(MONEY Magazine) – TIP 1
Chop your bills this fall
Maybe you blew a little dough this summer. Fine. But with inflation climbing--it recently clocked in at 4.3%--it's time again to get smart. For fall, a few clever bill-cutting tips:
• GET FREE MONEY AT THE OFFICE Some 37% of employers reimburse for gym fees and 64% help with graduate tuition, but one study says more than 90% of employees entitled to such perks leave the money on the table. Before you begin self-improving this fall, call HR.
• SAVE JUNK MAIL Keep an eye out for cable-TV wars. Chances are good that your bill will be lowered if you present a better offer from a rival and ask your company to match it.
• OUTSMART YOUR GROCER Recently, foodmakers have passed along high packaging and fuel costs to you. Just say no by joining TheGroceryGame.com; for $10 every eight weeks, it tells you what's on sale at your market and checks for coupons. One shopper on the site claims to have gotten $328 worth of groceries for $123. --CAROLYN BIGDA
Don't let textbooks weigh on your purse
Your scion is off to college, and uh-oh, another $900, on average, for textbooks! Unless, that is, you and your scholar use these tricks to lighten the load:
• COMPARISON SHOP BestBookBuys.com and Bookfinder.com scour Web retailers for low prices, including estimated taxes and shipping costs.
• STAY LOCAL BooksOnCampus.com, CampusBookswap.com and other free networking sites match buyers and sellers by school. Barter online and do the deal in person--sellers can earn more than they would from the campus store's buybacks, and buyers avoid tax and shipping charges.
• BROADEN YOUR SCOPE Save up to 90% by purchasing international editions, found through domestic online retailers like Abebooks.com. Students likely won't notice subtle differences, such as cheaper paper. And if they do, they won't care. --ARIELLE MCGOWEN
Get your peace dividend
Little-known fact: To help finance the Spanish-American War, the U.S. levied a 3% tax on long-distance phone service. Littler-known fact: Until recently you were still paying it. (Well-known fact: The war ended in 1898.) After 108 years of peace with Spain, on your 2006 return you'll be able to claim a credit for the past three years' worth of taxes.
• HOW TO COLLECT The IRS will offer two options for claiming the refund. The standard amount, which requires no documentation, will be around $50 (the average tax paid over the past three years). If you spend hours gabbing with someone two states away and want to claim more, scan old bills for the "federal excise tax" line item. --PENELOPE WANG
...Got gas? Random tip from the new book The Gas Mileage Bible: Driving with less than a quarter of a tank can clog fuel lines and lower mileage...
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