Think bargain. Compare cell phones and plans at letstalk.com. Select your preferred carrier (the major players are all here), plan (family, individual, prepaid), and features (camera, Bluetooth, GPS). You can further refine your search by specifying how much you want to spend and how many “anytime minutes” you’ll need. A search for an individual plan and a Verizon Bluetooth phone with a camera yielded 46 phones. When we checked, Verizon’s own XV6900 was $199. The LG VX5400 was free-and with a rebate, you would have made $75 on the deal.
Bundle. Save money by bundling your Internet, phone, and cable services. Compare companies in your area at bundlemyservices.com. While BundleMyServices has partnerships with over 250 service providers, it can’t find competing prices if there’s only one company in your zip code or it has a partnership with only one company in your area.
Cell phones. Get cash for your old cell phone at flipswap.com. You can get store credit from participating dealers or trade it in online for cash back to you or to a charity of your choice. One recent trade: The eight-gigabyte Apple iPhone went for $192.45. The Samsung SPH-a660? Just $4.26. This site will take “any phone from any carrier in any condition.” If your phone is really old or in bad shape, you won’t get any money for it, but it will be recycled and a tree will be planted through the site’s reLeaf initiative.
Long-distance calls. Skype’s website says it all: “Make calls from your computer-free to other people on Skype and cheap to landlines and cell phones around the world.” You’ll need a computer headset or a microphone and speakers. You can even make free video calls with a webcam. Download free software (in 28 languages) at skype.com. Now, call your mother!
Free information. Stop calling directory assistance. Call 1-800-FREE-411 (1-800-373-3411) instead for business and personal lookups. You’ll have to listen to a quick advertisement, but you’ll save $1 or more per number. Google offers a similar service, 1-800-Goog-411 (1-800-466-4411). It’s ad-free but has business numbers only.
Electronics. Techies love newegg.com for deals on computers, digital cameras, TVs, and home appliances. A Harman/Kardon CP 40 5.1 Home Theater System with DVD player was $349, a $650 savings. Many items are in limited supply.
Software. Sreenath Sreenivasan, WNBC’s technology reporter, suggests this list of free, easy-to-use introductory programs:
- OpenOffice.org (download.openoffice.org) features word processing, spreadsheets, database management, and graphics. You’ll have no problem swapping files with people using Microsoft Office.
- Techies swear by the basic free virus and spyware protection you can download at free.avg.com. It does not include firewall or spamware protection. (For fuller protection from online threats, purchase Norton Internet Security 2009 for $69.99.)
- Adobe Photoshop Express (photoshop.com/express) is a stripped-down version of the $99 Photoshop Elements. You can organize, edit, and share family photos, and the kids will get a kick out of the special effects.
Compare prescriptions. You can compare the cost of FDA-approved medications at certified pharmacies in the United States at destinationrx.com. For instance, the lowest price for a 30-day, 10-milligram Lipitor prescription was $79.22 at Wal-Mart when we checked, but it was mail-order only. The next lowest was at Costco, for $83.57. Check out the Options to Consider box for money-saving suggestions, like switching to a comparable but cheaper drug. (Even better, these prices do not take into account health insurance reimbursements.)
Don’t forget your rebate. Before you head to the drugstore, check its website to see if it offers a rebate program. Many do. The Rite Aid site (riteaid.com), for instance, helps you create a printable shopping list of rebate items. And its paperless rebate program is easy. Just log on to the site and input the required information from your receipts (save them in case you need proof). Once Rite Aid verifies the information, you’ll receive your check in a couple of weeks. Recent rebates included $3 on Claritin, $2 on Pampers, and $10 on Crest Whitestrips.
Prescription glasses. For huge savings on prescription glasses, order online. Ask your optometrist for your prescription, pupillary distance (the length between the center of your pupils), and your frame measurements. (If your doctor is unwilling to supply this information, find one who will.) Ira Mitchell, who writes the blog Glassy Eyes (glassyeyes.com), has purchased 15 pairs of glasses online. He typically spends $50 (or less) for a pair, a savings of $350 over what he has paid at LensCrafters. Have an optometrist double-check the lenses, and return them if they are not accurate. Mitchell recommends 39dollarglasses.com for its extensive selection of frames and lenses, fast turnaround time, warranty against defects, and good customer support. He also likes eyebuydirect.com for its low prices on bifocals. Slate writer Farhad Manjoo raves about goggles4u.com and zennioptical.com.
Prescription drugs. You’ve probably heard that Wal-Mart sells a 30-day supply of more than 300 drugs (mostly generics) for just $4 per order. So do Giant Eagle, Kroger Pharmacy, and Target. Wal-Mart, Kroger,Target, and Kmart sell a 90-day supply for $10. Check each store’s website or stop by your local store to see if your prescribed drug qualifies. Consumer Reports found that depending on where you have your prescriptions filled, you could pay up to $100 more for the same pills. Based on the experiences of more than 40,000 CR readers, Costco is the cheapest source. And you don’t have to pay Costco’s $50 annual fee to use its pharmacy. You can get prescriptions filled both in store and at costco.com.
Pharmaceutical deals. Check the drug company’s website for coupons and special deals. We saw savings at evista.com (a free 30-day trial of Evista, an osteoporosis drug), yaz.com (a $10 coupon for your first prescription of this birth control pill), and purplepill.com (a program to save up to $30 off your co-pay for up to six refills of Nexium, a heartburn medication). Even with coupons, some drugs will still cost more than their generic counterparts.