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There is an abundance of products on the market that appeal to consumers with flashy advertising and convenience but drive them to spend too much money. Through awareness of different discount options that are available and cutting out unnecessary spending, it's easy to save on everyday products. Here is a list of ten things that you're paying too much for:
 
Name-Brand
Whether it's beauty products, pain relievers, clothes, or other everyday items, give new products and brands a chance. Snagshout.com, a new social deals website, provides consumers with deep discounts on new products in exchange for reviewing the product on Amazon. Most of the deals are between 30-90% off of the regular retail price for Snagshout users who are willing to try the product and leave an honest review within two weeks of purchase.

Cell phones

There is no need to be locked into a phone contract when the same benefit, no-contract options are available. 
 
 
Textbooks
Paying for college, even with scholarships, takes an enormous toll on family finances. Tack on hundreds of dollars per semester in textbooks and you've got yourself a headache. CampusBooks.com carries over 8 million new and used college textbooks in one convenient location. The website searches thousands of sellers and compares prices on new and used books, rentals, and e-books for students.
 
Haircuts
Haircuts can be expensive, especially if your cut requires you to frequent the salon more than a few times a year. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save money and still get a great cut, like visiting a salon training facility, or even cutting your own.
 
Meat
Whether you're shopping for one person or for a family of six, buying groceries isn't cheap, especially when it comes to meat. Thankfully there are tips to help stretch your dollar for one of the most overpriced grocery items in stores, like keeping your eye on the expiration date or having the butcher slice the meat for you.
 
Movies are incredibly pricey, especially if you aren't aware of available movie theater discounts. Fortunately, there are plenty of deals that you can score without putting a lot of effort into the search, just let the deals come to you! Enjoying a movie in the comfort of your own home can save even more cash; with RedBox rentals starting at $1.60, that adds up to about six movies at home for less than the price of one in the theater.
  • Your Local Theater's Mailing List It's worth signing up for your local theater's mailing list, because sometimes they give out free screening information. I'm on the Cinemark mailing list, and they regularly offer double features where you pay to see the newest movie in a series and get to see the first movie in the series for free. Your local theater may have different promotions or coupons, but it's worth signing up for the mailing list to make sure you aren't missing any great offers.
  • Online Promotions If you do some Internet sleuthing, you'll find companies ready to offer free movie tickets in exchange for participating in the various purchase or promotion plans. For example, Minute Maid recently announced a promotion where you can get a free movie ticket for every six bottles of Minute Maid you purchase. This promotion is only good through the end of June, so start enjoying that Minute Maid right now!
  • Fandango Movie ticket site Fandango has a whole section of its website devoted to free movie tickets and special offers. Check it out and see if you can score a few free tickets this summer. They're also offering a sweepstakes where you can win free movie tickets for an entire year, so make sure to enter.
  • Mystery Shopping Mystery shoppers get to test out all kinds of products and services - including movie theaters. As a mystery shopper, you get to observe and rate your experience in the movie theater (whether the concessions workers provided good service, whether the bathrooms were clean, etc.). Then, you get to watch a movie for free!
 
Where to Find Entertainment Mystery Shopping Jobs
Here are my favorite mystery shopping companies to work for when I want to focus on entertainment shops.
 
This company is unique in that it specializes in amusement attractions and locations; 100% of its shopping opportunities are entertainment-focused. This is the company to work for if you're interested in amusement parks, water parks, bowling, movies, skating, aquariums, museums, and more. Amusement Advantage works with over 400 amusement organizations all over the U.S. and Canada. The company typically offers reimbursement for expenses incurred during the shop, but sometimes you'll also earn additional pay. You can usually bring multiple people along on your shop. The application process involves completing a shopper profile (name, gender, location, age) and submitting a writing sample.
 
Although Confero Compass offers other tourist attractions, movies, and retail opportunities, I focus on the amusement park shops. This company's application is similar to the one for Amusement Advantage, although you may have to take a test to qualify before being assigned to a particular shop. The test is simply preparation for your shop evaluation. The great part about mystery shopping amusement parks with Confero is you get a free ticket (including parking and reimbursement for food) and you get paid, usually $25 to $30 for your food stand reviews. The report is simple and not too detailed, which is a bonus.
 
Coyle has the most rigorous application and reports writing standards of all the mystery shopping companies I've tested. They require an extensive writing sample, and I was rejected the first time I applied because I didn't take it seriously enough. Their reports require a lot of detail and the company requires that you follow its style guide. Coyle's shops are assigned hierarchically, so the most sought-after opportunities go to evaluators who have worked for the company the longest and achieved the highest report ratings. If you hang in there, you can score sweet shops like hotel stays, spa visits, and even cruises. Coyle offers both national and international shops.
 
