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Before the recession, expert advice on saving money frequently revolved around giving up luxuries -- from $4 lattes to $4,000 ski vacations. But these days, many of us already have cut the fat, and are still struggling to make ends meet. Fortunately, Jeff Yeager, author of The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches, says there are many frequently-overlooked strategies for holding on to your cash.
1. Get Out of Hot Water
Yeager says lowering the cost of heating your hot water -- which accounts for about 15 percent of the average heating bill -- is easy and cheap. By taking a few simple steps, homeowners can cut the cost of heating their water in half, lopping 7.5 percent off their total heating bill. Yeager's suggestions: Wash clothes in cold water only; install a more efficient shower head; insulate your hot water heater and turn the temperature down to 110 degrees; and install a timer that shuts the heat off completely at night.
2. Don't Drive to School
Forty years ago, nearly half of all children walked or rode their bikes to school; now less than 15 percent do, and only 25 percent of kids who live within a mile of their school get there by their own power. Allowing kids to hoof it to class will save on gas and wear and tear on your car, and keep your young scholars healthier and more independent. For parents who worry that the world is a more dangerous place than when they were kids, Lenore Skenazy, author of Free Range Kids, points out that although the crime rate rose in the 1970s and 1980s, it peaked in 1993, when it began dropping. Now it is virtually the same as it was in 1970.
3. Stop Buying Cleaning Products
Instead of purchasing your cleaners, keep a box of baking soda and a bottle of vinegar below your kitchen and bathroom sinks. "Individually or combined, you can clean most everything in your house—and most parts of your body—with these super cheap, environmentally saintly products," says Yeager.
4. Make the Supermarket Your ATM
Out of cash and far away from your bank? Instead of getting socked with hefty fees for withdrawing from an ATM not operated by your bank, just pop into a supermarket or big-chain drugstore and buy something inexpensive that you already need -- a dozen eggs, a bottle of aspirin -- and get cash back with your debit card. "Sometimes I'll be in my local supermarket and buy a two-liter bottle of soda for $1 and get $50 cash back," says Yeager. "The same store has an ATM that costs about $3.50 a pop, and people actually use it! It blows me away!"
5. Drive a Stick Shift
Cars with manual transmissions cost less, are more fuel-efficient, and lighter on your car's brakes. These transmissions are also less expensive to replace. Yeager estimates that switching to a stick shift can save you about $50,000 over the course of your lifetime. He also points out that it's a useful skill to have if you're a traveler, since cars with automatic transmissions are hard to find outside the United States.
6. Pay in Cash
Studies show what we all know instinctually: If you're buying a $100 pair of boots, it's much more painful to fork over five $20s than to swipe a credit card. Yeager says that not only do we buy more with credit cards, but research shows that we're also willing to pay 30 percent more for the same item when we're paying with plastic. "Paying with cash can also be a welcome hurdle, since it can discourage spontaneous buying if you have to run out to the ATM," he says.
7. Say "No" to Bank Fees
From stop-payment fees to charges for new checks, Yeager says that almost everything is negotiable with your local bank. "I do all my banking with one bank and I don't pay any fees," he says, explaining that because banks are service industries with heavy competition, tellers and branch mangers are frequently willing to cut deals with good customers. "If they ever ask, I say I just don't want to pay it, and they always waive it." Ditto for credit card companies, who will often drop late-payment charges or lower interest rates when asked. "This is just applying to your own personal situation what businesses have always done," Yeager says. "Most people don't realize the world works that way, but it does."
8. Split Your Mortgage Payments
Arrange with your lender to get billed for your mortgage twice a month, rather than once a month. At the end of the year, you'll have made 26 half-month payments, rather than 12 full-month ones -- so you'll have paid an extra month without feeling the pinch. You'll also lower the amount of interest you pay over the course of the loan, since the earlier you pay, the less interest accrues. "This could save you ten of thousands over the course of a 30-year mortgage," says Yeager.
9. Stop Paying for Water
Remember when water was free? Guess what -- it still is! So dig out that thermos or water bottle from the back of your cupboard and stash it in your purse or briefcase. You'll never have to spring for a $2 bottle of water again.
10. Plant a Garden
Cut your grocery bill by growing your own fruits, vegetables and herbs -- and maybe selling a few, too. Gardening is a fun, inexpensive hobby, provided you avoid the pricey gear and gadget stores that have cropped up recently. "Gardening went from being a humble just-me-and-the-dirt kind of hobby to something that suddenly required a special $40 tool," says Yeager. "But the truth is, you don't need to spend a lot of money on gardening if you don't want to."