8 Ways to Cut Your Summer Cooling Costs

Heating and cooling a home are among the largest energy expenses most Americans face, says the U.S. Department of Energy.

Right now, you might be enjoying low utility bills, especially if you live in a climate with perfect spring weather. But the “I can’t believe it’s this hot!” summer days are coming. Soon, you’ll run the air conditioning around the clock just to stay comfortable.

That could cost you a lot of money if your system isn’t ready. These simple steps can prepare your AC for the warmer summer months.

1. Change the filters

Air conditioner filter

Air conditioner filter
photopixel / Shutterstock.com

This is probably the easiest form of air-conditioning maintenance, but many people don’t do it often enough. The filters should be replaced every month or two to keep your AC running smoothly, says the U.S. Department of Energy.

You can order new filters through Amazon, Walmart or other retailers.

2. Clean the condensation lines

Man doing yoga in flooded living room

Man doing yoga in flooded living room
Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock.com

The pipe that carries condensation away from your air conditioner can get clogged. If the pipe becomes clogged, it could back up into the air conditioner — or into your house — and you’ll have a messy problem and a big repair bill.

To combat this, locate where the pipe drains out and make sure it’s draining properly.

3. Install a programmable thermostat

Man adjusting thermostate

Man adjusting thermostate
Lopolo / Shutterstock.com

If you don’t already have one, you can gain significant energy savings by installing a programmable thermostat and setting it to reduce the use of air conditioning or heat at times when you don’t need it, like when you’re away for work. Fortunately, these thermostats are pretty easy to install yourself and require only a couple of tools.

Consider an array of programmable thermostat options at The Home Depot.

4. Clean the coils on the outside unit

Racoon on air conditioner

Racoon on air conditioner
Elliotte Rusty Harold / Shutterstock.com

During the winter, your AC’s outside unit has been collecting dust, mud and other debris, especially if you don’t use a cover. All of that gunk clogs up the unit, causing your AC to run sluggishly.

For lightly soiled units, disconnect the power and spray down the outside of the unit with a garden hose. For heavily soiled units, buy a commercial air-conditioner cleaner from a hardware store.

5. Clean the fins

Dirty air conditioner

Dirty air conditioner
luis2499 / Shutterstock.com

Cleaning the fins on an outside unit will help your AC run better. To clean the fins, use a soft brush such as a toothbrush or small car cleaning brush. Gently run the brush across each fin, being careful not to bend the thin metal.

If you do find that these thin metal fins are damaged, there are a variety of tools you can use to straighten them out, such as these at Amazon.

6. Check the concrete slab

Air conditioning unit outside.

Air conditioning unit outside.
vincent noel / Shutterstock.com

After your outside unit is clean, use a level to make sure the concrete slab is level. If it’s not, the unit will have to work harder to keep your house cool.

If the slab isn’t level, pry it up with a board and add gravel underneath in small amounts until it is. Remove the board when you’re done.

7. Remove debris around the outside unit

Air conditioner with ivy growing on it.

Air conditioner with ivy growing on it.
PranFoto / Shutterstock.com

Plants, leaves, high grass and debris located close to your outside unit can reduce your AC’s performance. Before you start running your AC, cut the grass, clean out any debris and consider removing plants that block the unit.

During the summer, check the unit for debris at least once a month.

8. Check the ductwork for leaks

Ventilation duct work.

Ventilation duct work.
Pamela Au / Shutterstock.com

According to the University of Florida, sealing leaky ducts can generate significant savings on heating and cooling:

“Leaky ducts make your HVAC work much harder — ducts leaking just 20% of the conditioned air passing through them cause your system to work 50% harder.”

Look for disconnected joints, separated pieces and small holes in your ductwork. If you find leaks, seal them with tape carrying an Underwriters Laboratories logo. Fabric and rubber-backed tapes break down quicker.

What measures do you take to stay cool and save energy in the summer? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

18 Things Your Grandchildren Will Never Understand


VGstockstudio / Shutterstock.com

I handed the floppy disk to a third-grader and asked him what he thought it was.

“A … bottle opener?” he wondered.

Somewhere, the ghosts of the 1980s were smiling.

But I get it. To a kid for whom floppy disks are as unfamiliar as buggy whips, “bottle opener” was a darn good guess.

I’ve co-written two books on the lost toys, tastes and trends of past generations — “Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?” and “The Totally Sweet ’90s.” That’s brought home to me how quickly things I took for granted growing up have been transformed into museum pieces.

