Save Money, Online and Off
In this economy, cutting your costs is a sure way to save your sanity. Keeping your finances under control doesn't have to be complicated. These simple money-saving tips--for locating cheap tickets and drinks, cutting your bills, and managing your funds--will help you reduce your stress as well as your debt.
Buy Cheap Event Tickets at SeatKarma
Cost: Varies by event
Ticketmaster may be the king of event tickets, but when Ticketmaster can't deliver the results you want, you still have plenty of options. Apart from the usual suspects like Craigslist and eBay, you would do well to check out Seat Karma, a search site that scours all the popular ticket sellers and helps you find the best seats for the price at any venue for sporting events, concerts, and other shows, complete with seat maps.
Reduce Recurring Bills
If this bearish economy has you worried about your finances, it may ease your mind to remember one thing: The companies that provide your cable, Internet, and other monthly services are just as concerned as you are. That's good news for you.
The easiest way to reduce your monthly bills? Just ask. Give your cable company a call, explain that the service is too expensive for you right now, and listen as the reps fall all over themselves to keep your business. Do your homework, too: If a competing company has a better deal, tell your current provider so. Don't worry if you have no luck the first time. Try again later, and the next person you talk to may be more ready to compromise. And if your current provider still won't play ball, you may be better off going with that other company's promotional offer after all.
While you're at it, try the same approach with your credit card debt. Just as telecom service providers are struggling to retain their customers, credit card companies are bending over backward to keep their debtors from going into bankruptcy. If excessive credit card balances have your back up against a wall, phone your creditors and tell them so. In the end, you could walk away with as much as 70 percent forgiveness on your debt, for the low, low price of leveling with the credit card company about your financial situation.
Use Cellswapper to Get Out of a Cell Phone Agreement
Not getting what you want from your current cell phone but reluctant to fork over the cash for the cancellation fee? Point your Web browser to Cellswapper, a site where you can pass your cell phone contract along to someone who wants it. Say, for example, that you get terrible service in your neck of the woods, but you have five months left on your contract. With Cellswapper, you can list your plan and reach someone who enjoys great service from that provider and would be happy to assume your contract for the remaining time. You get your freedom back, and the other person gets a good deal with no activation fees.
Find Out If a Company Is in Financial Trouble
Whether you're already heavily invested in the market or you're interested in riding undervalued stocks up from the bottom, these are volatile times, and hardly any company is out of trouble yet. Before investing, use the power of the Internet to get a sense of which companies are near collapse. Set up a Google Alert for any company you're interested in, and you will receive automatic notifications whenever Google spots a news story or blog post about that company. That way you'll never be the last to know when your stock values are in trouble.
In addition, you might keep your eye on advocacy blogs like The Consumerist to get a sense of how customers feel about the company.
Save Money With Online Banking
Cost: Nominal fee (depends on bank)
If you haven't done so already, set up automatic bill payment through your bank online--and while you're there, be sure to take advantage of any rewards programs or money-saving tools that your bank makes available, such as Bank of America's Keep the Change savings program.
Some of the businesses you deal with might not support online payments through your bank, but most banks offer the option of automatically mailing a check to anyone on a recurring schedule. So even small monthly payments for local services can become a stress-free, automated affair.
Find Free Drinks With MyOpenBar
Cost: Free (plus the cost of drinks)
Shelling out $10 for a cocktail in any major urban center makes a night out more hassle than it's worth. But you can find good, cheap drinks without scouring every dive in town: MyOpenBar rounds up free-drink promotions in major cities across the United States. It even gives reviews of the watering hole in question and what drinks it offers, so you can tailor your visits to your libation of choice.
(Illustrations by Greg Clarke)