Squeezing a nickel in uncertain economy

With bad economic news everywhere — plunging 401(k)s, credit card rates increasing even for people who pay their bills on time, layoffs — Consumer Reports recently asked its staff and readers for tips on how to squeeze a nickel.
“These tips show that it’s important to be creative when trying to cope with the recession,” said Kim Kleman, editor in chief of Consumer Reports. “Following Consumer Reports’ tips can help people put a little back into their wallets during these difficult times.”
Here is a sampling of CR’s tips on how to save on traveling, entertainment, household repairs, groceries, reducing monthly bills and more.
— The Web site www.billshrink.com can help you analyze your cell-phone bill to determine whether you’ll save money with a different plan.
— Call up your Internet, phone and cable companies and try to get a better deal. It could cut your bill in half.
— Many plumbing fixtures have a lifetime warranty. Try calling to get parts sent for free.
— Rent an apartment when you’re on vacation. You live like a local and it’s cheap.
— Forego buying tub and toilet cleaners. Consider using white vinegar and baking soda for cleaning chores.
— Flatten the toilet paper roll a bit. It doesn’t spin around as much and waste paper.
— In the supermarket, look at the unit price. Many items such as tuna have a quantity surcharge — the bigger container has a higher unit price than the smaller one.
— Buy kitchenware such as pots, pans and knives at kitchen-supply wholesalers. Many are open to the general public.
— When shopping online, check Google for a coupon for the site before checking out.
— Borrow books and videos from the library rather than paying at a bookstore or video store.
— Don’t buy liners for wastebaskets. Just reuse plastic grocery bags.
— Use newspaper instead of paper towels to clean exterior windows and glass doors.
— Instead of throwing out the plastic from the dry cleaner, tie a knot at the bottom to close up the hanger hole and use it as a trash-can liner.
— Failed a car emissions inspection? According to CR, by law, emissions controls have an 80,000 mile/8-year warranty. Many parts might be free.
— Fix a broken umbrella rather than buying a new one by sewing the fabric back onto the metal arm. It’s just attached by a thread.
— Skip the live, big-name concert and buy the concert DVD instead. They cost around $20 — not $80 to $400. There’s no parking charge and no guy behind you singing along.
— Be your own landscaper. Doing basic lawn care yourself is good for you — and for your wallet.
— Grow annuals from seeds. It’s much easier to buy flats, but seeds are very inexpensive.
— Rather than buy plants, trade plant clippings with friends. They’re free!
— Don’t go to coin machines that charge to convert change to bills. CR points out that some banks offer that service free.
— Set up a direct deposit into a savings account. You’ll soon get used to not having that amount available in every paycheck.
— Put every $5 bill you get as change in a drawer.
— When traveling, take your own sandwich on the plane and fill up your water bottle after you go through security.
— Look for half off weekend rentals from Hertz and Avis on their Web sites.
— Book a breathtaking campsite for as little as $25 a night at www.reserveamerica.com, a gateway for many state and federal park services. You can take your own tent or rent a rustic cabin.
— Ask a hotel if it will price-match deals found online.
— Rent an apartment on vacation. You live like a local and it’s cheap.
— If you must have it today, wait until tomorrow to buy it.

Visit the Consumer Reports Web site at www.consumerreports.org.

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