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Special section Time to save

Use these frugal tips to squeeze the life out of each and every dollar. If you feel like you're hemorrhaging money find out where the bleeding is and make it stop!

Saving for the holidays

10 ways to save $500 or more

Next, examine your phone service -- particularly your cell. What kind of user are you? If your phone's for short calls only -- "I'm on my way home now, dear" -- consider a pay-as-you-go plan like ones offered by Virgin Mobile. It has cool phones, and, for a total of $80 per year, you can make those kinds of calls and have peace of mind. It's a big bargain.

Family plans are another possibility. Four people on the same plan will cost about $25 each. Calls at night and during weekends are usually free, so the small prime-time minute allocation goes a long way. You just can't chat endlessly during regular business hours with these plans.

If you are paying more for home phone service than about $50 per month for both unlimited local and long-distance, you're missing the boat.

For those with high-speed Internet service, the cheapest phone option is probably an Internet-based phone service such as Vonage or others offered by cable or phone companies. These aren't subject to the same taxes that wired phone lines are, so for less than $20 a month, you can get 500 minutes of service with lots of features, including voice mail.

There are drawbacks. One is that if your Internet is down, so is your phone.

8. Sign up for tax-advantaged plans at work.
The possibilities include education, health, transportation and child care savings accounts. If you're in the 25-percent tax bracket, you'll be $500 ahead once you spend $2,000 in pretax dollars on these necessities. If your company doesn't offer these plans, ask for them to be added. It's a cost-free benefit that even the smallest and most cash-strapped employer can offer.

9. Eat in.
Replace one $20 eat-in restaurant meal per week with a large $7 carryout pizza from any of the billions of cheap pizza places in every city. Better yet, buy pizza at the grocery store.

10. Don't bank on it.
Pay credit card bills in full as soon as possible, and take advantage of free bill pay.

The real savings can be had by avoiding credit card debt and paying off what you've accumulated as quickly as possible. For instance, if you owe $4,000 on a card charging you 18 percent interest, and you pay three times the minimum payment every month, or $300, you'll pay off the card in 15 months and spend about $500 in interest. If you spread the cost out and pay $200 per month -- still twice the minimum payment -- you'll pay off the bill in 24 months and pay out $4,800 in total -- $800 in interest. If you can bite the bullet and pay as much as $400 each month, the debt will be gone in less than a year and you'll save between $100 and $700 in interest over the other options.

Saving money doesn't have to take an ugly bite out of your lifestyle. Once you put these strategies in place, you won't feel pinched, because you're not giving up much at all.

-- Updated: June 5, 2008
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