3 ways to save money this spring

By George Mannes, senior writer


(Money Magazine) -- 1. Book a sweet getaway

Why: An early Easter (April 4) marks the end of spring break in the Caribbean -- and the start of bargain season for vacation packages. If you like your skiing on snow, not water, snag deals at Canadian Olympic ski venue Whistler Blackcomb, since host locales usually suffer a post-game decline in tourist traffic.

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What to do: For last-minute deals and extras such as free meals, sign up for all the airline and hotel-chain loyalty programs and newsletters you can, says George Hobica, founder of airfarewatchdog.com. And check kayak.com.

2. Stop lending to Uncle Sam

Why: Fancy a raise come spring? With the average federal tax refund around $2,700, chances are you've been giving the government an interest-free loan by having too much money pulled out of your paycheck. Turn over a little less each pay period and you'll have an extra $50 a week to tuck into your wallet -- or your bank account.

What to do: With your most recent pay stubs and tax return handy, go to irs.gov and use the withholding calculator to get specific instructions for filling out new W-4s. Your payroll department will adjust your withholding accordingly.

3. Go crazy at the drugstore

Why: Didn't cash out your 2009 flexible spending account by Dec. 31? Maybe there's still time. About a third of employers that offer such plans let you tap last year's account until March 15, according to Hewitt Associates.

What to do: Think beyond doctor-visit co-pays: Qualifying expenses may include contact-lens solution, acupuncture, home pregnancy tests, and even Botox (if you have migraines). Check with human resources -- and get busy.  To top of page

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