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  • What to Buy in April

    By Raechel Conover,

    It's officially spring and retailers are preparing for warm weather and hotter sales. In April you'll find deals on everything from laptops to travel, as well as some left-over March deals on winter items. Although the selection will be even slimmer on last season's goods, prices may be deeply discounted.

    Used Cars and Car Accessories/Parts. April is National Car Care Month, so auto parts stores and service centers will be running promotions to sell car accessories. If your vehicle needs a tune-up, this is a service to buy in April. It's also a good time to add discount tires to your shopping list. Used car dealers stock up on inventory in April in anticipation of warm weather and spring car sales. So beat the crowds for a better selection of used cars and hunt around for dealers willing to negotiate.

    Related: 10 cheap family summer vacations

    Tax Day Freebies. Forget about paying for it -- tax day (April 15) is a good day to find freebies.

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  • Where to Find Selfie-Worthy Prom Attire on a Budget

    By Elizabeth Sheer,

    Last year the average cost of attending a prom exceeded $1,100, according to Visa, Inc. Not surprisingly, the biggest expense is the dress. For girls determined to have a red carpet moment, the price tag could easily hit $400. Guys don't get off cheaply, either -- tux rentals commonly run $170-$200 for a basic get-up. But don't panic. With a little savvy, some ingenuity, and a few coupons, the cost of prom attire can be held below $150.

    Related: Best cheap diet plans

    Although prices vary by location and the selection may be iffy, the best places to start searching for cheap prom attire are vintage and consignment shops. Also try eBay for vintage duds, where both dresses and tuxes from the '50's through the '80's are likely to fetch prices in the double-digit range. And remember, dirt-cheap prom wear means funds left over for alterations.

    Dresses and Gowns. Generally speaking, a long gown costs more than a snazzy short dress while

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  • Kroger Vs. Walmart Vs. Aldi: Which is the Cheapest Grocery Store?

    By Raechel Conover,

    If the thought of extreme couponing drives you crazy but grocery prices wipe out your budget, maybe it's time to try a different type of store. A three-way comparison by examined retailers with three different models for selling groceries: Kroger, a traditional grocery store and umbrella brand for chains across the U.S.; Walmart, a big-box multinational that tallies more than half its sales from groceries; and Aldi, a German-owned discount grocery chain with a foothold in 32 U.S. states. We found that Aldi, with its bare-bones approach and emphasis on store brands, is easily the cheapest grocery store overall.

    Related: 10 Cheap Family Summer Vacations

    Cheapism visited one location for each store in the Columbus, Ohio, area and priced 37 products from a variety of departments. We chose identical items (brand and size) whenever possible and like items otherwise. Aldi does not carry well-known brands but stocks in-house labels, so

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  • College Tours: How Students Can Visit for Free

    By Louis DeNicola,

    As high school students prepare to spend the next several years and thousands of dollars earning an undergraduate degree, finding the right college is critical. The atmosphere on campus, the diversity of the student body, and the local surroundings all weigh on the decision. But it's hard to judge these things from a distance, which is why pre-application campus visits are so important. The costs of doing so, however, add up quickly.

    Fortunately, there are ways qualified students can visit a campus for free or at minimal cost. One option, open to every student, is a well-planned road trip to nearby colleges and universities. This is an efficient and money-saving approach that minimizes the cost of transportation, food, and lodging.

    Related: 7 steps to landing a college scholarship

    But jaunts to schools beyond driving range can be prohibitive, especially for families on a tight budget. Students in this situation can look to a number of

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  • 10 Things You Can Write Off Your Taxes when Self-Employed

    By Raechel Conover,

    Tax day is fast approaching, and for the self-employed, the days remaining until April 15 can be harried. You need to keep your business going while assembling all the necessary tax-related data and figuring out what you can write off as a business expense. If you're among the 41 percent of Americans who file their income tax returns during the four weeks before the deadline, check out this quick rundown of the items that typically qualify as a tax write-off for people who are self-employed. But a word to the wise: speak with an accountant just to be sure.
    Related: Best free tax preparation software
    Most Overlooked Self-Employed Tax Write-Offs:

    1. Home Office. If you work from home, there's good news: You can claim your home office. Fred S. Henkin, a certified public accountant in Columbus, Ohio, says there are two criteria for claiming this tax write-off: 1) part of your home is used regularly and exclusively for business; or 2) the space

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  • 4 Best Smartphones Under $50

    By Louis DeNicola,

    The seemingly constant stream of new mobile devices keeps early adopters happy and manufacturers' pockets full. It also has a wonderful side effect for frugal shoppers: Anyone unfazed at the prospect of owning "last year's model" can find a high-end smartphone for under $50 down.

