example, snag a 10-ticket book for $85, which represents a discount of 15 to 25 percent, depending on the price of movies where you live. (Movie tickets are much more expensive in big cities than in rural areas.)
And remember: If you buy your discounted tickets using a cash-back credit card (here), the deal is even sweeter.
Discounted gift cards. Gift-card exchange sites like GiftCardGranny.com and CardCash.com(here) are teeming with gift cards to the major theater chains, ready for you to buy for 15 percent off. If you're a frequent moviegoer, you really must buy movie cards there and start paying less.
Matinees. Movies that begin before dinnertime are often sold at "bargain matinee" prices — $6 or $8 instead of $10 or $12, for example. This offer varies; to find out, call the theater. Or pull up Fandango.com, click the movie showtime you're eyeing, and look at the matinee price.
The unlimited-movie plan. At MoviePass.com, you can sign up for this most unusual program: For $30 a month, you can see all the movies you want.
There are no blackout dates, and almost all theaters are included. If you see three movies a month, you start coming out ahead. If you see more than one a week, you save a lot of money. Heck, you can see a movie every day — total price, $1 a ticket!
There's some fine print: IMAX and 3D movies aren't included. You have to pay the $30 a month for an entire year, or else pay early-cancellation fees ($20 to $75, depending on how soon you quit).
Otherwise, though, MoviePass.com is like Netflix for going out to the movies.
Join the club. Every major theater chain offers its own loyalty program: Regal, AMC, Cinemark, Carmike, Showcase, Bow Tie, and so on. It's free to join. The more movies you attend, the more points you get, and you can redeem them for free popcorn, drinks, and movie tickets.
More to the point, you also get discount offers by email, a free movie ticket on your birthday, and other goodies.
Be old or young. Movie theaters offer student discounts and senior discounts — and their definitions of "student" and "senior" can be pretty lax. In some places, over 50 is considered old enough for the discounted senior ticket.
See advance screenings. Most movies host free advance screenings in big cities — for critics, for bloggers, for building word of mouth. Yes, we're talking about free movies before the public gets to go see them.
In the days of yore, the only way you'd get invited was to be on the mailing list of the PR company setting up the screenings. These days, though, you can register with Gofobo.com (or use its app). Gofobo lets you search for advance screenings near you — and you get invitations to them.
Two footnotes. First, they want to ensure a full house, so they distribute more passes than they have seats; you'll be told to arrive an hour early. (You'll also be told to leave your cell phone in the car, to ensure that you won't record the movie illegally.) Second, you may be alarmed at how much junk email you get once you've signed up. For best results, register with Gofobo using a secondary email address, so that your primary address doesn't get clogged up.
There are also, of course, free movie showings at schools, libraries, and town summer programs. And there are "second-run" theaters in most cities, where the movies are a few months old but also half-price.
Savings ballpark: $115 a year
$115 = 20 percent savings for a family of four, seeing one movie a month at $12 per ticket
The truth about Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy
If you wander into one of these popular clothing stores and pay the price on the tag, you're a sucker. Plain and simple.
You should never pay full price at Gap, Banana Republic, or Old Navy. A single mother ship (Gap Inc.) runs all three chains, and they all follow the same fascinating business model: They price the clothes higher than you might expect — but then theyshower the world with sales and discounts and deals. All the time. If you time your visits, you can walk away with great clothing at much lower prices.
Here are some of the techniques. (Most of them work identically for Gap and Banana Republic. Old Navy's savings mechanisms are similar, but the percentages may differ.)
40-percent-off-everything sales. Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy run 40-percent-off sales every couple of months, often tied to holidays. The sales usually run for several days.
The crazy part is that some items are already on sale when the 40-percent-off sale rolls around. That is, you can get 40 percent off the sale price.
So how do you know when one of these sales is on? Visit the website (Gap.com, BananaRepublic.com, or OldNavy.com); you won't be able to miss the banner advertising the sale.
Or, if you're willing to surrender your email address, you can sign up for these stores' email newsletters, right there on their websites. They'll email you when the sales are on. As a bonus, the mere act of signing up for that newsletter usually gets you a coupon for 15 or 20 percent off.
20 percent off anything. When you buy something at one of these three stores, along with your receipt, you generally get a little slip of paper inviting you to take an online survey. (Gap's survey, for example, is at survey4gap.com.)
The survey takes about 15 minutes. When you finish, you'll be given a code to write on the receipt — worth 20 percent off anything on your next Gap or Banana visit. (Old Navy's code is worth 10 percent instead.)
10, 15, 40, or 50 percent off anything with the store credit card. When you buy anything at Gap/Banana/Navy, the cashier will probably invite you to sign up for the store's credit card.
If you ever expect to shop at any of these stores again — or even if not — go right ahead. (You can use the same card for discounts at all three chains.) Card ownership works like discount magic:
First, you get 15 percent off whatever you're about to buy right now.
Second, you get 10 percent off anything you buy in the next two months.
Third, you get 10 percent off everything you buy on any Tuesday at Gap.
Fourth, you'll get frequent emails offering you discount offers exclusively for cardholders — usually 40 percent off everything. (In recent years, cardholders were invited to get 50 percent off during the week leading up to Black Friday in November.)
Fifth, you get $5 back on every $100 you spend.
Excerpted from Pogue's Basics: Money by David Pogue. Copyright © 2016 David Pogue. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsIntroduction
Chapter 1: Shopping Hacks
Chapter 2: Credit Cards
Chapter 3: Gift-Card Hacks
Chapter 4: House and Home
Chapter 5: Tech and TV
Chapter 6: Travel
Chapter 7: Cars
Chapter 8: Food and Drink
Chapter 9: Your Body
Chapter 10: How to Exploit Group Buying Power
Chapter 11: Make Money with No Effort
Chapter 12: The Last Legal Tax Dodges
Chapter 13: The Personal Money Checkup
Chapter 14: Financial Brain Hacks