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smart spending
100 tips to help you save

14. Be house-wise. Sell the big house or don't buy more house than you need. Get an affordable townhouse or a smaller home if a family member moves out.

15. Rent out a room in your home if you have more space than you need. If you have grown-up offspring living with you, negotiate with them to pay monthly rent for the privilege.

16. Lower your hot water thermostat 10 degrees, but no lower than 120 degrees. You'll still get all the hot water you need and save 25 kilowatt hours a month.

17. Cell phones can be expensive, especially if you're footing the bill for a houseful of users. Do a needs analysis and dump the phones that aren't absolutely necessary. Even with so-called family plans, canceling just one line can result in significant savings.

18. To save on energy costs, seal leaks. Invest in weather-stripping kits if you have drafty doors. Caulk over cracks and small holes around windows and exterior walls. Look carefully around plumbing pipes, telephone wires, dryer vents, sink and bathtub drains, and under countertops.

19. If your cell phone plan offers free nights and weekends, make your weekly calls then. Not only will it possibly allow you to save money by canceling long distance service on your land line, it will save you cell phone minutes.

20. Landscaping with the right mix of trees and shrubs can lower your energy bills by blocking winter wind and summer sun.

21. When looking to buy a house or refinance your mortgage, take the time to apply for and compare several mortgage offers from a diverse set of sources: the institution where you do your day-to-day banking, a neighborhood bank, a credit union and an online lender. That way you can have confidence that you got the best terms possible.

22. When comparing mortgage offers, don't forget to look at closing costs. Fees for things like title insurance and home inspections can vary greatly, even within the same institution. Taking time to compare or negotiate lower fees can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars, greatly reducing the real cost of your loan.

23. To cut utility bills, add more energy-efficient insulation to your attic, with the appropriate R-value, or resistance to heat flow, for your climate and the type of heating in your house.

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24. Switching to an Internet telephone service, sometimes called Voice over IP, or VoIP, can save you big, especially if you make a lot of long-distance or international calls. VoIP providers often charge only a flat fee and don't have all the tacked-on taxes and fees that traditional telephone services do.

25. If you're getting a new mortgage or refinancing in an interest-rate environment where you think rates will fall, apply and then allow your rate to float for a while. Most lenders allow you to wait 30 days or more before locking in the interest rate you'll actually pay, so if you think rates are headed lower, take your time before locking -- you may capture a lower rate. Conversely, if you think rates are heading up, lock immediately. Either way, get your rate in writing. A spoken agreement isn't worth much if your lender decides not to honor it.

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