With retailers feeling the effects of customers who can't get credit, shoppers with cash in their wallets have the ultimate bargaining chip when it comes to getting good deals. Cash discounts may not be as plentiful as in the past, but there are still some places where cash is king. Here are some things you can often get cheaper with cash. (Saving money can be a chore, but these tricks put money in your pocket with no effort at all. For additional reading, refer to 5 Painless Ways To Save More Money.)
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While many gas stations - especially those in the large national chains - offer one price no matter how you pay, some stations are still offering a deal for cash customers. Gate Petroleum, based in Florida, unveiled a program earlier this year that offers a discount of three cents per gallon to customers who pay with cash purchased fuel discount cards. In a recent survey by gas comparison site GasBuddy.com, 3% of the more than 15,000 respondents said more than half the stations in their area charged a lower price for cash, and the same percentage said nearly all of their local stations offered cash discounts.
- Property Taxes
Many municipalities offer a discount (sometimes called a rebate price) to homeowners who pay their taxes by a certain date. In Florida's Miami-Dade County, for example, paying your taxes in November (within a few weeks after receiving the bill) will get you a discount of 4%. The discount decreased by 1% each month until March. (Understanding how property taxes work will ensure that you won't be overcharged. See How Property Taxes Are Calculated.)
- Gym Memberships
Many gyms and fitness centers offer special rates to customers who commit to a membership for a certain period of time (usually at least a year). You don't necessarily even need to pay it all upfront - usually you can agree to an automatic monthly charge to your credit card or checking account. The downside: it can be difficult to get out of a gym membership once you've signed on the dotted line, as anyone who has ever attempted it can attest.
Walk onto a dealer's lot with cold hard cash and you are almost guaranteed to get a great deal. Bonus: you will save a fortune in interest. You would of course get similar savings - on a much bigger scale - if you can buy a house without financing, but that's something few people would be able to do these days.
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- Medical and Dental Procedures
Doctors and hospitals know that insurance companies will attempt not pay full price, so they will often inflate their prices to factor in that wiggle room. If you don't have insurance, ask if the doctor or hospital can adjust their charges. These providers spend a lot of time chasing down people with unpaid bills, so if you can pay right away, it's often worth it to them to knock the price down a bit. Discounts seem to be especially common when it comes to braces. For example, Central Florida Orthodontic Specialists offer an 8% discount to clients who pay in full within 30 days of the initial appointment when braces are put on.
If you don't want to pay your insurance premiums in yearly or semi-annual chunks, many companies will now let you pay in monthly installments, although there is usually a "service fee" tacked on. It's generally only a few dollars each month, but that can add up at the end of the year. Some companies waive this fee if you agree to an automatic monthly electronic payment.
The Bottom Line
When shopping around for good deals, be sure to mention if you're paying in cash. In many cases, you might get rewarded with some nice savings. At the very least, you'll have the advantage of knowing you won't have to pay off a large credit card bill or loan. (Find out how a simple calculation can help you uncover the most efficient companies. Check out Understanding The Cash Conversion Cycle.)
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