With the new year, many folks' resolutions will be to spend less and save more. "Even if you think you've cut just about all the fat from your budget, you can probably slash even more," said Noreen Perrotta, editor of Consumer Reports Money Adviser. Here are some tips from the experts at Money Adviser on how to spend less on everything.
Cut health care costs
Comparison shop every year. You have a choice of health plans at work or through Medicare. Review your options during the open enrollment period (usually in the fall). Find out what each plan covers so you know what you'll have to pay. Consider deductibles, copayments and other cost sharing in addition to the monthly premium.
Buy drugs at big-box stores. Consumer Reports compared the prices of over-the-counter drugs and found they were up to 50 percent cheaper at Target and Walmart than at local supermarkets across the United States. Those two stores also charge just $4 for a 30-day supply of many generic prescription drugs. For an even better bargain, get a 90-day supply for $10. Similar programs are offered by CVS, Kmart, Sam's Club and Walgreens, although some, like CVS, charge an annual membership fee. Some local pharmacies will match the low prices at chain stores, but you have to ask.
Cut food bills
Shop the supermarket sale cycle. Food staples like cereal and chicken hit their lowest prices once every 12 weeks. Make a note when you see sales and you'll know when to stock up next.
Make coupon searches simple. There are so many online coupon sites that searching all of them could be a full-time job. To save time, stick to just a couple of them. CRMA found that Coupons.com and SmartSource.com usually have up to 100 deals at a time. And both sites have new mobile versions that let you scroll through offers from a smartphone without downloading software or apps.
Cut car costs
Update your insurance annually. The auto coverage you signed up for when your car was new is often more than you need as it ages and depreciates. It's a good idea to call your insurance company once a year to see whether you should adjust some coverage. Every year you don't file a claim or get a ticket, for example, makes you a lower risk, which could qualify you for a lower rate. But you have to ask. You might find a cheaper policy by calling other insurers for quotes or going to price-comparison websites like AccuQuote and Insure.com.
Cut entertainment costs
Slash restaurant tabs. BiteHunter.com lists restaurant specials and daily deals from other sites, such as Citysearch and Groupon. It's easy to search by cuisine, deal or restaurant in a particular city. EatDrinkDeals.com posts discounts from national and regional chains.
Cut pet care costs
Buy pet food at Target or Walmart. When Consumer Reports sent 21 secret shoppers to stores around the country to price top-selling brands of dog and cat food, prices at those two stores were about 20 percent less. Online pet-food prices were especially high; Target and Walmart beat them by an average of 50 percent. If your vet has recommended a premium food brand because your pet has health issues, check prices at both PetSmart and Petco.
Ask vets about costs. If your pet is prescribed a medication that is also given to humans, compare the vet's price to the cost of filling it at a drugstore, supermarket pharmacy or big-box retailer. If you're shopping for a new veterinarian, call a few offices nearby and ask what they charge for an annual exam as a gauge of other costs.
Cut clothing costs
Go to outlets for off-season duds. In-season items are often made specifically for the outlets, and manufacturers might cut corners, as Consumer Reports has discovered in its tests. Out-of-season clothes, however, might come from their nonoutlet locations and be higher quality. Still, inspect them for defects before you buy.
Consumer Reports Money Adviser is a monthly, subscription-only newsletter that answers tough money questions and provides expert financial advice. Its proven information and successful strategies can make any financial decision an easy one. Each month, CRMA provides feature articles and helpful investment, savings and spending advice that will help prepare consumers for anything life may bring them. For more information, visit www.ConsumerReports.org.