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Extreme savers share their secrets

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He uses Skype when he travels, making phone calls from WiFi hotspots in other states and even in other countries. When he traveled to Singapore last year, he called friends in the U.S. for only two cents a minute.

To save on utilities, conserve energy. Get an energy audit, says Larry Chretien, executive director of Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit home heating company with offices in Jamaica Plain, Mass., and Providence, R.I.

When it comes to energy efficiency, Chretien says, "We honestly think every home is different."

In many states, electric and gas utilities offer energy audits at no charge, and some will even help homeowners pay for their recommended changes. When this reporter had her home audited, Public Service of New Hampshire paid $2,000, or more than two-thirds of the total cost of energy-saving improvements, like insulating and installing programmable thermostats.

Call your electric or gas company or search their Web sites for energy auditing programs.

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

7. Travel
Tostado, the uber saver from Dover, N.H., hoards credit card rewards points. When she turned 50 three years ago, she and her husband set a goal of running road races in all 50 states within 10 years. So far, they've managed 19 states. Those plane tickets could add up -- but not for them.

Their strategy? Never, ever use cash when you can use a credit card. They win multiple free flights a year by paying virtually all of their bills -- including groceries, utilities and their mortgage -- with a Southwest Airlines card.

They even buy Dunkin' Donuts gift cards on credit and use them to buy their morning coffee rather than "wasting" a couple of dollars' worth of points every day. The couple sets aside an hour a week to pay bills together and always pays the full credit card balance so that they never pay interest.

Doucette and his family can afford posh vacations, but sometimes the tab is just too high. When their traditional vacation choice, a Beaches resort, priced out at $8,000 to $12,000, the Doucettes decided to share their vacation. They and some friends rented a beachfront Jamaican villa, complete with chef and bartender, and spent less than $5,000 for the week.

If you're going to travel overseas, consider vacationing in Mexico, the Caribbean or even in Africa or Asia, where the dollar is stronger than it is in Europe.

To get the cheapest fares, use a service like, which sends e-mails the instant a cheap fare becomes available for your destination of choice. Don't procrastinate buying that ticket -- the cheapest fares go to only about 10 percent of travelers.

What are you doing to cut back on spending? Tell us.'s corrections policy -- Posted: April 4, 2008
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