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RISMEDIA, January 20, 2010—(MCT)—When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, thrift is in. Surveys show that in 2010, a majority of Americans want to skinny expenses as much as they want to whittle their waistlines. But living on a budget doesn’t have to mean doing without. A little buying savvy can result in big savings, if you know how and where to trim costs, stretch resources and find deals.

Shop local
Don’t assume that smaller businesses always charge more than big chains. Aside from the money you’ll save on gas by shopping close to home (and the free personal service you’ll receive), local stores have plenty of specials and sales. Check newspaper ads, ClipperMagazine.com, Valpak.com and ShopLocal.com for coupons, and sign up at stores for e-mailed notices and mobile alerts of sales. (If you’re worried about spam, set up a free e-mail account at Hotmail.com or Gmail.com).

Learn the value of a phone call
If you’ve made home improvements such as adding a security system or replacing your roof, you may be eligible for lower homeowner premiums. Give your insurance provider a call. Taken a senior driver refresher course? Joined a car pool and driving less? Call your auto insurance agent to see if you quality for savings. Cellphone plan up for renewal? Visit ClarkHoward.com for guides on switching providers and to compare plans and prices. Once you’ve found the best deal, call your current provider and see if they can match it.

Fix it free
Before you run up tech-support fees or call the Maytag repairman, check out free resources online. At TechGuy.org, close to a half-million users offer solutions to technology questions. Computer techies hang out at Computerhope.com and provide fixes for error messages, recalls and updates. “Check Engine” light on in your car? Visit 2carpros.com for how-to videos and guides for simple auto fixes. At RepairClinic.com, you can learn how to do appliance repairs on your own. Findhow.com and FixItClub.com list clear, easy-to-understand instructions for all types of projects. Be sure to check out Home Depot and Lowe’s hands-on home-improvement clinics.

Cut energy costs and get money from Uncle Sam
At HomeenergySaver.lbl.gov, a do-it-yourself energy audit tool shows how much you’ll save by buying energy-efficient appliances. EnergyStar.gov provides details on federal tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements. Lowes.com includes a home audit tool that helps homeowners save money on utility bills and find tax-credit-eligible products. You also can save by unplugging “vampires,” those small appliances that suck energy even when they’re off. Plug them into a power strip that you can turn off and on when needed. Still have those energy-eating incandescent light bulbs? Switch over to compact fluorescents.

Avoid credit card interest charges
At ShopDebtFree.com, make purchases from Web retailers without using credit cards. The site lets you pay directly from an online bank account.

Trim the fat from your grocery bills
Have some meals without meat. Try private-label and store-brand products. Most are made by the same companies as brand-name products. Shop discount grocers for low-cost staples. Combine sale prices with coupons for greater savings as often as possible. No time to clip and file coupons? Choose your top five most-purchased products (i.e., cereal, milk, eggs, laundry detergent and juice) and tear out just those alone. You’ll save as much as $20 each month. Take advantage of price matching. Bring in a competitor’s sale circular and ask if your store will match the deals. Check local store prices at CouponMom.com, always get a rain check for out-of-stock advertised sale items and don’t bypass organic goods. As more organic products have become available, prices have gone down, in some cases selling for less than regular items.

Cut prescription costs
Always comparison-shop (prescription prices vary from store to store) and go generic when you can. Walmart and other discount, grocery and pharmacy chains offer 30-day supplies of hundreds of generic drugs for $10 or less. At DestinationRX.com, find lower-cost options to expensive drugs and compare prices at thousands of pharmacies. Ask your health-care provider for samples and/or coupons. Check Optimizerx.com for special offers and coupons from drug companies.

Get social
Facebook and Twitter aren’t just for teens anymore. Stores, airlines and companies now use social networking sites to promote deals and specials and offer free samples of new items. You’ll also find local bargains posted by area deal hunters.

Research equals savings
Before heading to a mall or outlet center, check websites for discounts, specials and coupons. Sign up for loyalty clubs. Watch for coupons on grocery store shelves and on the back of register receipts. Check those blue envelopes that arrive in the mail for savings on dry cleaning, restaurants, car repairs and other services. If you’re purchasing something online, check for the best price at Shopzilla.com or PriceGrabber.com.

Buy and sell secondhand
Find new and gently used items at consignment stores, Craigslist.org and newspaper classified ads. Get rid of all that stuff in the basement and attic, and make some quick cash. Encourage your teens to do the same.

And last but not least, don’t buy anything you don’t need.

(c) 2010, The Hartford Courant

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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