I’m a firm believer that kids should learn about what the world was like when their parents and grandparents were growing up. Record players and in-car ashtrays can be lessons in how a previous generation was raised, reminding us of what was important, creating connections and sparking conversations.

See if the following relics stir up memories and conversations for you.

The Best Company to Work for in Every State


sirtravelalot / Shutterstock.com

Ready for a career change?

In today’s tight job market, workers have more power to demand higher salaries and better benefits than they did in years past. That means you can probably be a little choosy about where you land next.

Why not shoot for the best employer in your state?

The career website Zippia analyzed employer data from all 50 states to determine the best of the best. It assigned each company a “Zippia Score” based on such factors as pay and diversity as well as a company’s financial health. Zippia has shared its latest findings with Money Talks News.

While not every company may fit your occupation or skill set, take a moment to check out the best business to work for in your state.

9 Ways to Slash the Cost of Motorcycle Insurance

It’s spring, and that means motorcycles across the nation are hitting the open road once again.

If you would rather spend your summers atop a bike, we’ve got some tips for you. Motorcycle insurance is a necessity, but it doesn’t necessarily have to bust your budget.

Here are some tips to keep your costs down:

1. Get a quote from your car insurance company

Man across desk from woman.

Man across desk from woman.
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com

Before you run out and find a new motorcycle insurance company, start with the one that already has your auto insurance business. Many insurers offer multiple-policy discounts, which means you might get a better deal if you combine a motorcycle policy with your current auto coverage.

2. Shop around for a better deal

Guy looking at two papers

Guy looking at two papers
Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock.com

After you check with your current insurer, look around. Don’t simply assume your current insurer has the best place to park your coverage.

Instead, take that quote from your existing carrier and compare it with quotes from other companies. Most auto insurance companies offer coverage for motorcycles, and some specialty carriers, such as Rider Insurance, provide bike coverage exclusively.

3. Look for companies that offer the most discounts

Hand with percentage signs.

Hand with percentage signs.
Natali_ Mis / Shutterstock.com

If you want the best price, look for the company that offers the most discounts. These are some common discounts for motorcyclists:

  • Mature rider discount — not necessarily for “old” riders, but for those with several years of riding under their belt.
  • Paid-in-full discount for those who pay their premium in one lump sum.
  • Responsible driver discount for those with no claims.
  • Multibike discount.
  • Anti-lock brake discount.
  • Continuous coverage discount — for those who don’t cancel in the winter, then sign back up in better driving weather.

4. Take a motorcycle safety class

Motorcycle driving among traffic cones.

Motorcycle driving among traffic cones.
sonsam / Shutterstock.com

One of the best ways to get a discount is to take a motorcycle safety class. Not only will it save you money on insurance now, but it could reap benefits in the long run if it helps you ride better and keep your record claim-free.

For example, Geico offers a 10% discount for those taking a Motorcycle Safety Foundation or Military Safety Course. If you have some free time on your hands, you could double that and become a Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, a title that will earn you a 20% discount from Geico.

15 Great Graduation Gifts That Are Friendly to Your Budget

Photo by VGstockstudio / Shutterstock.com

It’s almost that time of year — gowns donned and diplomas handed out. Yes, the little boys and girls you once knew are now young men and women graduating from high school and college.

Now that they are adults, get your graduates something useful that will give them a head start on life. Here are some practical graduation gifts suitable for high school or college grads.

1. Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime
Ttatty / Shutterstock.com

Amazon is the go-to shopping portal for everything from gadgets to groceries. With Amazon Prime, your graduate gets free two-day shipping as well as free streaming for Prime Video and Prime Music. Graduates can also get e-books, e-magazines and more for free through Prime Reading.

A three-month Amazon Prime membership is $38.97, or you can buy a whole year for $119.

2. Netflix, Hulu or YouTube TV


Twin Design / Shutterstock.com

Cable television is expensive. Fortunately, there are many good streaming options nowadays. Netflix is great for movies, TV shows and original programming. Hulu and Philo also provide the option to stream live TV.

You can buy Netflix gift cards in a variety of denominations on Amazon. The options include e-gift cards that you can have sent to the recipient’s inbox immediately or at another time of your choosing.

