how to save money

20 tiny ways to save big

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Who doesn’t want to save some dough these days? Try one–or all–of the smart ways, and get paid back with big bucks you can squirrel away into a savings account (or use for a well-deserved splurge on yourself!).

Savvy billing switches

1 “I noticed that my family’s favorite cable channels–my husband watches ESPN and the History Channel, my kids like Cartoon Network, and I watch HGTV–are covered under a basic cable plan. By paring down the extra channels we signed up for but never watched, I was able to shave off $42 from our monthly bill.” Saved: $504/year

2 “Instead of giving their grandchildren a few dollars when they come for a visit during the holidays, I asked my parents to buy phone cards for them. The cards inspire my kids to keep in touch with their grandma and grandpa a little more often, and I cut my long-distance phone charges by $17 a month.” Saved: $204/year

3 “To avoid paying extra ATM fees each week (the bank near my office charges nonmembers $2 per transaction), I take out $200 from my own bank twice a month and stash the extra cash at home. Then I take about $20 each morning before I leave for work–for free.” Saved: $144/year

4 “Since cleaning solutions are expensive, I found a way to make my own: I pour white vinegar into an old spray bottle and use it to wash tiles, mirrors, and even windows.” Saved: $36/year

5 “Snail mail can be expensive, especially if you’re sending about ten checks out each month. I save money on stamps by authorizing services I regularly pay (like day care, credit card companies, and even the electric company) to withdraw funds from my checking account. I save $40 in postage, and since the system is automatic, I’m never penalized with high late fees, which sometimes amounted to $200 a year.”

6 “I discovered that my favorite hair salon, like most, will trim bangs for a fraction of the cost of a full hair cut. Now, instead of spending $45 every two months, I stop in for a $5 trim and only go for a full cut every four months.” Saved: $120/year

7 “I saved $56 a month by bringing my lunch to work just twice a week. You’d also be really surprised how much easier it is to stick to healthy eating habits when you preplan your meals.” Saved: $672/year

8 “In order to compare interest rates between credit-card companies, I logged on to www.bankrate.com. Then I called my own credit-card company and specifically mentioned the 3 percent lower rate I was considering switching to. They agreed to match it, allowing me to save in interest.” Saved: $760/year

9 “Signing up for a free Internet-service provider, such as www.netzero.com, can save you at least $30 a month. The best part: You won’t deprive yourself of all the bells and whistles (like instant messaging and junk e-mail filters) that the other, more expensive services offer.”

10 “Since I rarely use my cell phone (and when I do it’s usually to call my husband), we decided to cancel our two separate plans ($50 a month for him and $30 for me) and sign up for a service that offered direct-connect minutes, meaning we could call each other for free. (Try the Nextel Shared Rewards Plan at www.nextel.com.) Instead of spending $80 on monthly service, we now spend only $55.” Saved: $300/year

Smart shopping strategies

11 “I buy jumbo bags of snacks (which cost half the price of those that come in individual sizes), and divide them up into plastic sandwich bags, which makes them easy to throw into each of my kids’ lunchboxes.” Saved: $52/year

12 “To create a lower-cost gift wrap, which can sell for $6 a roll, I spend $2 a roll on brown packing paper instead. Then I have my kids paint on them. This keeps them busy, and adds a sentimental touch to every gift.” Saved: $36/year

13 “A cup of tea costs $1 in our office cafeteria, but all the fixings–hot water, milk, and sugar–are free. So I buy a box of 100 Earl Grey tea bags (which is only $3), and then bring it into work to make my own tea, saving me almost $20 a month.” Saved: $240/year

Crafty cash stretchers

14 “My husband and I found that we can treat ourselves to a night on the town for a third of the price by eating dinner at’home and going out for just coffee and two top-notch desserts. The cafes generally let us linger around longer, so we feel relaxed and still have a great time.” Saved: $960/year

15 “To make an expensive shampoo last twice as long, I keep a bottle of generic baby shampoo on hand and use the luxury one every other day. In addition to allowing me to cut my yearly shampoo budget by about a third, rotating daily with this lighter alternative also prevents any residue from building up on my superfine hair.” Saved: $66/year

16 “I deduct 25 cents from my son’s allowance every time he leaves a light on in the house. It’s not the money I collect from him but the $15 decrease in my electricity bill that has really made a difference.” Saved: $180/year

17 “I cut down on dry cleaning my silk blouses from once a week to once a month by hanging them in the bathroom while I take my morning shower. The steam takes the wrinkles right out, making them look like they’ve been professionally pressed and helping me save about $50 a month.” Saved: $600/year

Swaps that save cash

18 “I save about $5 on postage and $12 on invitations each time I have a get-together by sending guests a link to www.evite.com. On the site, they can see the details of the bash–date, time, theme, and location–as well as the responses of other invitees. Reading personal notes from the people who are planning to attend generates extra excitement for the event and puts a modern, yet inexpensive, twist on all of our parties.” Saved: $102/year

19 “To encourage my kids and hubby to drink more water and less soda, I reuse water bottles with sports tops. I run them through the dishwasher, refill them with tap water, and put them in the fridge. My family is more likely to grab these bottles than fill up a glass with water on their own. Plus, it’s less expensive than soda (I save $6 a week)–and sugar-free.” Saved: $216/year

20 “I put an end to my $3-a-day latte habit (which totaled $60 a month) by purchasing a handheld milk foamer for $12. I put a thermos of black coffee in the fridge at work on Monday, then heat a mug of it in the microwave and foam my own milk each morning. It’s less caffeinated than espresso–and still a special treat.” Saved: $708/year