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9 cash-saving strategies that pay big bucks

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What it's worth
According to the School Library Journal, the world's largest book review publication, the average cost of a new hardcover book is $26.43 ($18.02 for paperbacks). Families that buy one book per month and rent two to three movies at $4 to $5 a pop can easily run up a $30-per-month tab or $360 annually.

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A one-time deposit of $360 grows to nearly $993.
Annual deposits of $360 add up to $9,046 in 15 years.

Bargain shop
When buying luxury items, save some cash doing it. For James Beveridge, a Chicago-based financial analyst, that means using bartering sites such as Craigslist to find used goods and seeking out promotional codes for discounts on all other online purchases.

"I use sites like Chainlove.com (an online bike supply store) a lot that only list one item at a time, but for 50 (percent) to 90 percent off," Beveridge says. "If I can't find something at a one-deal-at-a-time shop, I comparison shop at places like Bizrate.com and Pricegrabber.com to see if I can get a discount."

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.

 
 
Next: " ... Saving money means scouting hot vacation deals."
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