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Extreme savers share their secrets

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On the other hand, living close to town also can save you money. Uber saver Martha Andersen spends next to nothing on gasoline. She and her husband Peter chose to live in downtown Durham, a small New Hampshire college town, rather than buying a house in the suburbs.

"We can walk to restaurants and grocery stores, the library, the bank, the car service, church, friends and to my father-in-law's," she says.

Since oil hit $100 a barrel, saving on gas has become as important as getting a cheap mortgage.

Living in Exeter, N.H., Melissa Ragan and her husband, Alex, sold Melissa's 2006 Toyota Camry in January 2008 and became a one-car couple. They carpool together to work and Alex takes the train home. They're saving $725 a month -- a $400 car payment, $75 in insurance and $250 in gas and tolls.

Rochester, N.Y., scientist Wilton Alston also forgoes four wheels whenever he can. He bikes the 15 miles to and from work whenever the weather is good, saving money -- and burning calories -- along the way.

By far the most ingenious strategy for saving on gas and auto costs comes from Dean Frisoli, who "slugs" to work. Slugging is a form of legal hitchhiking available to commuters outside of Washington, D.C., where the traffic is notorious.

In order to take the faster high-occupancy vehicle, or HOV, lane to work, a car must carry two passengers. At designated parking lots, so-called "sluggers" like Frisoli, a transportation policy analyst, line up to catch free rides from drivers eager to use the HOV lane. In the year since he started slugging, reports Frisoli, the former train commuter has saved more than $2,000.

"Other than the ice storm the day of the Virginia primary, where it took me five hours to get home, it has been a completely painless experience," he says.

Chetan Shah, a vice president at Bank of America in Charlotte, N.C., advocates paying for parking with pretax dollars. Tax law does permit this.

"Most of us ... have to pay either for parking or a monthly bus or train pass," he writes. "You can pay it pretax by asking the company you work for to deduct it directly from your paycheck."

Finding ways to save
1. Saving on retail
2. Groceries
3. Automobiles
4. Giving
5. Commuting & housing
6. Phone services & other necessities
7. Travel

6. Phone service and other necessities
Financial planner Grande starts his conversation on saving money this way: "I'm talking to you on Skype right now."

Skype is an Internet-based phone system that lets computer users make calls for free or for only a few dollars a month. You don't need an actual phone -- just a computer and, if you wish, a headset, which costs about $20 at Radio Shack or Best Buy.

Download Skype for free, and you can "call" other Skype users for nothing. Pay $3 a month and you can make unlimited calls to land line and cell phone users.

Grande started using it last year and says now his office pays only the minimum local charge for having a land line -- less than $30 a month.

Next: The cheapest fares go to only about 10 percent of travelers.
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