No, I’m not talking about your loyalty to your spouse or significant other. What I’m referring to is the companies you regularly do business with. Your loyalty to them could be costing you a lot of money.
Companies used to reward loyalty. Take pensions, for instance. It used to be that you went to work for a company after finishing school and you worked for that company your entire career. Both my father and father-in-law have been working for the same company their entire working lifetimes. In exchange for our loyalty, the company provided us with a nice pension for retirement. Today, pensions have all but disappeared.
This same sentiment carried over to the consumer world as well. Now, companies routinely punish loyalty while rewarding new customers with specials and discounts. This trend is taking hold in more and more industries. Below are some specific areas where your loyalty could be costing you.
Cable and Satellite Providers
These companies are among the worst when it comes to punishing loyalty. How many times have you seen an ad for a steeply discounted rate for TV and internet service? If you read the fine print you’ll see that the rate is only valid for new customers and only for the first six or twelve months.
To get the best deals, you need to shop around every time your contract ends. If switching providers sounds like too much work, at least make some calls to competing providers and ask for their new customer specials. Then use that information to negotiate a better deal with your current provider.
Big banks love to reward loyalty with increased fees and minimum balance requirements. They don’t care about you, your family or your future, no matter what they might claim. To get free checking and better service, go with a credit union or online brokerage company like Schwab or Fidelity.
When it comes to savings accounts and CDs, there isn’t one bank that consistently offers the best interest rates. To find the best rates, go to Bankrate.com and select the product you’re looking for. Rates are updated daily, so you can be sure you’re always getting the best rate for your savings.
The Dentist Office
Occasionally when I pass a dentist office I’ll see a large banner announcing a “New Patient Special”. This could include an exam, x-rays and a routine cleaning. As an uninsured college grad on a strict budget, I took advantage of one of these offers a few years ago. At $85, the service was as good as I received from my regular dentist in the past. If you don’t have insurance, you could save over $100 using these offers.
Car and Homeowners Insurance
Insurance companies have different methods for determining the rate they will charge you. Because of this, you might be overpaying for insurance. Take car insurance, for example. Young men aged 18-24 are notorious in this industry because of their high accident rate, so they tend to have a hard time finding reasonable coverage. Progressive is known for taking on this group at lower rates than other insurers would. This isn’t a guarantee, but it shows that comparing rates can save you real money regardless of age.
Grocery Store Brands
Your loyalty at the supermarket could be costing you greatly. The typical family spends $6,500 a year on food. By shopping at discount stores and Walmart for the majority of your groceries, you could save 30%, or about $2,000 a year!
As I mentioned in a previous post, buying store brands is one of the best ways to save on groceries. But what if you just can’t bring yourself to try generic? Then look for the brand that’s on sale, and combine it with a coupon when possible. A couple of examples will drive home the point.
I’m a big frozen meal nut — I eat them 5 days a week at work instead of going out for lunch. There are certain meals I like, but I’ll only buy when they’re on sale. If none of my usual suspects are on sale I’ll try something new.
My wife really likes ginger ale, and sends me to the store weekly to buy some. There are always about eight different brands, but I only consider ones which are on sale. She gets her ginger ale and we save on our grocery budget!
Never be afraid to try things differently from the way you’ve always done them. You’ll save dough and you just might discover something that works better in your life.