Included in this week’s roundup: colleges where tuition is free, best online savings accounts, stuff the cell-phone companies won’t tell you, unconventional ways to find jobs, worst items to buy at drugstores, reasons you might want to totally ignore your credit score, and justifications for why you’re not buying a diamond engagement ring for your fiancée — it’s not only because you’re a cheapskate.
4 resources that clue seniors in on free services and benefits. There’s a $15 book that lists all the free services seniors are entitled to. The Plain Dealer says don’t bother buying it—because you can find out about the vast majority of these freebies and the four government and nonprofit websites listed here. You can also call up and ask for help, also for free.
4 steps to avoid crazy ER bills. There’s a different (but always inflated) fee for each service you receive during an emergency room visit, as a NY Times’ writer learned while bringing her son to the ER to get 14 stitches on his chin—along with a $5,398 bill (almost $5K of it for the services of a plastic surgeon). To bring down costs whether you have insurance or not, some tips are offered, starting with “Don’t Go There,” in which the advice is to go to the emergency room only in dire emergencies. If the matter is less pressing, call your doctor, try an urgent care center (less expensive than hospitals), or wait it out a while.
5 secrets of cell phone companies. The fact that you can buy refurbed phones for cheap is not on this list (consult previous link instead). This list of secrets from MainStreet.com includes info like that data plan charges are being added whether you have a smartphone or not (and whether you actually use data services or not), and that early termination fees are rising (north of $300!) despite the fact that there are more and more prepaid, no-contract cell phones available to consumers that have no early termination fees whatsoever.
5 best bargain cars in a down economy. For low costs, good gas mileage, and overall practicality, BankRate suggests taking a look at the Mazda5 (a mini minivan that somehow seats six) and the Ford Fusion, among other vehicles.
5 unconventional ways to find a job. Ha! One of the ways, per OutOfYourRut.com, is to go all old-school in conventionality and make contact via snail mail. Certainly qualifies as out-of-the-ordinary nowadays.
5 money lessons from the third world. Based on his experiences living in Papua New Guinea, a writer for Wise Bread explains that, for one thing, he has learned fun is not a byproduct of money: Tons of fun activities are totally free. Also, his neighbors only bought things when they actually had the cash to pay for them. Imagine that.
5 reasons to skip the engagement ring. A WiseBread post (via US News) makes the case against the diamond engagement ring—which is largely a modern-day marketing ploy, not an ancient tradition.
7 worst drugstore deals. We’re not talking drug deals—which are all bad, or at least illegal—but “deals” on stuff sold at drugstores. Often, says WalletPop’s Bargain Babe, the price of cereal, single-use cameras, seasonal gear, and back-to-school supplies is a rip-off at the drugstore. But, as a blogger who lived on a $100 total food budget for 100 days recently demonstrated, drugstores can be great sources of cheap, often free food if you know how to work the coupon game.
7 deadly credit sins to avoid at all costs. They’re deadly in terms of your credit score, not your actual life. The lethal list of sins from Mint.com includes voluntary and involuntary repossessions, short sales, and foreclosures. Judging by some recent foreclosure statistics, there are many, many sinners living in our midst.
7 ways you’re getting cheated out of credit card rewards. In some cases, points don’t have the same value they used to, and new rules have been imposed regarding redemption expiration dates and caps on rewards, according to Curtis Arnold at HuffPost.
7 bank fees we’re still getting slammed with. Some customers get charged if they write more than three checks per month—even if they wind up only writing five checks for an entire year. That’s one of several reasons that Geoff Williams at WalletPop says consumers still have a “hate affair” with banks.
8 best online savings accounts. As judged by Consumerism Commentary, basing the results largely on interest rates and customer service.
8 reasons to ignore your credit score. Despite what all those ads for “free” credit report services say, you don’t always have to stay on top of your credit score. In fact, it’s often OK to pay it no mind, says a CreditCards.com post. For instance, if you already know your score is awful, if it’s already great, if you’re not going to need it (for a mortgage, say, or if you’re applying for a job), or if you’re moving out of the country.
10 tuition-free colleges. They’re often difficult to get into, and the graduation requirements are sometimes unusual (working on a farm, for instance), but the schools in this BusinessWeek slideshow don’t cost a dime in tuition—potentially saving students well over $100K for a four-year degree.
13 things parents should do to help their college-bound kids. A Reader’s Digest story advises parents to have a frank, specific discussion about finances: Not only who is going to pay for tuition and room and board, but where is the money going to come from for clothes, beer, and spring break? Also advisable: Parents really should drop their kids off in person at college. Don’t send the poor kid off to college on a bus.
14 resources for cheap college textbooks. Speaking of college student expenses, Ask Coupon Sherpa offers tips for saving on books.
18 quick ways to save like a man right now. Working with Esquire, our Ultimate Cheapskate/Cheapskate Next Door pal Jeff Yeager offers “manly” saving techniques such as haggling for anything and everything (what, women don’t haggle?), scheduling contractors to work on your house off-season (don’t women love home improvement projects too?), eating leftovers (real men will eat anything, I suppose), and cooking and cutting up a whole chicken (which costs less than buying meat by the piece, and apparently buying just chicken thighs or breasts is strictly for sissies).
19 Surefire Money-Savers: Avoid Unnecessary Expenses, Foreclosure, Hidden Fees, Nasty Food, Career Dead Ends, and Jail
261 Bits of Advice for Saving Money, Avoiding Financial Problems, and Picking Liquor that’s Cheap but Not Cheap-Tasting