His name is synonymous with being cheap. But do you really know all the ways Clark Howard stretches a buck in his everyday life?
Here are 10 things you can start doing right now that will have your wallet thanking you…
Shop the dollar stores
When everything is $1, how can you go wrong? Clark has been a fan of dollar stores for a long time.
“My poor wife has not gotten a card from me that was more than a dollar in all the time I think we’ve been together,” Clark admits.
See a list of Clark’s favorite dollar store buys here.
Be willing to accept lower quality for a lower price
Clark’s longtime mantra is that he’s always willing to accept lower quality for a lower price. Hence his deep appreciation for dollar stores!
“While [a cheaper] premium might be tempting, you want to be sure your insurer is there for you when the chips are down,” the money expert says.
Look for the 97s at Costco Wholesale
Another one of Clark’s favorite stores is the warehouse club Costco. When he’s walking the concrete floors, he looks for anything that ends in 97 cents — as in $3.97 or $199.97.
The 97 is like a secret code at Costco. Whenever you see a price that ends in 97 cents, it means the item is being sold below cost. Now that’s a real deal!
See a list of secret codes at other retailers here.
Extend the manufacturer’s original warranty on electronics for free
Clark never pays for extended warranties. Instead, he gets the same protection they offer and more for free!
How does he do it?
Many credit card issuers will double the manufacturer’s original warranty up to one additional year if you use their card to make your purchase. Check with your card issuer to see if this is among the benefits your card or cards have.
Beware of fast food ‘deals’ that actually cost you more money
Here’s a funny story: Not too long ago, Clark was at the regional hamburger chain Krystal which was running a ‘5 for $5’ menu special. But if a menu item is regularly less than a buck, bundling it into this deal is actually no deal at all.
Such was the case with the mini Krystal burger that normally sold for 79 cents. So Clark just asked the cashier to ring his five burgers up at the standard price of 79 cents each, not the ‘deal price’ of five for $5.
He wound up paying only $3.95 plus tax, not the $5.40 he normally would have paid if he was rung up with the ‘5 for $5’ pricing.
Shop thrift stores for men’s clothes
Clark loves snatching up the savings of 75% to 90% at thrift stores, particularly on men’s formal clothing.
“I’m fond of picking up dress clothes at secondhand shops and have bought a few pieces of used formal men’s wear for between $1 and $7 a piece. They’re usually in great shape because few men dress up for work anymore,” the money expert says.
Buy the deal first, then figure out why you want to go there
Clark’s #1 rule of cheap travel is something a lot of people aren’t willing to do. But for him, it’s a no-brainer.
“It’s really pretty simple: I don’t pick a destination that I have to go to. I wait for a deal somewhere, buy the deal and then figure out why I want to go there,” he says.
“By following that simple rule, I’ve been able to visit every continent except Antarctica and every state except North Dakota. And I’ve done it all on a dime.”
If you want to be like Clark, you can use Kayak Explore. You select how much you’re willing to pay, and then available destinations in your price range pop up on a world map.
Re-shop your car rental rate a week before your trip
Clark’s secret for getting the cheapest rental car rates start with booking a vehicle at the time he books air travel. Then one week before the trip, he checks the rates again to see if he can grab a better deal at a lower price.
Car rental fees are completely refundable, so he doesn’t lose anything if he cancels the original booking.
“You can end up cutting the cost of a rental car by half or more by re-shopping it the week of your trip,” Clark says.
Find more of Clark’s advice on saving money and avoiding rental car ripoffs here.
Fly with only a carry-on to avoid bag fees
Rather than paying baggage fees, Clark travels only with what an airline permits free as a single carry-on. With bag fees topping $75 on some airlines under certain circumstances, following this advice can be a huge money-saver.
“Another plus is that I never worry about the airline losing my baggage,” Clark says.
Find free street parking
The penny-pincher abhors paying for parking. But you follow his lead on this advice at your own risk; his insistence on finding free street parking has backfired on him more than a few times.
“I often park in questionable areas where I can find free parking. My reward for being that cheap? Five smash-and-grabs through the years that have required me to replace the car window each time. I could have paid for a lot of parking at that rate. In fact, I’ve had vehicles broken into in four countries — Holland, Spain, Canada and here at home — because of my insistence on free parking.”
Clark says he once refused to pay $1 for parking in Appleton, Wisconsin, and went looking for free parking instead. Well, he wound up getting a $25 parking ticket when he violated an ordinance that didn’t allow parking from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. in the whole city of Appleton!
Another time, his parked rental care was crushed by falling debris when he opted for free street parking in Manhattan!
So, feel free to ignore this last tip if you are so inclined…