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Save Money: 10 Weird Ways

A couple weeks ago I received my insurance estimate for an upcoming dental procedure and nearly fainted. Met Life tells me they will cover 60% of the bill, but that still leaves me paying approximately $1,250 to get an implant - with a silver crown at that. (A porcelain crown - which my insurance doesn't cover - goes for an additional $945.)

Naturally, I tried to haggle. Some might call that strange, but what did I have to lose? So, earlier this week I stopped by my dentist's office for a 10-minute consultation, insurance estimate in hand. I tried offering to pay upfront in cash; I suggested bypassing insurance and cutting a deal directly with the dental office; I asked for "more affordable options," to which my dentist said, "well, you could just leave a gaping hole in your mouth and do without an implant." No go.

So I resorted to the ultimate haggling weapon - silence. And my dentist, seeing that I wasn't about to leave and desperate to fill the awkward air, pulled out his iPhone calculator to crunch some numbers. And that's when he (finally) had his aha moment.

"It appears as though you could save some money if we spread out the procedure into 2012," he said. An implant usually takes two dental visits, spread four months apart. If we do the first half of the procedure in, say, September 2011, and the second in January 2012 (when my $2,000 insurance cap re-ups), I could save approximately $350 in dental bills. Oh and that tacky silver crown? He'll give me a porcelain one for the price of silver. High five!

So that's my latest quirky story that led me to big savings. For fun, I recently asked folks on Facebook and Twitter for some of their strange money-saving tips. Our personal savings rate has more than doubled in the past 10 years, so some of us must be getting creative.

I started us off with a few of my faves:

  • Displace water in your toilet's tank. Place a capped plastic bottle filled with some sand or pebbles in your toilet's water tank. The bottle should displace enough water to save half a gallon to a gallon each time you flush, or up to about 10 gallons a day in a typical home. A typical family of four might save 16 gallons of water a day with this little trick - and that should save you about $90 a year on your water bill.
  • Stock up on meat when it goes on sale. You can find discounted turkeys around Thanksgiving, as well as ham around Easter and Christmas. Stock up and freeze to save up to hundreds of dollars a year on meat. You may need to invest in a stand-alone freezer, but if your family eats a lot of meat, the appliance should pay for itself over time.
  • Request appetizer portions of entrees. Eating out? Ask your server if you can get an entrée as an appetizer or "half-sized" portion. Portions are so large these days anyway you'll not only take a healthier route but also save up to half the cost.
Meanwhile, here are a few of the tips I gathered on Facebook & Twitter.
Pam from Corry, Pa.: "I keep a can in the laundry room and charge myself for doing laundry. When the can fills up with cash, I bank it. That way, when an appliance breaks I have the cash to pay for it."
Michael from Jacksonville, Fla.: "We have a dollar bucket. Any singles you have in your pocket go into it at the end of the day. There must be 500 bucks in it right now."

Chris from Chicago: "I don't pay for checked bags or parking. Ever."

Matthew from Chapel Hill, N.C.: "A couple of friends ... use the gym to watch TV while they work out. [They] cut out cable, and then Redbox/Hulu/Netflix/watch online for everything else."

Amy from Oklahoma City, Okla.: "I get my hair done at the beauty school. I now pay $63 a visit vs. the $150 I was paying."

Allison from Queens, N.Y.: "I buy certificates when they go on sale for $2."

Susan from Lake Forest, Ill.: "I get almost all of my reading material from the library! Why is this peculiar? Because in this day of immediate gratification, waiting one's turn for a book, DVD or magazine is hardly what anyone cares to do - but it saves me a ton of money!"

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