ON THE MONEY: Savings and spending tips

  • Posted: Saturday, December 1, 2012 11:54 p.m.
    UPDATED: Sunday, December 2, 2012 11:18 a.m.

With the holidays approaching, here are some savings and spending tips that you might want to try.

The first idea is not original, but I can testify that it works. My dear wife is one of those types who like to have currency with her at all times. (She is like her dear departed father in that regard, who always had several hundred dollars in his money clip at all times.)

The idea is this: whenever you get a $5 bill, tuck it away and don’t spend it.

Barbara derives great pleasure out of this simple savings technique, and by adding to her cache of fivers every time she comes home has paid off.

In the last two months, she saved almost $900, and that money went into our fun travel account.

With today’s emphasis on rewards-based credit cards, the one card that is head and shoulders above the rest is the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express.

I hate paying annual fees for the use of credit card, but in this case, the $175 annual fee just might be worth it, since the payoff can be huge, but only if you are one of those few consumers who pay their entire monthly balance in full each month.

If you are in that small group, this card may be for you, since it will reward you with triple points for airline tickets, double points on gas and groceries and at least one point for everything else. Some major retailers will offer additional points, as well.

The reward points you earn with this card never expire and may be transferred to at least a dozen major hotel and airline rewards programs.

For new members, American Express will waive the first-year fee and will credit your account with 25,000 bonus points if you charge at least $2,000 in the first three months of use. Such a deal!

If you are thinking about upgrading your residence, the one area that will provide you with the greatest return on your investment will be your kitchen.

According to a recent report in Remodeling magazine, a typical homeowner recoups 72 percent of the cost of a minor kitchen remodel when the house is sold.

My daughter and her husband overhauled their kitchen, but the cost they incurred could hardly be termed minor. But what a difference!

Changes that are the most in vogue are granite or even marble counter tops, drawers with automatic close features and islands that can double as serving stations for dinner parties.

Trash compactors, wine coolers and multiple sinks are also quite popular. Interestingly, very high-end appliances don’t seem to matter that much if you do sell your home, so you might want to stay away from a Coldspot fridge or a Viking stove unless you are not planning on moving.

One of the lost arts in this era is that of negotiating prices.

Recently, when I was having some work done on our house, my dear wife encouraged me to see if I could negotiate a better price from a local service provider than the price he had originally quoted me. Well, I did negotiate, and we got a better deal.

My older brother was the consummate negotiator when it came to purchasing a new car.

He would listen patiently to the car salesman, and when the spiel was over, my brother would simply say, “Here is my card, call me when you want to sell the car,” and he walked out of the dealership.

Invariably, he would get a telephone call the next day, asking him what he wanted to pay for the car, and he usually wound up getting a great deal.

Your negotiating doesn’t have to end when you leave the car dealership, so try it the next time that you are considering purchasing a product or service from a non-warehouse outfit.

Another great way to save money is through shopper’s coupons.

I am certain that I could add nothing of value to a discussion on the merits of “couponing,” but suffice it to say, grocery shopping with coupons can save money, particularly if you have enough space to store the stuff you buy but don’t use immediately.

The temptation to avoid is to not buy something just because you will save money by purchasing it now.

Finally, compare prices. We always start with Amazon to check their prices, but I don’t mind paying a few extra bucks to shop locally, since I will usually get better service and help the local economy at the same time.

Got a financial planning question for Greg? Email him at greg@lifesolutionsonline.net.

Greg Roberts is a certified financial planner with 35 years of financial and estate planning experience.

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