3. Box of kitchen supplies


Christin Lola / Shutterstock.com

If your graduate is moving away from home after getting a diploma or degree, he or she will need to stock their new digs. Help out by giving them a collection of kitchen supplies.

The contents will vary depending on whether they are moving to an apartment, house or dorm. Include inexpensive small appliances, such as a toaster or hot plate. Also throw in pots and pans, measuring spoons and dishes.

4. Towels or linens


Peangdao / Shutterstock.com

Help your new grad stock up on high-quality items that won’t go threadbare in a month.

While it can be tempting to buy a sheet set, these can be tricky to gift unless you know the recipient’s bed size and fabric preference. For example, while some folks love flannel sheets, others want nothing but cotton. For that reason, bath towels and kitchen linens may be a safer bet.

5. Tool kit


KnottoSS / Shutterstock.com

Even those who aren’t handy can benefit from having a tool kit. You can buy a toolbox with the contents already assembled or put together your own. Essentials for any box include:

  • Hammer
  • Wall hangers
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Measuring tape

6. Luggage


AwayTravel.com / Money Talks News

Even if your graduate doesn’t have wanderlust, he or she could probably still benefit from having a good piece of luggage standing by. Look for one that can be used as a carry-on for flights.

Luggage can be expensive, but you don’t have to break the bank to get your graduate a nice carry-on bag. Many quality brands are available for less than $100 — or just a bit more, like this highly rated Delsey carry-on.

7. Noise-canceling headphones

Teen listening to music on headphones

Teen listening to music on headphones
Milica Nistoran / Shutterstock.com

Noise-canceling headphones make it easier to concentrate in loud environments.

While top-of-the-line noise-canceling headphones will set you back a couple hundred dollars, there are cheaper versions available. One best-selling model from TaoTronics is for sale for a relative pittance at Amazon.

8. Portable charger


StaceStock / Shutterstock.com

These handy devices ensure your graduate won’t get stuck with a dead cellphone or other wireless device. Although there are high-end portable chargers available, many highly rated models can be purchased for less than $50. Look for one that offers fast-charging, and wireless charging is a nice perk as well.

9. Cloud storage


Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Cloud storage offers a simple way to sync up files and save them for online retrieval should something go wrong with a computer or other device. Many cloud storage services offer a free version with limited features, but you could give your graduate a paid service for more bells and whistles.

For instance, for $69.99, Microsoft OneDrive will give your favorite student a year of cloud service through Office 365 Personal. He or she gets not only 1TB of storage space on OneDrive, but access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other applications as well.

10. Roadside assistance


Kittisak Jirasittichai / Shutterstock.com

Shocking as it may seem, fixing flat tires is not a life skill taught in most schools. Make sure your graduate has a Plan B available when he or she can’t decipher the cryptic description in the owner’s manual about how to release the spare tire.

AAA is the granddaddy of auto clubs offering roadside assistance services. Costs vary depending on where you live, but services typically include things such as four 100-mile tows, emergency starting, flat tire replacement and more. An alternative is the Allstate Motor Club.

5 Ways to Save Money on Every Online Purchase

The digital age is an awesome time to be a shopper.

If you use tools available through websites, credit cards and gift cards, you can score at least 10% off most purchases. And as a bonus, you don’t have to wait for sales or search for coupons.

Following are five simple steps that can help you save on anything you need to buy. Learn these tips, and you will not go back to paying full price — or waiting for a sale.

Step 1: Find a discounted gift card

Stack of gift cards.

Stack of gift cards.
Iryna Tiumentseva / Shutterstock.com

The first step to savings is to buy a gift card — but not just any old gift card. Instead, you want to head to a website specializing in reselling gift cards at a discounted rate.

Raise.com is one of the biggest sites in the gift card reselling business.

Sites like Raise let individuals with unwanted gift cards unload them by selling the cards to others at a discount. While the sites advertise discounts of as much as 35%, you’re typically going to save less than 10% with most cards. Still, that’s a great deal.

You can learn more about discounted cards in our article “How Unwanted Gift Cards Save Me Hundreds of Dollars a Year.”

Step 2: Buy through a rebate site

Computer with "Cash Back" on screen.

Computer with "Cash Back" on screen.
one photo / Shutterstock.com

If you’re buying online, make your purchase through a rebate or “cash-back” site. These sites often offer an additional 3% or 4% off your purchase. You’ll pay the full amount when you buy, but receive the discount back in the form of a rebate.

