smart spending

9 cash-saving tips that pay big bucks

What it's worth: For Beveridge, it's worth a lot. Making 75 percent of all purchases through online discounts, Beveridge estimates that he saves $40 a month simply by shopping around for deals. Because you can get everything from pencils to plane tickets discounted online, price-comparing families could shave $50 to $200 off their spending budgets each month.

  • A one-time deposit of $600 to $2,400 amounts to $1,655 to $6,622, respectively.
  • Annual deposits of these amounts add up to $15,077 to $60,310, respectively.

Communicate cheaply

Madison DuPaix, a Madison, Wis., mother of three and author of the finance blog My Dollar Plan, always looks for ways to maximize savings, such as cutting the phone bill. After switching from a local phone service to Vonage last year, DuPaix pocketed an extra $240, or $20 per month. Thanks to broadband Internet phone systems like Vonage and Skype -- a service that allows free member-to-member calls and long distance for a penny per minute -- thrifty consumers can all but forget about footing landline bills.

What it's worth: Households that eliminate a landline and stick with cell phone plans can cut $30 per month out of their utilities budget, and those who trade cell phones for broadband phone systems can save even more. Shove $40 per month, or $480 at the end of the year, in a tax-favored savings plan for 15 years, and here's what happens:

  • A one-time deposit of $480 grows to $1,324.
  • Annual deposits of $480 add up to $12,062.

Weatherize the house

Your kid's college fund could be flying out the window, says Jonni McCoy, author of "Miserly Moms: Living Well on Less in a Tough Economy."

"Consumers save 3 percent on their heating bill for every degree they turn down the thermostat," McCoy says. "They also lose money by not replacing the weather stripping around their windows, washing clothes in hot water and not insulating pipes around their water heater."

What it's worth: It depends on location. In states with moderate weather year round, tightening the insulation screws may have little effect. For those living in more extreme climates, simple steps like installing heating and air conditioning timers can save hundreds. According to a study by the Energy Information Administration -- the U.S. government's official source for energy statistics -- the average household spent $1,137 last winter in heat alone. Lowering the thermostat just 5 degrees in winter means reducing costs by 15 percent, or saving $170.55 after one season.

  • A one-time deposit of $170.55 grows to $471.
  • Annual deposits add up to $4,286 in 15 years.

Raise the deductibles

The average individual annually spends $4,704 on health insurance premiums, according to the Kaiser Foundation; $1,954 is spent on car insurance premiums, according to RateWatch auto insurance; and $804 is spent on homeowners insurance, reports the Insurance Information Institute. That's $621.83 per month on insurance premiums alone. McCoy says that smart spenders can sidestep some of those premiums by raising their deductibles.

"How much you save is going to vary from policy to policy," she says, "but it does pay to go back and see where you can trim some fat."

McCoy adds that consumers can also save cash by purchasing all insurance policies through one provider.

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