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12 simple ways to get your cheap on

4. Good Gifts, Good Prices, Good Cause: Finding the perfect one-of-a-kind gift can be costly both in terms of time and money. There are some real vintage treasures at bargain prices to be found at thrift and secondhand stores, but who has the time to look? Goodwill Industries has an online auction site ( where you can bid on special "finds" from Goodwill stores across the country.

5. Go Generic: Buying generic and store-brand products instead of brand names will usually save you 20 percent or more, and many times people report liking generics better. In many cases, the product inside the package is identical and sometimes even produced by the same manufacturer as the brand-name counterpart. You owe it to your bank account to at least give store brands a try, starting with the products you buy most often.

6. Clean Something You Already Own: One of my "Miser Advisers" says that whenever his kids want to buy something new, he tells them to first go clean something they already own. He says that the act of sprucing up a possession they already have usually convinces them that they really don't need something new.

7. Employee Cellphone Plans: If you have a cellphone, check with your employer's phone company. Many companies — including Verizon, U.S. Cellular, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint — offer discounted plans (sometimes as high as 20 percent) to employees of their corporate customers.

8. Make Mine a Cheapskate Spritzer: Based on my calculations, the average family of four could save about $800 per year by simply ordering tap water when dining in restaurants or carrying out fast food. Sodas, coffee and — most of all — alcohol have the highest markup rates in the restaurant business. To spice things up, try ordering a "cheapskate spritzer" — ask for a slice of lemon in your glass of water and add a little sweetener at the table.

Next: Why you should carry around big bills. >>

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