These are some of the most popular rebate sites:

Getting started with a cash-back site is simple. You sign up, then visit the site before shopping online.

For example, say you want to shop online at Kohl’s. Instead of going directly to Kohls.com, start at a cash-back site, click on a link to the Kohl’s page, then begin shopping. When you buy something, you’ll earn money from the cash-back site.

There’s no catch. Cash-back sites simply are sharing with you the commission they get from participating stores when you make a purchase.

Before shopping, check out the store availability and terms at the rebate sites. Some sites send checks automatically every few months, while others require you to request a payment once you hit a minimum amount in your account. Participating retailers and rebate amounts vary among sites.

For more on using this great shopping technique, check out “3 Websites That Pay You for Shopping.”

Step 3: Use a cash-back credit card

Woman holding credit card, looking at computer

Woman holding credit card, looking at computer
pathdoc / Shutterstock.com

Another way to take a slice out of your costs is to use a great cash-back or rewards credit card.

Looking for a great cash-back card? Check out the “cash back” category in our Solutions Center’s credit cards section.

Depending on the card and what you’re buying, you will generally save anywhere from 1% to 5% on your purchase — and sometimes more. As with rebate sites, you’ll pay the full price at purchase but receive the cash back as a rebate or statement credit.

Of course, using a credit card comes with the caveat that you must pay off your balance when the bill arrives. Paying interest on a credit card is a surefire way to negate your savings.

Step 4: Abandon your shopping cart

Empty shopping cart.

Empty shopping cart.
Duangnapa Kanchanasakun / Shutterstock.com

Online retailers track your every move. It’s undoubtedly distressing to them when you load up with a cartload of stuff, only to close the tab on your browser and move along. That’s why you might find a coupon code landing in your mailbox a day or two after you leave your cart.

To get this trick to work, you need to be logged in to your account so the retailer knows who abandoned the cart. Then, put your items in the cart and leave the site. The list of retailers who offer codes to those with abandoned carts is fluid, but Rather-Be-Shopping.com lists a bunch that have been known to dole out the discounts.

Step 5: Sign up for the mailing list

Person typing on keyboard.

Person typing on keyboard.
Who is Danny / Shutterstock.com

Some retailers issue one-time use codes. To get these, you need to be on the VIP list, aka the mailing list. Sign up to receive newsletters from your favorite stores so you can get discount codes and sales announcements delivered straight to your inbox.

Just be sure to use a secondary email address so these messages don’t overwhelm your primary account.

Do you have other ideas for saving money on your online purchases? Share them in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson contributed to this post.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

The 5 Best Home Upgrades for Retirees

mature couple dancing in kitchen

mature couple dancing in kitchen
Africa Studio / Shutterstock.com

More than three-quarters of Americans age 50 or older want to retire in their current community, preferably in their current home, according to a recent AARP survey.

Staying could require homeowners to make some changes to maintain their quality of life, but many already are planning for that, too.

“Most adults age 18 and older (63 percent) own their own homes, but about one-third expect their homes to need major modifications to accommodate aging needs,” AARP finds.

Following are some practical upgrades to consider if you’re planning on aging in place.

9 Book Recommendations From Billionaires Like Warren Buffett

warren-buffett

Photo by May_Chanikran / Shutterstock.com

Summer’s the season we dream of all year — surely, this impending time of year will allow us to somehow wring out more time to read.

Whether it’s a frothy paperback smudged with Coppertone and savored on a sandy beach or an electronic thriller that soothes your nerves through turbulence at 33,000 feet, summertime is reading time.

Not sure how to begin compiling your summer reading list? Following is a list of book recommendations from some famous faces of financial success.

Warren Buffett

If you’re interested in books that help explain how billionaires become billionaires, you might look to Warren Buffett. The billionaire investor extraordinaire and Berkshire Hathaway chairman spends about 80 percent of his day reading, according to Inc.

Three titles that influenced Buffett:

  1. “One Thousand Ways to Make $1,000”: Buffett came under the spell of books early. An HBO documentary about his life reveals that 7-year-old Warren came across this 1936 book edited by F.C. Minaker and began putting the author’s ideas into practice selling things like gum, newspapers and Coca-Cola.
  2. “The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing”: At 19, Buffett came across this Benjamin Graham book, which he says kick-started him on the road to the life of investing that’s paid off so richly. Buffett has called it “by far the best book about investing ever written.”
  3. “Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street”: In the early 1990s, fellow billionaire Bill Gates asked Buffett for his favorite business book, and the Oracle of Omaha sent the Microsoft co-founder his personal copy of this collection of articles by John Brooks. Gates, too, has called it the best business book he’s ever read.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey
Krista Kennell / Shutterstock.com

Talk-show-host legend Oprah Winfrey’s on-show book club made many a book a best-seller, and many a lucky author rich. After the show ended, Winfrey couldn’t stay away from reading recommendations, launching Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.

