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RISMEDIA, December 16, 2010—While Americans are loosening their financial belts to accommodate holiday spending, come January, the bills will roll in. But where will they find the extra dollars to pay down their debt? A new report in the January 2011 issue of ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, features the top ways consumers can save in the New Year.

“Every year, ShopSmart publishes hundreds of tips to help consumers slash their bills,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “So to help them kick off 2011 right, we pulled together our best cost-cutting measures that could save hundreds of dollars.”

Get insider deals. Follow your favorite brands and retailers to get the scoop on special sales, freebies, and other promotions by signing up for alerts at their websites and “liking” them on Facebook. Also, follow Twitter’s @EarlyBird Service for limited-time offers.

Find the lowest prices using the best search engines. Whether you’re buying costly electronics or small stuff like books, they’re a great shortcut to big savings. ShopSmart put the top 25 to the test, with PriceGrabber.com, Google.com/products and Nextag.com as three favorites. Also try newcomer Bing.com’s shopping tab. When shopping around, use at least two of those sites to check prices.

Get coupons on your phone. First came phone coupon apps such as Coupon Sherpa and MobiQPon, but stores are now getting into the coupon game. Major retailers, including Target are now offering mobile coupons. Some supermarkets have coupon apps, too.

Use your phone to make sure you are getting a good deal. You can do this with shopping apps like PriceGrabber or check out bar-code scanner apps like RedLaser and ShopSavvy. Use them to scan bar codes on electronics, groceries, and other products so you can compare prices at the store with those online.

Change your font and cut printing costs. Our computer engineers printed 27% more pages per ink cartridge using 12-point Times New Roman instead of Arial. Calibri is another ink saver. By comparison, Tahoma, Franklin Gothic Medium, and Verdana are ink hogs.

Take advantage of stores’ price guarantees. Many major retailers have policies that promise to match or beat competitors’ prices, even after you’ve purchased an item. (Many retailers will also give you a refund if the price of the item drops at their own stores). Some stores will even beat a competitor’s price by 10%. Just be sure to act fast; many policies limit refunds to seven to 14 days. And read store policies online for loopholes. Another way to get the lower price is simply to return the item and rebuy it, if you haven’t already used it.

Pinpoint local sales. Local search engines can help you find the best prices, coupons and sales. Check out CouponMap.com (for restaurant savings), TheFind.com (for apparel and home decor), Google.com/products (for checking inventory on-the-go), Local.Yahoo.com (for discovering local businesses), Krillion (for electronics and appliances), and Milo.com (for national-chain shopping).

Get fit free, or for a whole lot less. Don’t spend big bucks on a gym or personal trainer. Instead, use these fitness apps: Gym Buddy, $2.99; Hundred PushUps, $2.99; iHeartRate, $2.99; iMapMyRide/ iMapMyRun, free; FitnessBuilder, $9.99; iTreadmill, 99 cents; and Lose It, free.

Switch to store-brand products. Or at least give these products a try. Every year, ShopSmart tests dozens of store-brand items and we find that many of them are just as good or better than brand-name products. In 2010, we tested wines, foods, cleaners, and vitamins and found that store brands can save you up to 60%. Just remember to compare ingredient labels on foods and vitamins to make sure you’re getting what you expect.

Slash your cell phone bill. Not a heavy cell phone user? Then consider a prepaid cell service plan as they cost $25 a month or less.

Shop the supermarket sale cycle. Food staples like cereal and chicken hit their lowest prices once every 12 weeks. Make a note when you see sales and you’ll know when to load up on those items.

Save on software. If you’re about to buy a computer or you’ve just purchased one without an office software suite, save yourself some money and grab OpenOffice.org 3. The free program includes word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, database, and graphics software, and is compatible with Microsoft Office.

For more information, visit www.ShopSmartmag.org.

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