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Frugal—Yet Fruitful—Living

By Stephen M. Wheeler


It seems like every New Year we resolve to make good on familiar promises: lose weight, quit smoking, save money. We typically struggle, though, because we try to make drastic changes to our lifestyles and end up reverting to old habits. So what's the key to frugal living? Cents makes sense. Simple, easy-to-follow choices can add up to significant savings over the course of a year. Sure, cutting out one Starbucks a week can save you about $200 a year—but only if you resolve to stick with it.

Start with the suggestions in this article. Many are familiar, saving only a few dollars at a time. But together, these choices can save you hundreds—even thousands—of dollars, making 2011 a fruitful New Year indeed.

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Simple Tips that Add Up

Shop for Auto Insurance.
Rate hikes on auto insurance often go unnoticed. It's not uncommon to hear of friends who save several hundred dollars per year by switching insurance. Getting a quote is quick and easy. You've got nothing to lose, and potentially hundreds to save.

Keep Your Car in Shape.
According to fueleconomy.gov, a properly tuned engine saves, on average, about 4 percent in fuel economy. Checking that your tires are properly inflated saves up to an additional 3 percent. Together, that's $86 or more per year saved in fuel.

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Reward Your Credit.
Responsible use of credit should be rewarded. Find a low-interest/low-fee credit card with a reward system that appeals to you. It could be airline miles or shopping points, or—my favorite—cash back on every purchase you make.

Be a Frequent Shopper.
Look in your purse or wallet. Got a lot of those "Sixth Visit Is Free" cards? From sandwich shops to hair stylists to coffee houses, many businesses are rewarding frequent customers with free goods. Get your cards stamped and cash in. Yes, there is such a thing as a free lunch.

Save on Gas.
When shopping for a new or previously owned vehicle, fuel economy matters. If you drive 12,000 miles per year, a 17 mpg car guzzles 706 gallons of gas, while a 25 mpg car sips only 480. At $2.75 per gallon, that's a $621 savings.


Back in October, the editors of Money magazine wrote a story for CNNMoney.com entitled "What to Do with $1,000 Now." Among a variety of options, the editors recommended to join membership clubs such as AAA, where the benefits, both monetary and otherwise, far outweigh the fees: "[By joining AAA, you get] Towing if your car breaks down plus discounts galore (how does 35% to 55% off admission at Six Flags theme parks sound?) — it's a no-brainer."


Buy Generics.
Consumer Reports magazine (Oct. 2010) found that buying store brands saves an average of 30 percent on groceries. If you spend $100 per week, that's $1,500 per year saved. Better yet, taste testers of 21 staple foods (soup, soda, chips, peanut butter, etc.) found that store brands were just as good, or better, than name brands 67 percent of the time (3 wins and 11 ties). So give store brands a try and taste the savings.

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Brown Bag It.
Between lunch and dinner, you may find you're eating out five or six times per week. That's expensive! By "brown bagging" just one of those lunches, you could easily save $10 per week. That's $500 per year.

Drink More Water.
Fitness gurus agree, most of us don't drink enough water to be properly hydrated. Have you noticed how much restaurants charge for soda or tea lately? Opt for water in lieu of other beverages two or three times per week and you could easily save $5. You'll feel better, be fitter and save about $250 per year.

Track Your Savings.
A few dollars here, a few dollars there...does it really add up? Yes! Write down and celebrate your savings. If you only save $25 in January, challenge yourself to save $50 in February...or more! Keep a list, and watch as it grows.

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Ways AAA Can Help You Save

Last year, AAA members saved over $2 billion in discounts. Sound like a lot? It could have been $6 billion. A recent study suggests that about 66 percent of AAA members don't take advantage of available discounts. That's a lot of money left on the table. So take note of the following ways to save, then visit AAA.com for specific information.

Taking care of your car is a hallmark of AAA. Our network of Approved Auto Repair facilities offer discounts and AAA Dollars (see "Get AAA for FREE" below). We offer extended warranties to help avoid major auto repairs; auto refinancing to get you a lower rate, currently just 2.75 percent; and car buying services to save thousands on a new purchase. And you could save $579 on auto insurance with AAA Insurance.

AAA is well known for our travel discounts at hotels all across the country. But we also offer exceptional savings on cruises on the high seas and on tours to countries near and far. Pre-packaged vacations can include transportation, lodging, meals and activities, saving you time and money. Visiting a theme park? AAA offers discount attraction tickets, too.


Last year, AAA members nationwide saved more than $2 billion in discounts, an average of about $93 for every member that received a discount. Unfortunately, only one third of AAA members actively seek out discounts. Are you getting your discounts?


Around town you can receive discounts every day when you show your AAA card. Many national and local restaurants offer discounts, as do shopping, entertainment, health and home merchants. Speaking of health, the AAA Prescription Savings program saves an average of 24 percent on your prescriptions.

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Ben Franklin said, "A penny saved is a penny earned." Our financial products can help you save and earn, with savings accounts that feature some of the best interest rates in the country. We offer credit cards with rewards that work for you, including points and cash back.

And if all that wasn't enough, you could Get AAA for FREE with our new AAA Dollars program. When you make select purchases at a AAA office or shop online at the AAA Shopping Mall (with partners like Walmart, Best Buy, Macy's, Office Depot and many more) you earn AAA Dollars. Similar to credit card rewards, AAA Dollars add up over the course of a year, and when it comes time to renew your AAA membership, your AAA Dollars are credited to your renewal—you might even get a free membership!

There are hundreds of ways AAA can help you save money. Take advantage of your AAA Discounts today!

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