smart spending

Win $100 for your best savings tip!

Reduce, reuse, recycle!

Start a recycling program at work! I recently purchased a small waste basket and placed it in my office breakroom. I have encouraged all my fellow employees to place all aluminum cans, plastic bottles and glass bottle into the recyling bin instead of the garbage. When full, I take the recyclables to the recycling center and trade them in for cash! Depending on where you live this could add up to a tidy amount of extra monthly income!
Amanda Baxter, Crescent City, Calif.

Garden recycling

I love gardening but it often costs a lot to buy new pots and seed starting kits. I began using my old milk jugs and plastic lettuce containers to start my seeds. They make great terrariums for seeds to start growing, and I reduce the amount of plastic that I have to throw out.
Jessica Cartledge, LaGrange, Ill.

Treat your credit card like a debit card

My wife and I treat our credit card like a debit card. Any amount that we charge to our credit card is transferred to our high-yield savings account that is currently paying 5 percent. At the end of the bill cycle, we pay the bill online via our savings account on the day the payment is due. Not only are we earning interest of around $10 per month, we are using our rebate card that pays 3 percent on all purchases. We are averaging monthly checks of $35 from our credit card in rebates. We are now charging every bill that we can to the rebate card to earn the interest and the rebates.
Patrick Hardy, Cumming, Ga.

Turn off the TV

The best money-saving tip I've discovered is getting rid of that ever-increasing cable bill. When I moved into my new apartment three years ago, I decided to buy some rabbit ears and forgo the cable for awhile. So what happened? I saved $60 per month, $2,160 over three years, and lost five pounds. The rabbit ears bring in seven network and local stations, and I don't even miss cable. Why pay for TV when you can watch for free? Live a better life, turn off the TV.
Courtney Heins, Los Angeles, Calif.

Adjusted airfare refund

If you book a flight far in advance of your departure date, monitor the price of your exact flight. If the price happens to fall below what you paid prior to your departure, contact the airline and ask for a refund on the difference you paid. My last trip to Hawaii resulted in a $120 refund, which turned into additional spending money!
Brenda Miller, Villejo, Calif.

Check your receipt after you have checked out

It is a good practice to check the price of the items on a receipt after you have checked out. A lot of times, the price scanned on the register does not match what is advertised or posted in the store. You could save a lot if you can catch all these errors. There is also a growing trend -- especially in supermarkets -- that if you catch the price discrepancy, the first item is free and subsequent items will be price adjusted.
Hon Chu, Oviedo, Fl.

Always check for a coupon before checking out

When buying via the Web, use a search engine with the keywords -- "coupon" and the store's name. More than likely, multiple offers/codes will appear to help save you money -- everything from free shipping, 20 percent off the total purchase or buy one, get one free. Every little bit helps.
Stephanie Zukerman, Schaumburg, Il.

Deluxe therapeutic bed for $20

I wanted to replace my dog's eight-year-old bed. I bought $20 worth of shredded memory foam and replaced the filling. Now she has a new therapeutic bed suited for an older dog, and I had enough foam left to make a second bed and extra pillows. My dog thinks this tip is a winner, and her joints and little bones agree!
Elena Del Rio Parra, Atlanta, Ga.

Vinegar for cleaning fruits and veggies

Create your own vegetable-cleaning spray by filling a spray bottle with one-part vinegar and two-parts water. Put your fruits and vegetables in a colander and spray them well to remove germs. Rinse with cold water and your food is ready to eat.
Frances DiMarco, Brecksville, Ohio

Odor-free cat litter

I buy the least expensive scoopable cat litter. Then I add a small box of baking soda and mix it in. This little orange box runs about 37 cents, and completely eliminates odors for a fraction of the cost of the name brand litters. My mother-in-law noticed the difference immediately!
Shaunna Privratsky, Fargo, N.D.

Sell your airline rewards!

If you have an airline credit for free travel and can't use it, sell it. Some airlines such as Southwest allow people to transfer free travel vouchers. You can try selling your free flight credit on eBay, through your local newspaper or a free-ads paper. Many people will pay $200 to $300 for your round trip credit. Often, people find themselves traveling on short notice and most airlines don't offer good discounts for short notice flights.
Ron Hale, Linthicum, Md.

Editor's note: Some airlines do not allow selling or transferring of vouchers. Check with your airline first.

Check eBay first

Whatever I am looking to purchase, I check eBay first. I have run into amazing bargains for everything from baby clothes to flooring for my home.
Monique L. Farmer, Omaha, Neb.

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