Gave at the office. Charitable donations made via payroll deductions are often overlooked tax deductions. There's no line on most W-2s for them, but pay stubs or receipts from recipients can prove your generosity.
Save with cash. Studies show that people may spend 50 percent more on fast food and other purchases when they pay with a debit or credit card, because parting with cash hurts more. Some retailers, including gas stations, offer discounts to cash customers to avoid paying the card "swipe fee" to a bank.
Photo by: Renee Rhyner
Pay yourself. Put an open jar in a conspicuous place in your home. When you do something you might have paid for — ironing, cooking, fixing a good latte — feed the jar with the amount you'd have spent. Do the same if you resist the impulse to buy something. The money will add up, fast.
Cut college costs. Make direct subsidized federal loans your first choice; they're easier to get, tend to be cheaper and there's no interest while you're in school at least half-time. Having loan payments automatically debited from your bank account can knock down your interest rate by a quarter percentage point or more. For a website that channels contributions from friends and family members to lenders, check out Lily's List.
Prepay. Adding a bit to your monthly payment can dramatically shorten the life of your mortgage and ultimately save you thousands of dollars in interest. Every extra dollar is applied to the loan's principal. Adding $10 per payment can prune 14 months from a 30-year, 5 percent mortgage for $100,000, and save you $4,500 in interest.
Drive a bargain. In many states you can cut your insurance rates if you have a monitoring device put in your car to verify low mileage or safe motoring habits. Or consider dropping your collision insurance if your car is old and not worth much.
Compare costs. BillShrink.com analyzes your everyday costs for services like cellphones and cable TV and financial accounts. FindABetterBank.com compares checking account plans at banks and credit unions. BrightScope.com compares 401(k) plans and financial advisers.
Got gold? The price has roughly doubled in the last four years, making now a good time to sell unwanted gold jewelry and coins. Comparison-shop to get a fair price, and check the reputation of gold buyers with the Better Business Bureau.
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Contributors: Arthur Dalglish, Sid Kirchheimer, Cathie Gandel, Joan Rattner Heilman, K.C. Summers, Jeff Yeager, Bob Calandra and AARP members like you.