smart spending

Win $100 for your best savings tip!

We give away $100 each month to Bankrate readers who come up with the month's best money-saving tip, as rated by their fellow readers.

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So far, we've given away a grand total of $7000! Here's a list of the winners and their top-rated tip. And, check out the tips in the running to win our contest this month.

Save money by reflecting sun away from windows

"When you are faced with unwanted heat coming through windows, yes, you can buy lots of different things on the market to keep the heat out. But if you go to the camping section at your discount store, for approximately $1.98 you can buy a solar camping blanket, all folded up. One blanket will do three typical windows and reduces heat by 40 percent or more, making the house dramatically cooler. If you use air conditioning, this makes it work less hard. I did put a piece on the exterior of my window air conditioner to repel the heat, and that helped it work without so much effort."
Jacque Zirtzman, Manchester, Iowa

Save by teaching your teens about budgeting

"After attending a local financial seminar about budgeting, we decided to include our teens with how we handle household money. Here is what we recommend. Give them a set amount of money ... but wait! With more money comes more responsibility! Give your teen enough money to cover food (nongrocery), entertainment, savings, charity and clothing. We started with $100 a month. They must be responsible for buying their own clothes, paying for any food they eat out and also cover their own entertainment expenses. Most important, they have to give 5 percent to savings and 10 percent to charity."
Holly and Dwayne Johnson, Grayson, Georgia

Save with meal planning

"Every month I complete a grocery shopping list for items for the coming month. I have put together a list of all the meals my husband and I eat regularly then put them on the calendar based on the amount of time it takes to cook the meal. Monday through Friday get easy meals that allow me to cook them in 20 minutes or less and all meals that take more than 20 minutes are saved for the weekends. This way we buy all of our groceries at one time, saving on our grocery bill, (we store meat in our deep freeze until it's time to use it) saving on our gas bill with less trips to the store and saving my time by having quick meals already planned out for the week."
Leslie Damann, Evergreen Park, Illinois

Save on children's snacks

When packing kids lunches, it is much cheaper to purchase a large box or bag of a snack item and package it yourself into snack-size zipper bags than buying the prepackaged snack size packs
Bonnie Piniero, Weymouth, Massachusetts

Say NO to mileage rewards credit cards

Instead of using an airline credit card that accumulates mileage, use a cash-back rewards card. The miles accrued on a credit card often have blackout dates and deadlines. Instead, earn money from your cash-back card and use the money to invest or buy the ticket after shopping for the lowest price.
Louie Gevero, Bellerose, N.Y.

Buy your summer clothes now

Buying your summer clothes at the start of the winter season can save 50 percent to 75 percent on your wardrobe costs. Most retailers are making room for their winter lines and clearing out their summer stuff.

The reverse works as well. We have winter clothes in our closets that we bought last January and February at substantial discounts. You'll get a ton of satisfaction out of wearing a $40 item for which you paid $5.
Brian Thomas, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Baking soda in the laundry

Adding a little bit of baking soda to your regular wash load makes clothes cleaner, brighter, fresher smelling and costs a lot less than some expensive laundry detergents. It's also good for pre-treating grease and oil stains.
Maria Lee, Oceanside, N.Y.

Don't be afraid to bargain

My husband bought new tires, and just by the outright offer of a cash transaction the priced dropped $75. Who knew just saying "and if I give you cash?" could be a coupon in itself! So do yourself a favor, speak up, the worst that happens is nothing and you pay what you were going to anyway!
Megan McKeever, Bellmawr, N.J

Save electricity and water

Because regular use of the dryer is hard on fabric and uses a lot of electricity, I hang my clothes to dry in the laundry room. I have a dehumidifier there that keeps the basement from being damp and helps speed the drying of my clothes. The dehumidifier has the Energy Star logo, which means it is a model that uses less energy, thereby saving money. I use the water that the dehumidifier collects to refill the toilet tank or to water the outdoor plants on dry summer days.
Betsy Kiger, Arlington, Va.

Stretching one meal into two

When eating out, reserve half your meal and box it up for lunch the next day. This will save you the time it would take to pack a lunch and the money it would cost -- plus calories!
Nora Davis, St. Louis, Mo.

Time well spent on lists and fliers

Use a list at the grocery store, and stick to it. What's even better is if you spend five to 10 minutes carefully reading the coupon and sale items flier to see what matches up with your listed items. Although you may feel shy doing this and you may have to buy different brands each time you shop, that five or 10 minutes may save you $5 to $20 each trip!
Sean Bixler, New York, N.Y.

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