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8 Ways to Save Money

Let’s face it: These days, everyone’s trying to save. But a thrifty outlook needn’t mean a dull lifestyle. Here are easy ways you can save $100 or more this year.

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Plug Into Bargain Electricity

Are your electricity bills excessive? Maybe you’re using too much power at peak hours. For instance, try running your dishwasher at night, rather than during the day. By taking advantage of off-peak rates, most consumers can save about $100 a year. Replace pre-1992 appliances when they break down with the new ones with the Energy Star label.

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Photo: Thinkstock

Challenge Your Property Tax

Ruth Rejnis, author of Squeeze Your Home for Cash, recommends going to your local assessor’s office and finding out what property taxes your neighbours are paying. If your house is similar but your taxes are higher, you may want to challenge your bill. Also, read the description of your home. Errors in square footage or the number of bathrooms could mean an overcharge. The assessor’s office or local board of tax review can tell you how to file an appeal.

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Pay Off Your Plastic

If you carry a credit-card balance from month to month, pay it back pronto. A $1000 balance at 18 percent blows nearly $200 a year in interest. If you can’t pay it off in full, transfer your debt to a lower-rate card.

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Say No To Car Extras

Your car dealer may to sell you rustproof treatment and fabric protection at $100 a pop, and paint protection for as much as $250. “Usually these extras are the dealer’s way to squeeze more money out of you,” says Bob Elliston, author of What Car Dealers Won’t Tell You. Do-it-yourself fabric protector costs about $10 a bottle. Paint protection is unnecessary, since most cars have many layers of paint. And skip rustproof treatment: cars come already treated so that they won’t need it.

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Skip the Service Contract

Extended warranties on electronics are rarely a good deal. Experts say most product breakdowns occur in the first year and are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

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Buy in Bulk

Items you may use a lot, such as paper towels and diapers, are often far cheaper when you buy in quantity. For example, Alan and Denise Fields, co-authors of Baby Bargains, say new parents buy an average of 2400 disposable diapers in their baby’s first year alone. Diapers that cost 20 cents apiece in the packages sold at grocery shops and drugstores might go for 15 cents when bought in bulk at a discount store or warehouse club. Just a nickel a diaper could add up to an annual savings of $120.

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Rethink Your Vacations

The “staycation” (relaxing at home) is becoming a popular way to save a bundle on a vacation. But if you still want to travel, consider using a “homestay” program that offers free lodging all over the world to travelers who are themselves willing to host other members in their homes. Some groups charge an annual membership fee, but your savings can easily be worth more than a hundred dollars a day. Home swap programs can also be a good alternative.

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Use Online Banking

Online banking can save you time and money. If you sometimes forget to pay bills, set up automatic payments in order to avoid potential late fees. It also allows you to monitor your cash flow more easily. In other words, when it comes to your spending, the “I’m in denial” game is over.