20 ways to save money

Looking to shave a few dollars off your budget but don’t know where to start. Here are some tips on stretching your funds during these challenging economic times.

1. Do breakfast or lunch out instead of dinner.

2. Pump regular instead of premium. Many cars run just fine on regular gasoline. In fact, engines designed for regular fuel may run worse on premium blends.

3. Accessorize. Give new life to last year’s frocks with cheap jewelry from teenybopper stores like Forever 21, or discounters like Wal-Mart and Target.

4. Maximize your bank accounts. Spend 15 minutes with your banker to find out if you could be earning higher interest or earn bank rewards.

5. Use the library. But return books on time to avoid fines.

6. Look into your medical reimbursement plan. Talk with your employer’s benefits rep to see if you could save money on known medical expenses.

7. Shop only for what you’ll eat in a day. Strategic daily grocery shopping means you’ll enjoy fresher foods daily and won’t be left with bulk that never gets used.

8. Switch auto insurers, or ask your insurer to give you a better rate.

9. Call your utilities and ask for a better plan/rate. Cell phone carriers will tell you if you can change your plan and get a better rate. Cable companies and other utilities may have cheaper plans too.

10. Use your bank’s rewards program. You might be earning valuable points each time you use your debit card. Cash them in for air tickets, household goods and more.

11. Turn the thermostat way down at night.

12. Sell the extra gym membership you’re not using.

13. Skip the vending machine and buy soft drinks at the supermarket.

14. Be a group person. Look into deals from your alumni association or any other organization on things like insurance, car rentals or travel.

15. Buy the large tub of yogurt and portion it out yourself.

16. Challenge your property tax assessment. Go to your county assessor’s Web site for guidance. Reductions are not uncommon.

17. Shop resell before retail. From books to beds, clothing to cars, think used.

18. Order the bottle. If everyone at your table is ordering wine, don’t order by the glass. One bottle yields four to six glasses. You’ll usually come out ahead of the per-glass price.

19. Use rags or sponges instead of paper towels for cleaning. Damp sponges may be zapped for a minute in the microwave to kill germs.

20. Call your credit card issuers and ask for a better rate — or to have that late fee removed. Credit card companies usually allow two courtesy removals of late fees (which can top $40) if you call right away and ask forgiveness. Ask for a better interest rate too — you don’t have to drive a hard bargain to do this. They don’t want to see you taking your business elsewhere.