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Saving Money

Pay Less on Transportation Costs

1. Save on Gas: The exhilarating drop in gas prices was welcome relief after last summer's run-up. But even at current prices, you can save big by altering your driving behavior.

Keep your cool. Easing up on aggressive driving can cut your fuel consumption by 35%. Speeding is the biggest culprit, but drag-race-inspired peal-outs and jerky lane changes also shave miles per gallon. SAVINGS: $400

Get rid of the junk in your trunk. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle costs you. SAVINGS: $30

Maintain your vehicle by keeping your engine properly tuned and tires inflated, replacing air filters regularly and using the right grade of motor oil. SAVINGS: $348

Annual Savings: $778
(based on studies using the best-selling Toyota Camry V6)

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2. Buy a Fuel-Efficient Car: If you're in the market for a new car this year, you're in the driver's seat when it comes to haggling over price. But you can save even more by choosing a fuel-sipping model -- and it doesn't have to be a hybrid.

Set your sights on 30 miles per gallon. The Toyota Corolla or Honda Fit will deliver that, compared with 20 mpg for the Ford Taurus V6 or Chevrolet Impala V6. SAVINGS: $550

Downsizing from a gas guzzler also does the trick. Not all trade-downs are equal, though. For example, beware of swapping a relatively new large crossover for a smaller one with better gas mileage. The money you lose by trading in a newer vehicle (cars typically lose 40% to 50% of their value in the first three years of ownership) may be more than the money you save on gas. One example of a smart new-car downsize: Swap a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe AWD for a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen. You'll save on both gas and monthly payments without losing all your cargo space. SAVINGS: $1,031

Annual Savings: $1,581
(if both changes are made by a two-car family)

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3. Rent Cars Cheaply: Rent off-site instead of at the airport or hotel to cut a concession fee. Savings: $77 Pay for your own gas. Prepaid rates are often close to pump prices, but unless you return the car on empty, you're paying for fuel you didn't use. SAVINGS: $40

Turn down the collision-damage waiver. Your own auto policy generally covers rental-car damage. SAVINGS: $81

Use a discount site, such as Hotwire.com. SAVINGS: $70

Annual Savings: $268
(based on one one-week rental at $50 per day)

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4. Cut Your Commute: The average commute is 30 miles round-trip per day. If you reduce your driving time by one day per week by telecommuting or carpooling, you'll drive 3,120 fewer miles per year. Reducing the miles you drive in a year can also cut your car-insurance premium.

Annual Savings: $200
(not counting the big reduction in stress)

TOTAL ANNUAL TRANSPORTATION SAVINGS: $2,827


Slideshow: Top Savings Tips for 2009
Save $50 a Day
Pay Less for Banking & Loans
Pay Less for Health and Insurance Costs
Pay Less for Utilities
Pay Less for Food
Pay Less for Transportation
Pay Less for Investing Costs
Pay Less for Leisure
Pay Less for Must-Have Trends
PLUS: How These Super Savers Do It