smart spending

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Save energy

To see your electric bill take a nosedive, make it a habit to unplug non-essential appliances when not in use. When away from home or on vacation, these appliances can add dollars to your electric bill. It's worth the extra savings.
Aggie Cooke, Alexandria, Va.

Get the last drop of gasoline!

When you're finished pumping gas in your tank, turn the pump off and then squeeze the pump handle. You'll get the extra little shot of gas that was left in the hose. You've already paid for it so you might as well take it!
Dan Lia, Clearwater, Fla.

Install a pellet stove!

Many technologies exist to help you heat your home without running up a huge power bill. For instance, pellet stoves use pellets made out of sawdust and other waste materials. It's very economical to burn. Installing such a stove to either heat your house or supplement your existing heating system will save money on your fuel bills. Some models are designed to be inserted into your home's fireplace.
Lynn Bulmahn, Waco, Texas

End dropped calls!

Experiencing dropped calls on your cell phone? There's no need to get a new phone -- even if your phone is a few years old. Take your phone to your service provider and request a software upgrade. Typically, the service is free. Dropped calls can occur when the software version is upgraded on the cell phone towers but not on your cell phone.
Stephanie Evans, Lithia Springs, Ga.

Free 411!

Most cell phone providers charge a fee for dialing 411 information. Typically, it costs about $3 per call. I found out that I can get the same service at no charge by calling 800-FREE-411, or 800-373-3411.
Reginald Johnson, Bowie, Md.

DIY holiday postcards!

If you send out holiday cards, don't buy generic expensive cards form stores or catalogs. Buy sheets of blank glossy postcards, which are about $10 for 100, and design your own personalized greeting on your computer! You save money by printing them with your own color printer, and you don't have to buy envelopes. Plus, postcards generally require less postage. This has really saved me a lot of money over the holiday season.
Felicia Hubber, Missoula, Mont.

It pays to shut down!

Contact your energy provider to see if they have any energy savings programs that you can participate in. FPL has an "On Call" program that enables them to occasionally cycle off our A/C system for brief periods of time when necessary. In return, we receive a credit on our monthly electric bill, even if they never cycle off your equipment. There are no out-of-pocket costs to participate in this program. And because your A/C already cycles on and off during normal operation, the main difference you'll notice from On Call is getting paid for it!
Dana Clore, Tamarac, Fla.

More bang for your book!

It's frustrating -- when selling back used books to a college bookstore, the bookstore will generally give you a mere 5 to 10 percent of the original price and sell it again at 75 percent of the full price. To get a better price for your used book, find out which classes will be using it, go to a class five minutes early and announce to the students that you are selling it for less than what the bookstore is charging for the same used book. This gives both you and the students who are buying books a better price. Everybody wins.
Michelle Norek, Quincy, Mass.

Slash your bills -- call and ask!

Last week I called my high speed Internet company and asked them to lower my monthly payment and keep my services the same. I was able to get a $20 discount on my bill for a year just by asking. I also called my satellite company and had them reduce my payments by $10 a month. Once again, I kept the same services.
Auna Sawicki, Haltom City, Texas

Small back-to-school savings + recycling!

When my daughter goes back to school she always needs a pencil case. Rather than purchasing her a new one every year, I allow her to pick out of my stash of new makeup bags that I get as a "gift with purchase." It's a small savings but it allows her to have a unique pencil case and saves one more thing from going to the landfill!
Danielle Snyder, Erie, Pa.

Don't just throw it away!

If something you purchased breaks or is damaged by you, your kids, or malfunctions for any other reason -- don't just throw it away! I've found that by writing the manufacturer (or, e-mail to save on postage) you can usually get your money back or a replacement. In the past few months, all five of my requests for replacements and/or refunds were granted by the manufacturers. They weren't all brand new items, either. Don't worry if you don't have the receipt. Many manufacturers just need a model number or a proof of purchase.
Melinda Egan, Riverton, Utah

Defensive driving discount

Complete a defensive driving course and then ask your insurance company for a discount. The course can be taken online for about $40 and can be completed in one afternoon. I saved $150 per year on my car insurance and the discount stays in effect for three years!
Diane Miller, Athens, Ga.

Tax-free labor

If you are having something installed such as a furnace, ask the vendor to separate the cost of the equipment from the labor costs. Otherwise, they will combine them and you will pay taxes on labor. Normally labor is not taxable if written separately. Check your state's tax rules because some might differ.
Melany Day, Indianapolis

Pay less interest

If you take your monthly mortgage payment, divide it by 12 and add that much to your monthly payment, you can cut seven years off a 30-year mortgage -- depending on your interest rate.
Shannon Mesarch, Brook Park, Ohio

Stay ahead of your bills

If you have a low recurring payment, such as a student loan or car insurance, pay double one month and then make the regular payment as usual. The result is that you will always be a month ahead giving you a cushion in case the mail is late, or something unforeseen happens.
Richard Cavallaro, Rochester, N.Y.

Third-party fees you should see

When sitting at your closing, ask to see invoices from all third parties involved. We all know that courier fee isn't really $30 to $55; and we also know that the credit report isn't $50 to $100. Ask for your invoices. I do this for a living and am asked to prove several things but the title company is never asked.
Atonia Rogers, Indianapolis

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