    Related: iPhone vs. Galaxy: which is cheaper to own in the long run? highlights four such phones in a recently updated buying guide. To get the discounted upfront price, consumers must agree to a two-year plan with a carrier. Although typically this is a service contract, oddball T-Mobile has done away with contracts and instead offers a monthly payment plan for the retail cost of the phone (plus $10 for a SIM card). Be sure to check multiple retailers to find the best deal when upgrading to a new phone or signing a new contract. The HTC One is $99.99 for new customers through the Sprint website, but the same phone can be yours for 1 cent with a Sprint

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  • 10 Essential Money-Saving Tools

    By Kara Reinhardt,

    Every day, it seems, a new digital destination promises to save consumers money. But who has time to cycle through a lengthy roster of bookmarks in search of deals? The latest issue of ShopSmart magazine winnows the field to 10 indispensable sites (well, 20 if you count a sidebar with 10 honorable mentions).

    Related: What's the best daily deals app

    Savvy bargain hunters will already know some of the featured websites well, but there's no denying they are tried-and-true sources for low prices. In some cases, ShopSmart drills down past a high-profile home page to spotlight a resource such as Amazon's coupon section, where customers can "clip" coupons that are automatically applied at checkout.

    "We thought this was a really interesting new development," said Jody Rohlena, the magazine's deputy editor. She pointed to the eBay Deals page, full of discounted items with free shipping, as another example of an established player coming up with a new

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  • Declutter Your Bills: 3 Steps to Save You Money

    By Louis DeNicola,

    Are you sitting in the midst of stacks of documents and receipts, trying to get organized before filing your income tax return? As you wade through the data, you might find yourself shocked at how much you paid for insurance, phone service, and the cable connection. You can't go back in time and change things, but it's never too late to take steps to change the future. With just a few simple actions you can lower the prices you pay for subscriptions and organize the bills and papers that quickly pile up.

    Related: 10 easy tax write-offs for the self-employed

    Get Your Papers in Order. Set aside a day, or two, to get rid of your paper pileup. Investing in a good scanner or spending a few dollars on a smartphone scanning app, such as DocScanner or ScannerPro, is the first step. Next, you'll organize papers into three piles: file, scan, and toss.

    • File. This pile is for the must-save documents, like birth certificates and passports. Buy a
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  • 7 Steps to Landing a College Scholarship

    By Emily Lugg,

    There is such a thing as free money when it comes to paying for college -- if you know where to look. Between merit-based scholarships and grants for students in financial need, there is an abundance of college scholarships available to both rising and current students. A little time and dedication may pay off in the form of funding for a significant portion of your college tuition. Just remember that grants and scholarships are free, whereas loans must be paid back.

    Related: Where and how to get the best deals on college textbooks

    Contact your high school guidance counselor. If you are an upcoming first-year student, make a date with your high school guidance counselor. He or she can point you towards the best resources for identifying scholarships you may be eligible for based on your geographic region, grades, and achievements. The counselor may also have historical data on specific grants and scholarships that indicate previous students'

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  • Why Now is the Time to Sign Up for Amazon Prime

    By Emily Lugg,

    Amazon is upping the cost of a yearly Prime membership to $99 from $79, a 25 percent increase, and raising the Amazon Prime price for students to $49 from $39. Despite the higher prices, the benefits remain the same: free two-day shipping on "millions" of items, Prime Instant Video (Amazon's answer to Netflix), and access to the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. Still, a membership is worth the higher fee for many consumers -- and there are ways around the price hike if you act fast.

    For starters, customers who sign up for a free 30-day trial by March 19 can secure the $79 rate for one year. Current memberships that expire before April 17 also carry the option of one more year at the $79 price. If your membership comes up for renewal after that date, however, your next bill will reflect the increase.

    Related: Online shipping: which retailer has the best rates?

    We've seen some creative suggestions for circumventing the hike, if only temporarily. A

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