TNS offers timeshare shops where they will pay you to stay at well-known timeshare resort properties throughout the country for up to a week in exchange for attending and recording the timeshare presentation. They'll pay for your resort stay and you'll receive payment, typically $50, for recording the presentation. You can even keep the timeshare gift you get for attending! You'll have to provide your own transportation to the timeshare destination, but you can be reimbursed up to $113 for travel expenses. 
 
Working at a Movie Theater
When you work at a movie theater, you often get to see all the new releases for free. It's one of the perks of a job where you know you'll come home every day smelling like buttery popcorn. Working at a movie theater is also a great job for teens, so if you've got a high-school-aged film buff in your house, send your teen over to the local theater to fill out a job application.
 
Movies in the Park
If your hometown has a park, chances are it will screen at least one outdoor movie this summer. If you live in a bigger city, you probably have multiple summer "movie in the park" festivals to choose from. These are nearly always free, family-friendly events, so bring your picnic blanket and some snacks, show up early to get a good spot, and enjoy watching a movie under the stars.
 
Online Streaming Services
The big three online streaming services - Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Instant Video -all offer plenty of movie options. Although each of these streaming services uses a paid subscription model, there are ways to watch movies from each service for free:
  • Hulu offers a limited selection of free movies that anyone can watch, as well as a more thorough selection in its subscription-only Hulu Plus. However, you can get a free seven-day Hulu Plus trial and spend those days watching all the free movies you can fit into your schedule.
  • Netflix offers a free month, so continue your summer of free movie streaming by starting your free Netflix trial as soon as your Hulu Plus trial ends.
  • By the time you've sampled both Hulu Plus and Netflix, you should only have a few weeks of summer left, which is just enough time to sign up for Amazon Prime's free 30-day trial. Might as well use your trial to get some free two-day shipping while you're at it! Perfect for back-to-school season.
 
Movie Swap With Friends
Sometimes the easiest way to see a free movie starts by asking a friend if they want to come over and have a movie night. Chances are they've got something they've been dying to see, and they'll bring the movie if you make the pizza!
 
Late Payments
You're definitely paying too much for late payments, because you can cut those out entirely. Unnecessary payments made to the bank after an accidental bounced check or an overdraft start to add up. Keep track of your account balance and spending habits to avoid unnecessary fees and save money in the long run. Follow these banking tips, or try a site like Mint - your wallet will thank you later.
 
Water
Bottled water is marketed as a fresh, chemical-free alternative to tap water. However, it isn't any different from the water from the kitchen sink. While it might be convenient, bottled water is costing you a significant amount of money that could be put toward an at-home water filter. Plus, the negative impact that plastic bottles have on the environment is nothing to take lightly.
 
Cable
With Netflix and other online sites for streaming TV shows online, cable is not a necessity. However, if you enjoy kicking back on Sundays watching your favorite NFL teams go head to head, you can always borrow some advice for discounts with your cable provider to pay a little less than you currently do.
  • Don't assume your bill is correct The first thing you should do is go over your bill very carefully and make sure you understand each charge. If there's a charge for something you're unsure about, ask the representative when you call. Ask about taxes or extra charges you're unfamiliar with because they could be on your bill by mistake. Also, keep an eye out for mysterious charges- especially on cell phone bills - because you could be a victim of cramming. According to the FTC, cramming is "when a company adds a charge to your phone bill for a service you didn't order or use. Cramming charges can be small, and they may sound like fees you do owe."
  • Research what your cable company's competitors are charging You really only have one negotiating chip with your cable company - the possibility that you may leave them for a competitor. Check out if competitors if have any promotions or new customer deals available.  There are many websites out there to help research the best rates in your area, but your best bet is to visit the provider's website directly and see what they're offering.
  • Make a plan before you call Calling during off-peak times can increase your chances of getting a representative in a good mood. Next, make your pitch. Ask for lower rates or new customer pricing. Avoid the word "cancellation" until the last minute. If you threaten to cancel, be careful if the rep calls your bluff. You don't want to end up with canceled service when all you wanted was a lower bill.
 
Electricity
Keeping electric devices plugged in, especially when not in use, can increase an electric bill. For some customers, these "phantom charges" make up 10% of the bill! Learn ways to cut the cost, and in turn, be more energy efficient.
  • Regularly go through your home and unplug as much as is reasonable. Unplug the toaster, the cell phone charger, and so on. Any electrical devices that aren't required to be on or extremely difficult to reach should be unplugged.
 

Be sure to check out some other great frugal living tips to help save you money on a regular basis!

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