The recession has changed consumers’ outlook on shopping, turning almost everyone into regular bargain hunters. But, according to a report in ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, there are deals to be had and new ways to save.

“For many of us, it’s no longer enough to simply get a good deal; we want to feel like we won the game and scored big,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart.

Below is a sampling of some of ShopSmart’s best money saving advice in seven categories:

HOME

* No brainer! Switch bulbs: Replace your incandescent lightbulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs. You’ll save about $56 over the life of each bulb.

* Call your home and auto insurers: Make sure you’re taking advantage of every discount (ask your agent). Consider raising your deductibles; if they’re $500, think about increasing them to $1,000. (Filing too many small claims might raise your rates anyway.)

HEALTH & FITNESS

* No brainer! Buy generics: They’re just as effective as name-brand drugs for diabetes, heartburn, high cholesterol, insomnia, and other conditions. Also shop for store-brand over-the-counter medications. They have the same active ingredients as the big-name brands but can save you as much as 70 percent.

* Get free fitness and nutrition advice. Go on to websites like AceFitness.org, Eatright.org, LogYourRun.com, and SparkPeople.com. If you’ve got a smart phone, try apps like Gym Buddy, Hundred PushUps, Treadmill, and Lose It.

FASHION & BEAUTY

* No brainer! Don’t leave home without coupons: Keep them in your glove box or your purse so that you never get caught without them. If you don’t have coupons, go to retailer sites like LordandTaylor.com and Macys.com to see whether there are any available. (You might have to sign up for e-mail newsletters.) Or type the name of the retailer or mall (including outlet malls) into a search engine along with “coupon” or “discount code.”

* Get deals on spa services. Before booking appointments, ask about off-season deals and other specials; search sites such as SpaFinder.com, Spamagazine.com, and Spa-addicts.com for special deals; and call cosmetology and massage schools for discounted services by students.

TRAVEL

* No brainer! Book on discount sites: If you don’t have your heart set on a particular hotel or airline, use Hotwire and Priceline, which can save you 40 percent or more. (Just be warned: You won’t know details like the exact hotel or airline until after you’ve paid. And all sales are final.)

* Check for codes. Slash airline ticket costs by up to 50 percent with discount or promo codes at sites such as Airfarewatchdog.com and FareCompare.com. Or go to airline websites; you might have to join the frequent-flyer clubs for access. (Don’t miss American’s DealFinder and Southwest’s Ding services.) If you have trouble finding codes, do a search with the airline’s name and “promo codes.”

GROCERIES

* No brainer! Click before you shop: Don’t rely on the Sunday paper alone for coupons. Check out CoolSavings.com, Coupons.com, GrocerySmarts.com, SmartSource.com, and Shortcuts.com, as well as manufacturer websites like Iams.com and Tide.com.

* Skip the supermarket one or two weeks a year. Challenge yourself to eat out of your cupboards and use up the forgotten clutter. To figure out how to use that can of mushrooms and those beans, go to sites such as Allrecipes.com and epicurious.com, where you can plug in ingredients and turn them into tasty meals.

CARS

* No brainer! Find the cheapest gas: Before you fuel up, check sites such as GasBuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com.

* Drop unnecessary coverage. If you have an older car that’s worth less than 10 times your annual collision and comprehensive premiums, you don’t need that coverage because your premiums will probably cost more than you’d recover in a claim after your deductible.

ELECTRONICS

* No brainer! If you haven’t already signed up for bundled telecom services, do it now: You can save hundreds a year on TV, phone, and Internet service bills by making sure you’re always paying promotional rates. When one promotion ends, switch (or threaten to switch) to a competitor. And don’t be shy about negotiating lower fees or rates. Also ask for a sample bill or a summary of all charges for the first few months. Confirm that the figures include all taxes, fees, and one-time expenses.

* Get cheap ink. Instead of buying new printer ink cartridges, get the empties refilled at some Costco, Office Depot, Office Max, and Walgreens stores or through Print Pal by mail. Don’t bother with bargain-priced off-brand color inks for home photo printers. Page for page, they provide tiny or no savings—or cost more than the brand-name inks.

ShopSmart is available by subscription at www.ShopSmartmag.org.


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