25 ways to save money in the new year

Sick of scrimping and saving and never seeming to get ahead? Well, we've found lots of small savings can add up big. These easy penny-pinching tricks let you preserve more of your paycheck.

Food and Drug Items

1. Shop the ethnic-food aisles. Spices, rice, and other staples are sometimes half the price of similar name-brand items at the supermarket.

2. Ask how a particular promotion works. For example, a "10 for $10" sale may not require that you purchase 10 items; you might be able to buy only what you need and still get the reduced price. (Use a coupon, and you just might end up paying nothing.)

3. Sign up for store loyalty cards. You'll get generous coupons for products that you tend to buy regularly.

4. Feeling high-tech? Try downloading online coupons onto your grocer's loyalty card. At shortcuts.com, you choose the coupons, add them to an account tied to the loyalty program, and redeem them when you show the cashier your card.

5. Visit grocery stores' Websites to find valuable savings coupons that you can print and take with you when you go shopping. When it's not prohibited, combine coupons issued by the store and those offered by the manufacturer for the same item.

6. Ask whether the store matches the advertised prices of its nearby competitors. If so, save time by bringing in other stores' flyers, and then get all of your savings in one place. And if the store accepts its competitors' coupons, bring those in with you, too.

7. Take advantage of savings programs from drugstore and discount chains. When you combine drugstores' automatic-rebate programs with their coupons and sales, you can occasionally wind up getting certain items for free. In some cases, you can even receive money back! For the latest national-drugstore bargains, visit couponmom.com.

(Related: How to Save Big by Stacking Discounts)

Fuel Costs

8. Whenever possible, gas up your car at superstore fuel centers, where the average cost per gallon tends to be lower than at local service stations. Some superstores offer fuel discounts based on your grocery tab. And search for stations that will charge less if you pay cash. For the lowest gasoline prices in your area, visit the gasbuddy.com site.

9. Keep tires inflated to the proper pressure; that will improve your gas mileage by about 3 percent or so (check the sticker on the driver-side door for your car's correct tire pressure). And try to chuck all the junk from the trunk: An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle reduces mpg by about 2 percent. Driving with the air-conditioning on can increase your gasoline consumption up to 11 percent, too. Unless it's unbearably hot, roll down the windows, or apply solar film to the inside of them so the car's interior stays cool.

(Related: Drive Down Car Costs)

10. You can slice off 1 to 2 percent by unplugging major electronics when you're not using them. "Unplug one fax, one computer monitor, and one TV, and you could save more than $70 a year," says Brad Stroh, CEO of bills.com, a consumer-finance Website in San Mateo, CA.

Online Goodies

11. Snap up deals from grocers' online photo centers. The per-print cost is often low (starting at about nine cents a photo); uploading from home is remarkably easy; and you can pick up the pictures in the store, eliminating any expensive shipping costs. Sign up for your store's e-mail newsletter, and you'll receive coupons and special offers, such as free prints for new customers or free enlargements.

12. Before you purchase an item, check for any online discounts. Retailmenot.com amasses coupon codes for discounts at 15,000 online merchants. After you enter the e-tailer's Web address, you will get a code to receive your price break. Go mobile with cellfire.com, a site that lets you access coupons on your cell phone. Then you show the code on your tiny screen when you are at checkout.

13. Sign up for free samples of health and beauty products online. You can order them at sites such as freeflys.com, mysavings.com, startsampling.com, and Wal-Mart's instoresnow.walmart.com. You may need to answer a few questions, but you generally won't have to pay for shipping. And at these sites, you won't be put on spam lists.

(Related: Our Good Deals blogger scours the web every day for the best bargains.)

Family Fun

14. Zap exorbitant vacation costs by swapping homes with another family. It's not too late in the season to make a trade. Home-exchange networks charge $65 to $229 for listing your home in an online directory. You'll find huge selections in the United States and abroad on intervac.com, homelink.org, homeexchange.com, and Vacation Rentals By Owner (vrbo.com). The Intervac site refunds its $95 annual membership fee if you don't get an exchange arranged within a year of signing up. Only In America Home Exchange (exchangehomesoia.com) is exactly what it sounds like and has no membership fee. Also free: asking friends or friends of friends if they're interested in a vacation switcheroo. You might even be able to swap automobiles and save yourself the cost of a car rental.

15. Try an urban vacation. Maybe Chicago or Philadelphia aren't the first places that come to mind when you think of a family vacation. But consider this: While prices at the beach and resorts spike in summer, business travel slumps - so many big-city tourist bureaus offer bargains, especially on weekends. Subway passes make transportation inexpensive and easy. And 11 metropolises (including New York City and Seattle) have passes that will admit you to attractions at up to 50 percent off the full-price ticket (cost: $34 to $247; citypass.com).

16. Buy an Entertainment Book of discount coupons; 150 areas have them (entertainment.com). In early summer, these guides sell for their lowest price of the year (about $10 per book). You can buy a book for the city you're visiting to receive "buy one, get one free" coupons for restaurants, museums, and other attractions. Once you register at the site, you can get 50 percent off hotels, discounts on rental cars, a 5 percent coupon for American Airlines, and rebates. You can also print out coupons for attractions in other cities.

17. Check out the popular travel-destination Websites like frommers.com and fodors.com for excellent insider tips on how to get discounted rates at popular attractions or to find out about free events. For example, entering San Diego at the Frommer's site and selecting "Free Attractions" recently turned up several museums with free admission one Tuesday per month.

18. Hire a personal camp counselor. Join forces with a few other local families and pay a responsible high school student or two to care for all your children during the day. The kids will enjoy many of the same types of activities as at a local day camp - at less than half the cost.

Flights and Hotels

19. Register with "fare watcher" services at the major travel search engines, like expedia.com and travelocity.com. You'll be alerted when the price drops for the ticket you want. Most sites let you select a flexible-date option to help find the lowest prices for flights.

20. Look for weekend Web deals on airlines' sites to take advantage of rock-bottom last-minute fares. Yapta.com may even get you money back if a fare has dropped since you bought the ticket.

21. Get indirect savings on travel spending. The Website upromise.com lets you earn free money in a college-savings account by booking travel. You can also earn 1 to 8 percent of your spending on hotels, car rentals, airlines, restaurants, and vacation packages.

22. Score a deal on the price of airport parking at the site longtermparking.com. You may snag a coupon to cut your cost in half.

23. When booking a hotel room, don't forget to ask about any freebies. Breakfast, parking, Internet access, or airport shuttle service included in the price of lodging can mean big savings for families.

24. Try using bidding sites such as biddingfortravel.com to stay for the lowest price.

25. Save on hotel parking charges by checking nearby parking-garage options ahead of time. You could avoid paying $25 or so per day for valet parking just by using the garage across the street.

More Money-Saving Advice from Good Housekeeping:
40+ Ways to Survive a Recession
Save $100 a Month!
7 Steps to Living Debt-Free
Get Free Coupons
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