Save Big on Expenses, Not Just Purchases

Making it last. This sounds simplistic, but sometimes the simplest truths are the most beautiful. One way to save thousands on transportation is to keep your cars as long as possible. Most Americans trade in their vehicles every five years. Let's say you get the first one when you are 18 and the last when you are 78 and you always buy a $15,000 car. That's a dozen vehicles you are going to buy in your life at a cost of $180,000. If you can make your cars last just a little bit longer -- say seven and a half years-- you will only need eight cars in your lifetime. At $15,000 each, that's a savings of $60,000!

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Shopping around for car insurance. We tend to stick with the same insurance company for convenience, but switching can save you big bucks. In SAVE BIG I did a little experiment and shopped around for a friend with an imperfect driving record. I was able to find the exact same coverage, with two big, reputable companies but, wow, what a price difference.

Company A's premium was $7,308 a year. Company's B's was just $5,830 a year --a $1,478 savings!

Elisabeth Leamy: Save Big on Expenses

Health Care

One of the best opportunities to save on health care is when you choose your health plan. But if you can't afford health insurance or if your employer doesn't give you many choices, there are still jaw-dropping savings available to you.

Negotiate with your doctor. Whether you need a price break on routine appointments or major surgery, it's worthwhile to ask your doctor. A Harris interactive poll showed that 61 percent of patients were successful in getting a discount. The best way is to suggest you will pay in advance and match either the insurance company discounted rate or the Medicare rate.

One example: the market rate for a quadruple bypass is about $5,500. The Medicare rate is approximately $3,000. So you would save $2,500 if you successfully negotiate to match the Medicare rate. If you have health insurance, but have to pay a percentage of your care, called "coinsurance," negotiating will also benefit you. To learn how to research discounted insurance and Medicare rates, click here.:

Pick and choose your prescriptions. Many Americans have health insurance but no prescription drug coverage or they have to satisfy a high deductible before the drug coverage kicks in. If that is your situation, you can save thousands by being proactive about which prescriptions you take. The biggest savings is by going generic. One amazing example: Prozac costs $8,290 a year but the generic version costs just $1,940 a year -- a $6,350 savings!

Another strategy: ask your doctor if an older drug will work just as well for you as a newfangled one. For example, metformin, a longstanding diabetes drug costs just $270 a year whereas Avandia, a newer one, costs $1,872 a year. And one more idea: see if your medication has gone not just generic but over-the-counter. For example, Prilosec for heartburn is still available as a prescription at $1,997 a year, but the exact same drug in the same dose is sitting right on the shelf at your drugstore at a cost of just $234 a year! For more ways to save on medications and helpful links to make it happen, click here.

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