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Cutting a little can save a lot

Most of us would like to save more money, but if you want to succeed, you need a plan, preferably one that's pain free. Fortunately, it's possible to come up with extra cash without much belt tightening or brain crunching. "Most people have enough money. It's that they don't know how to manage what they have," says Mary Hunt, author of Everyday Cheapskate's Greatest Tips. Here are some simple suggestions that could save you more than $1,000 in a year.

1. STAMP OUT STAMPS. Postage just got more expensive, with the rate up to 39 cents for a first-class letter. If you switch seven monthly bills to free online banking or automatic deduction, you'll save $2.73 a month in stamps. Annual savings: $33.

2. PREVIEW BEFORE PRINTING. Use "Print Preview" before printing from the Internet so you print only the pages you need. You may save enough to buy one fewer ink cartridge a year. Savings: $30.

3. SWITCH YOUR CHECKING ACCOUNT. Paying a monthly checking account fee? The Consumer Literacy Consortium suggests switching to a free checking plan or one without a minimum balance. Savings: $100.

4. USE YOUR BANK'S ATM. Talk about double trouble. Use an ATM from another bank and you could get jammed with two fees: one from the bank or company that owns the ATM and another from your own bank for using a foreign machine. Savings: $70.

5. REFINANCE YOUR CREDIT CARD. "Call your credit card company and see if they'll lower your interest rate on your debts," says Jane Bryant Quinn, syndicated personal finance columnist and author of Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People. Savings: $150 or more.

6. BUNDLE IT, BABY. If you pay for your TV, Internet and telephone separately, you could save up to 25 percent a month by bundling those services with one provider, according to CNN/Money. Savings: $420.

7. PAY ATTENTION TO CAR MAINTENANCE. For added savings power at the pump, the Consumer Literacy Consortium says to keep the engine tuned and the tires properly inflated. Savings: $100.

8. TAKE A BREAK FROM STARBUCKS AND THE DRIVE-THROUGH. Yes, you could brown bag it every day and stick to the sludge in the office coffee pot, thereby saving hundreds of dollars a year. But, as Hunt points out, you also can save big by cutting just a little. So try this for the next year: one fewer $4 mocha latte and $6 burger-and-fries combo a week. Savings: $520.

9. COMPARISON SHOP FOR INSURANCE: Get quotes from at least three insurers, being sure to ask if you're entitled to discounts such as good grades, alarm systems for the car or home, and getting auto and home insurance with the same provider. Savings: $50 or more. While you're at it, increase your deductible. Savings: $80.

10. DRINK WATER. Hunt likes this tip from one of her readers: If you dine out, just drink water. If you eat out once a week, you probably spend at least $3 on beverages for two. Savings: $156.

Sources: "Everyday Cheapskate's Greatest Tips" by Mary Hunt; "Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People" by Jane Bryant Quinn; Consumer Literacy Consortium; CNN/Money (money.cnn.com)

- SAN ANTONIO (TEXAS) EXPRESS-NEWS

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