6 big scores for savers

By Richard Barrington

Trying to save money can often seem like an endless series of small battles. You give up an extra cup of coffee here, you find a dollar-off coupon there, and hope these small amounts add up to something worthwhile. Over time they can, but there are occasionally big scores to be made in saving money -- one-time moves that have an immediate impact on your saving account and your morale about saving.

Here are six examples:

1. Buying a car

TrueCar.com estimated that purchase incentives for new cars were running at 8.2 percent of the sticker price as of mid-2013. On a typical new car purchase of about $30,000, that would earn you a savings of $2,460 if you make sure to not settle for the sticker price. As a rule, expect bigger percentage discounts on more expensive cars and smaller ones on lower-priced models, but careful shopping when buying a car can save you thousands.

2. Shopping for mortgage rates

When you shop for mortgage rates, it may seem that they are all more or less the same, so what's the difference? It's important to remember that little things matter, for two reasons. One is that the house may be the most expensive thing you ever buy, and the second is that you may be paying interest on the purchase for 30 years. As a result, even small differences in interest rates add up to significant dollar amounts. For example, the difference between a 4.35 percent and 4.30 percent mortgage may seem small, but on a $200,000 30-year mortgage, that difference would amount to $2,117 in interest charges -- well worth saving if you can.

3. Buying a house

Speaking of buying a house, not only is it important to negotiate on price, but also on things the seller could potentially do to improve the property before you move in. Sellers are often under the gun to complete the transaction, so don't be afraid to ask for, say, an updated water heater that would save you having to replace an aging one in a couple of years.

4. Negotiating a raise

Don't go into employee reviews unprepared. Document what you have done to add value for the company, and research the job market so you know your value. Don't present this as an ultimatum, but merely as a means of rationally demonstrating your worth. Any extra difference this makes can show up in your paycheck week after week.

5. Choosing a checking account

Free checking accounts are getting scarce, but you can still find them if you shop around. Try looking online, and also see what you can do to meet a balance threshold that would qualify you for free checking. The difference could save you more than $100 a year.

6. Putting money into a savings account

According to the FDIC, the average savings account these days is paying just 0.06 percent in interest. However, if you shop around, you can find some paying in the 0.80 percent to 0.90 percent range, a difference of about $200 a year on a $25,000 account.

That last example may be most important. In order to make these big scores count, you have to make sure the money goes into savings -- and isn't simply spent on something else.