Three titles that have made Oprah’s list:

  1. “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”: Cheryl Strayed’s memoir helped kick off a resurgence of interest in hiking America’s Pacific Crest Trail (and a film starring Reese Witherspoon). Strayed’s divorce, the death of her mother and her own drug issues had thrown her life off track, but the challenging and dangerous hike brought her back in tune with herself.
  2. “The Underground Railroad: A Novel”: Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novel turns America’s famed network of secret escape routes for slaves into a real, physical railroad, with conductors and stations.
  3. “Behold the Dreamers: A Novel”: Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel tells the story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the recession hits. “It’s got everything that’s grabbing the headlines in America right now,” Winfrey said of the book in 2017. “It’s about race and class, the economy, culture, immigration and the danger of the us-versus-them mentality.”

Bill Gates


JStone / Shutterstock.com

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has been publishing summer book lists — and other book lists — for years. But don’t worry, Gates’ lists aren’t full of clunky textbooks required for a computer-science degree. He’s chosen some mainstream and thought-provoking reads.

Here are three memoirs Gates has recommended:

  1. “Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood”: Are you a fan of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”? Gates loved this memoir by the show’s host, Trevor Noah. He was born in apartheid-era South Africa, where his existence was a crime, because his white father and black mother weren’t legally allowed to have a mixed-race relationship.
  2. “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis”: Gates’ privileged childhood was light years away from the world of author J.D. Vance, whose best-seller takes a provocative look at the struggles of America’s white working class.
  3. “A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety”: This Jimmy Carter memoir offers a richly detailed sweep through the former president’s full and happy life. “The book will help you understand how growing up in rural Georgia in a house without running water, electricity or insulation shaped — for better and for worse — his time in the White House,” Gates writes.

What inspirational — or fun — books do you have on your reading list this year? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

9 Types of Insurance That Might Be a Waste of Money

ID-theft-insurance

At its best, insurance helps protect against events that could send your finances into a death spiral. Crucial products include insurance against serious car crashes, the loss of or damage to a home, and the loss of income due to death or disability.

Other products? Many offer little value, or they’re filled with exclusions and caveats. Following are some potentially dumb insurance buys:

1. Identity theft insurance

Federal law limits your liability from credit card fraud. So, even if a thief uses your credit card, you’re off the hook if you report the theft promptly. According to the Federal Trade Commission:

Under federal law, the amount you have to pay for unauthorized use of your credit card is limited to $50. If you report the loss to the credit card company before your credit card is used by a thief, you aren’t responsible for any unauthorized charges.

Most card companies go a step further and offer $0 fraud liability.

Report a debit card missing within two business days after you realize it’s gone, and you are liable for no more than $50 in stolen money. Wait longer to report, and you could be responsible for up to $500 — or might even face unlimited liability, the FTC says.

Repairing your credit and damage to your identity can be time-consuming and costly. But the National Association of Insurance Commissioners says identity theft insurance only offers so much protection:

Identity theft insurance cannot protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft and does not cover direct monetary losses incurred as result of identity theft. Rather, this coverage pays for expenses related to reclaiming your financial identity, such as lost wages, attorney fees and documentation reporting.

Alternative: Protect yourself before you’re hit. Monitor your bank and credit accounts regularly. Get three free annual credit reports. If you think your identity has been compromised, place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit file. Finally, weigh the pros and cons of freezing your credit.

2. Travel insurance

Woman with arm in cast at airport

Woman with arm in cast at airport
Anothai Thiansawang / Shutterstock.com

Travel insurance can be confusing. There’s protection against canceled trips, interrupted trips, medical expenses and many other risks. Policies vary in quality and in coverage. Some cover many eventualities. Others insure against a single risk, like a medical evacuation.

Travel insurance can be a waste of money when if your policy is riddled with exclusions, or you choose a policy that doesn’t cover the risks you are likely to encounter.

However, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson notes that there are situations where travel insurance makes sense. To find out more, check out Ask Stacy: Should I Buy Travel Insurance?

Alternatives: You may already be covered for some of these situations through your homeowners, life, auto or health insurance. Credit cards also may offer some forms of travel insurance, such as for lost luggage, theft and life coverage.

3. Dental insurance


Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

If you have dental insurance through work, you’re golden. If you have to buy your own policy, however, don’t buy it thinking you’ll collect thousands of dollars’ worth of implants or other complex treatments. Your policy might just pay 50% for oral surgery and restorative care. It may not cover cosmetic dentistry at all.

Alternatives: A discount dental plan can get you discounts ranging from 10% to 60% on all of your dental visits and procedures. Other options for cheaper dental care include charitable clinics and dental schools.

4. Children’s life insurance

Child holding adult hand.

Child holding adult hand.
KonstantinChristian / Shutterstock.com

Adults buy life insurance coverage for themselves to provide for their families in case they die. Arguments in favor of taking out life insurance on children include locking in insurance for them at a young age in case it becomes impossible or too expensive to insure them later because of illness or playing high-risk sports. Some advocate coverage for possible funeral expenses.

But unless the family depends on the child’s income, there’s no need to insure his or her life.

Alternatives: Save for the child’s education or open an investment account for him or her. If necessary, you could use those funds to pay for death expenses without giving a penny to insurers.

5 Tricks to Get Discounts on Everything You Buy in Stores

online coupons save money

There is rarely any reason to pay full retail price for anything you buy in a store. With the rise of online shopping — which allows for instant price comparison — brick-and-mortar establishments must go the extra mile to earn your business.

To score bargains, you simply need the tools to pay less for what you want. Read on to fill your tool kit:

1. Learn to negotiate

Negotiating over the cost of eye glasses.

Negotiating over the cost of eye glasses.
Kzenon / Shutterstock.com

Most people are uncomfortable haggling. Instead, we’re used to opening our wallets and saying, “Here you go.”

But it is often worth trying to bargain. The savings can be substantial.

In “10 Tips for Negotiating a Better Price on Anything,” Money Talks News offers 10 tips for haggling, including:

  • Do your homework to know what the price should be.
  • Make sure you are asking the right person for the discount.
  • Pay with cash instead of plastic.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away.

Just remember, the first price isn’t always the final price, and there is no harm in asking for a better deal.

2. Use online tools to get brick-and-mortar discounts

Hands holding a cellphone with a digital coupon showing.

Hands holding a cellphone with a digital coupon showing.
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

Look for websites that offer coupons or coupon codes. Popular sites include Coupons.com, RetailMeNot and Coupon Craze. For deals on eating out and entertainment, check out Restaurant.com, Groupon or (in most parts of the country) LivingSocial.

Follow companies you like on Twitter and like them on Facebook. Many offer special discounts and advance notice on upcoming deals at their stores through social media. Another way to get coupons and discount codes is by signing up for company email lists.

You can also let an online price-tracker do your legwork. These tools allow you to enter products that you may want to purchase, and they alert you — by email or other means — when the price drops at any of the stores they track.

3. Use a discounted gift card you bought online

Woman at store, holding a card.

Woman at store, holding a card.
Elena Kharichkina / Shutterstock.com

Discounted gift cards come from people who have a card from a retailer and sell it for less than its face value in order to get cash. So, for example, you may be able to buy someone’s unwanted $50 Eddie Bauer gift card for $40.

If you go this route, beware of scams. Only buy from reputable websites. Raise is one of the more popular and well-respected sites for buying gift cards.

4. To save on groceries, shop on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday

Woman and child in grocery store.

Woman and child in grocery store.
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com

On Wednesdays, many grocers begin store sales that last for a week. On Sundays, big supermarkets often release coupon pamphlets.

So, a grocery shopper’s “sweet spot” is Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, when shoppers can take advantage of both kinds of discounts.

5. Buy in bulk when an item is on sale

Person walking past stacks of toilet paper.

Person walking past stacks of toilet paper.
Paolo Bona / Shutterstock.com

Whether it’s toothbrushes or nonperishable food items, consider buying in bulk. Keep a price list of groceries and sundries that your family buys on a regular basis to help you decide when something is a great deal.

Make sure that you have enough space to store your purchases and that the items are not perishable.

Have more ideas for saving at stores? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.