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Savings Challenge

New Year's Spending Resolutions That Could Save You Thousands

6.    Cut the Grass: Nobody loves their lawns like we Americans. But considering the water, pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutant-spewing four-cycle lawn mowers they require, our lawns really aren't as green as they look. With U.S. lawn-care services now a $12 billion annual industry, our lawns are cutting much of the green out of our wallets, too. Reduce your lawn space by half by returning it to nature. Mulch or plant a no-maintenance ground cover, and you could trim $500 off the thousand dollars a year you probably spend now. Mother Nature will thank you, too.

7.    Paper Cuts: The typical U.S. household spends about $400 on paper products each year. Most of those products wind up in the trash can or recycling bin. Resolve to cut your paper use in half by using cloth napkins and towels instead of paper ones and real plates and cups rather than disposable. Think twice before you press the print button on your home computer. You'll save about $200 a year. The non-paper alternatives are more economical and environmentally friendly, even after factoring in laundering of cloth towels and napkins.  

8.    Meat-Free Days: The typical American eats more than 200 pounds of meat per year. That represents an increase of 50 pounds since the 1960s and is far more meat than the healthy diet recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (see www.mypyramid.gov). Vow to make one or two days a week meat-free. You'll likely become healthier because of it, and wealthier, too, since meat typically costs more than comparable non-meat proteins.

9.    A Bright Idea: We've all seen those crazy, corkscrew-like, energy-saving light bulbs, but most of us still don't use them, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Yes, CFLs (compact-fluorescent lamps) do cost more (about $3 each) than regular incandescent light bulbs and, indeed, take a few seconds to get up to full candle strength. But CFLs save you serious money over time.They last eight to 15 times longer than regular bulbs and use about 75 percent less electricity. DOE estimates that you save about $30 for each incandescent bulb you replace with a CFL (that is, over the lifetime of the CFL).

10.    Garbage Out, Garbage In: Time and again here in the Savings Challenge, we've discussed how being organized is a key to cutting household spending. Decide to get rid of one item (preferably by selling, donating, swapping, or recycling it) before you buy a new item. Not only will it help you de-clutter your life, but I'd bet it will make you spend less, too. When you see how much stuff you already have, it's harder to get excited about shopping for more.

Remember, the easiest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your wallet. Here's to a frugal-but-fun 2010.

Jeff Yeager is the author of the book, "The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches." His Web site is www.UltimateCheapskate.com.

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