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Save on Shopping

You can snag a deal on just about anything if you know when and how to shop. Start with these tips

Menu online. Before you leave for a restaurant, find dining bargains online. Many chains and local spots post menus on their own sites, or if you're in a major city, check or

Click, don't stick. Many banks offer a secure and convenient way to pay bills online for free, saving you the cost of checks, envelopes, stamps and the occasional late fee. Check with your bank.

Rebate follow-up. Some 20 to 40 percent of shoppers never collect the rebate that helped seal the deal. Merchants are counting on this — prove them wrong! Save all receipts, forms and packaging needed to apply. Send them in immediately. Be careful to follow all directions and keep copies. Cash or spend your rebate right way — it may expire.

Treat everything as returnable. Don't throw up your hands if a new purchase breaks or you decide you don't like it. Many merchants and manufacturers will give you a replacement for free, no questions asked, with or without a receipt — but you've got to ask.

Say when. Winter is the best time to buy homes, exercise equipment and TVs; spring is best for computers, digital cameras and carpeting; summer for indoor furniture, camcorders and snow blowers; and fall for lawn mowers, gas grills and GPS navigators.

Books for less. Many libraries sell donated books to raise funds. You can often find like-new recent titles at a low cost — and support your library at the same time.

Hang on to hangers. When you buy clothes in a store, ask if you can keep the hangers they're on. Many clerks will say yes.

Be a yard sale shark. Wall Street knows how to exploit price differences between markets. Likewise, you may make pocket money buying choice items at yard sales, then selling them on online auction sites or community boards.

You may also like: More ways to save on shopping. >>

Contributors: Arthur Dalglish, Sid Kirchheimer, Cathie Gandel, Joan Rattner Heilman, K.C. Summers, Jeff Yeager, Bob Calandra and AARP members like you.

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