Mellody's Math: Everyday Money-Saving Secrets

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Of course, the answer to the TV game show question is a simple one: Everybody.

While winning a million dollars may be out of reach for most of us, we can still find hundreds and even thousands of extra dollars in our own personal budgets by making judicious decisions and taking advantage of some extraordinary money-saving opportunities.

Here are 10 easy ways to save money, and even some ways to make money.

Join the Club

Who say's getting older is a bad thing? Anyone who is 50 years of age or older can join the AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) to receive discounts on everything from rental cars to admission to national parks. The cost to enroll is just $12.50 a year. (aarp.org)

Another club that offers a wide range of discounts to its members is the American Automobile Association, more commonly known as AAA or Triple A (csaa.com). Besides providing roadside service to members approximately 30 million times yearly, AAA membership opens the door to discounts on everything from hotel rooms to homeowner's insurance. AAA's annual $52 fee entitles members to discounts at restaurants, movie theaters, sporting events, amusement parks and a vast array of travel-related ventures.

Regular Rebates

Aside from the fee-based, discount membership organizations, there are other clubs worth joining to save significant amounts of money. One of them is Upromise, Inc. (upromise.com), which takes a percentage of the money its members spend at various retailers and service companies and deposits it into a savings or investment account. Enrollment to Upromise is free and members can link their phone bills, grocery store purchases and fill-ups at the gas station to the club in order to get money back.

Similar to frequent flier programs, which award miles for every purchase, Upromise members are credited with a percentage rebate each time they make a purchase at a participating Upromise vendor or with their Upromise credit card. Upromise estimates that families can save between $13,000 and $20,000 (assuming an annual return of 8 percent) over a period of 15 years. Members are given the choice of either enrolling in a 529 plan with a Upromise partner to invest their money, or leaving it in a Upromise account where it sits (without any interest gain) until the member decides to make a withdrawal.

Skip Car Rental Insurance, Inflate Your Tires

You can likely skip the rental car insurance next time you rent a car. If you own a car, your personal auto insurance will probably cover you in the event of an accident. Also, most credit card companies offer rental car coverage to credit card holders as long as they pay for the rental car with that particular card. The best way to make sure you are not paying twice for car insurance coverage is to call your insurance agent and/or credit card company before renting a car to see if you are covered. The savings could be substantial. Major rental car companies such as Hertz and Avis charge $10.50 a day for a loss damage waiver for car renters. (Price is based on renting a car in Chicago.)

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