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Cut Costs at Home

Rent that extra room

Millions are looking for ways to shave dollars and dimes from their daily expenses. To share your own tips, send us an e-mail telling us how you save. You can save money on everything, but here's how you can get started around your home.

See also: Save at the grocery store, too.

Use up to 60 percent less energy by boiling water in a microwave rather than on an electric stovetop. When you do use the stovetop, make sure pots and pans fully cover the heating element. A 6-inch pan on an 8-inch element translates to an energy waste of more than 40 percent.

Improve freezer efficiency by keeping the thing as full as possible—with bags of ice, for instance. But keep a 1-inch open space on each side of the interior for better air exchange.

Lower your thermostat in the winter. For each degree that you drop, you cut your heating bill by 3 percent. To feel more comfortable at lower temperatures, place pans of water near heating outlets or radiators. Water-filled air retains heat better, and the added humidity reduces itching and dry skin.

Mix your own garden dirt. Those “enriched” bags of soil boost flower and vegetable growth—at about $8 a bag. Instead, for each one part of dirt or topsoil mix in about two parts of compost—shredded from leaves and branches and available for free at many municipal recycling centers.

Save on a flush in an old toilet by putting a plastic bottle full of water, weighted with pebbles, in your tank.

Get a rain barrel. Connected to your home’s storm gutters, it will collect water for later use on your lawn, vegetable garden or car.

Next: How to save money in the shower. >>

Stop that dripping faucet. Sixty drips a minute will waste about 6,428 gallons of water per year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Shower quickly and save. A 15-minute shower a day costs about $310 a year, even with a low-flow shower head. Cutting the time by a third will save about $100 annually.

Buy torn bags of mulch
. Home centers usually set these torn bags aside, then sell the day’s mishaps at a big discount. Your best chance to get these deals is at the end of a weekend shopping day. Bring duct tape to close them, and a tarp to keep your car trunk clean.

Consider renting that extra room or space in your garage, basement, backyard. Visit or to list its availability and your asking price for free. SpareFoot gets a transaction fee equal to half the first month’s paid rent (a spare bedroom can fetch $150 a month). The site also sells legally vetted lease agreements for $19.

Be aware that in many communities, renting our your extra space is generally not legal and could result in several thousand dollars in penalties. So be sure to check out the laws, building codes and zoning rules that affect you.

Save on printer ink by using the Century Gothic font, which a recent study showed consumes about a third less ink than industry-standard Arial. That saves about $20 a year for a home user printing 25 pages a week.

Do it yourself or hire someone? You can get estimates of the difference in cost for a home improvement project at, as well as advice on whether you should go it alone.

Next: How pack rats can save a buck. >>

Get your castoffs picked up for free by more than 60 nonprofit furniture banks nationwide. (Your items generally need to be in good condition.) Find one near you at

Boost your knowledge with free online college courses. (You may need to buy books or download special software.) Yale, MIT and Stanford are among dozens of universities offering no-cost knowledge. Visit and click on “OpenCourseWare” for a list of offerings by topic.

Sell your junk, but first get an idea of what it’s really worth by going to, an online “blue book” for pack rats and collectors. The site analyzes recent sales at online markets.

Free photo editing online is available at, where your uploaded photos can be tweaked with nifty effects like teeth-whitening and wrinkle-removing. provides free video online editing and up to 10 gigabytes of free storage.

Sell your books. At or, you type in an unwanted book’s ISBN number to get an offer. If you like what you see, fill out a prepaid mailing label, box the books and send them off. Payment comes by check or as a credit to your PayPal account.

Volunteer techies give free advice on common computer problems at

Don’t dump, recycle. Join the local bulletin board at and post what you want to give away or something you’re looking for. No money changes hands, and your unwanted stuff won’t add to a landfill. If there’s no group in your area, the website tells how to set one up.