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Small changes add up to big savings

My great-grandmother reused aluminum foil, washed plastic bags and created a tub full of bubbles from the tiniest sliver of Ivory soap. For those who grew up during the Great Depression, conservation was a way of life — and I am grateful for every penny-pinching lesson she taught me. You, too, can focus on small changes that will offer big financial relief. By the time our economy catches up, you'll have enough green stashed away to make this moment a blip in history. Here are some tips to curb consumption and cut costs. Morieka Johnson, Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)

Clip coupons: With a 50-cent coupon, your favorite brand of toothpaste may cost less than the generic version. Also check company websites for discounts and specials. Some even allow you to register for monthly discounts via e-mail.

Go generic: There's nothing wrong with being loyal to one brand. But plenty of generic products do the same job. Check out grocery store brands of toiletries and over-the-counter medication.

"Follow" your favorites: Link to your favorite restaurant, dry cleaner or coffee shop through Facebook and Twitter. Many offer discounts or tips on upcoming specials.

Know the code: Before you make another purchase, check sites like RetailMeNot.com, CouponCabin.com or Coupon Mom.com for discount codes or coupons for the items you buy most. This can lead to free shipping or two-for-one offers. Keep coupons handy in your reusable shopping bag. Place that bag in your car so you don't forget it!

Buy in bulk: Save time, money and shopping trips by ditching the small, single-serving items and shop in bulk. A large box of laundry detergent costs less per ounce than its pint-sized counterpart. The same method applies to lightbulbs, toothpaste or dog food.

Try pay-as-you go plans: Drop the gym membership and consider drop-in classes. (Unless, of course, you are one of those annoying people who actually works out regularly.) Find gyms that offer drop-in specials on slow days.

Follow the money: Get serious about tracking your expenses by signing up for free online banking. Also, consider a free online money-management tool such as Quicken, Wesabe or Mint. Each provides a one-stop site for tracking credit card expenses, mortgage payments and investments.

Bring your lunch: I admit, it's not my favorite money-saving tip. But a brown-bag lunch, at least once a week, saves money over time. Cool lunch box gear can kick-start the effort.

Embrace the power of the pack: Drop workday woes at your front door, grab the leash and take your dog for a daily 30-minute walk. This proven stress reliever burns calories, strengthens your heart — and helps the dog get some exercise. Consider this an investment in your health, as well as your dog's good behavior.

Eat what you buy: Stop throwing money away by committing to eat what you buy. Turn your grocery list into a menu for the week or the month. With this strategy, it's easier to figure out what should be removed from the list.

Barter: As a parent, you probably have bartered for babysitting service among friends and neighbors. Keep that momentum going by bartering among friends and local businesses you frequent.

Strip the services: Streamline your bills by cutting unneeded services. Addicted to a cable TV series? Cut the premium channels and watch the show at your own pace online or on DVD. If you have a cell phone, it's probably a waste to have call waiting and voice mail on your landline. Cut those and you could save about $20 in federal taxes and fees each month.

Ask for a better deal: Ask your cell phone provider and cable provider if they are running any specials. It also pays to ask, "What can I do to lower my monthly bill?" They want your business, so many will tell you if lower rates are available. The same applies to your credit card company. If you've made monthly payments on time, call and ask for a lower interest rate. If they don't budge, call back in six months and ask again.

Consider raising your deductible: Raising your auto or homeowners insurance deductible by $500 can lead to a lower monthly bill. Just make sure to set aside that extra $500 in your savings account.

Care for the car: Protect your investment by maintaining scheduled oil changes, topping off all fluids and checking the tire pressure. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, underinflated tires waste millions of gallons of gas each year.

Volunteer: During these tough times, your skills could be a precious asset to a local nonprofit. Helping others also can bulk up your resume. VolunteerMatch.org and DoGood.org are popular sites that will help match your interests with a worthy cause.

Small changes add up to big savings 08/25/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 1:32am]

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