Armchair Millionaire Community Bulletin: How Investors Can Save a Lot of Money

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Everyone wants to save money, but it's too easy to get bogged down in saving a dollar here and a dollar there. When it comes to freeing up your money for the important things, like investing, go straight to the big moves that will save you substantial amounts and make a real difference.

Cutting costs is a universal concern, regardless of income. When we asked members of the Armchair Millionaire community for their ideas, we heard all kinds of great tips. Here are just a few:

"When buying real estate (for home or investment), we always ask the selling agent to represent us as buyers. They are then extremely motivated to ensure we as buyers secure the property and always reduce the sales commission in order to get a 1) a bigger commission 2) get the price we want by the reduced commission 3) reduce selling cost to the seller. It is a win-win situation for all. We save thousands of dollars and everyone is happier." --Caren

"Buying good, slightly used cars (3 to 4 years old, low mileage) saves me around 50 percent of the cost of a new car, each time." --Mike J.

"My top way to cut costs is to always remember that everything is negotiable--haircuts, manicures, rent, credit card interest rate, refinance charges, etc. I save a lot just by negotiating daily items. If you learn to negotiate in a friendly way, it's a win-win for everyone." --CVW

Another way to save serious money is by managing your overall financial situation intelligently. Make a few key steps and you’ll save thousands over your investing lifetime. My checklist has your most important cost-cutting moves for the savvy investor.

The Armchair Millionaire's Checklist for Saving the Real Bucks

Never pay a load. Mutual fund loads are nothing more than sales charges, and take anywhere from 1 up to 8.5 percent right off the top of your investment. The good news is that there is no reason to ever pay a load -- there are thousands of quality no-load funds available. How much will you save by going no-load? According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, a $10,000 investment in fund with a 5 percent load will grow to $57,814 after 20 years at a 10 percent annual rate of return. The same investment in a no-load fund would grow to $60,857, or $3,000 more.

Never pay high expenses. This is another place where it's easy to pay too much for your mutual fund investments. Mutual fund might charge anywhere from a low of 0.2 percent up to 2 percent or even more of your investment every year to pay for management. There's no correlation between high expenses and fund performance, so stick with the frugal funds and watch your investment grow by thousands more over the course of years.

Never pay credit card interest. Pay down that credit card bill every month and escape interest charges completely. How much will you save? Just consider that if you have a $5,000 credit card balance at 18 percent interest and you make a payment of only $200 per month, it will take you more than 2 1/2 years and cost you more than $1,300 in interest to pay it off.

Refinance your mortgage. Interest rates are still low and if you've never gotten around to refinancing, think about doing so now. What could you save? Assume a $150,000 30-year mortgage at 7.5 percent. Refinance that to a 15-year mortgage at 5.5 percent, and you'll save a whopping $157,000 in interest over the life of the loan.

Clean up your credit record. Remarkably, you can pay less for the same insurance rates, leases and other financial services just by cleaning up your credit record. That’s because financial services firms consider poor credit a risk and they charge their customers more when they have bad credit. With a clean credit history, you could end up saving hundreds of dollars or even more every year for the same services you have now.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Saving money on day-to-day expenses will add up over time. But managing your money intelligently can provide a huge sum to your daily living and long term portfolio. When it comes to freeing up your money for the important things, like investing, think big and you’ll see thousands and shave years off your retirement age.

This column appears each week on, the Web sites for CNN and Money Magazine.

Syndicate this weekly column in your publication or Web site: was founded in 1997. The company's first book, The Armchair Millionaire, was published in 2001. Today, is an established community of common sense savers and investors.

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Lewis Schiff