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7 False Money-Saving Tricks You Try That Might Be Making You Poor

These ‘secrets’ to save money on flights, gas, and groceries can actually backfire on your budget.

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You use travel sites, not airlines, to book flights

Now that travel sites like Expedia are doing such brisk business, airlines are fighting for their own pieces of the profits. Many carriers now offer lowest-price-guaranteed fares on their own websites, and waive the booking fees that the big travel sites often tack on to your reservation. And if you’re wondering why you’re not finding fares for some of your favorite bargain airlines, like Southwest or JetBlue, on these big travel sites, it’s because these airlines don’t always release their inventory to travel superstores. That’s yet another reason to do some extra sleuthing on your preferred carrier’s web page before finalizing your reservations. Don’t miss more savvy ways to save money online.

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You ‘top off’ your gas tank

Those little squirts of gas you try to add to your tank at the end of a filling often end up staying in the hose. That means you’ve actually given gas away to the next user of your pump! Here are other money mistakes you didn’t realize you’re making.

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You always turn off lights when you leave a room

Think you’re doing your electric bill a favor? Turning off compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs and can last up to 10 times longer, when you leave a room for less than 15 minutes actually costs more than leaving them on. So if you are likely to be back in that part of your house soon, leave the lights on to save. Try these tricks to save money on your electricity bill, instead.

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You cut up extra credit cards

Yes, it’s smart to reduce your temptation to splurge by destroying cards. But if you actually cancel them, it could hurt your credit rating. Here’s why: Lenders worry about how close you are to using all the credit available to you. If you close an account, you lose its credit line. As a result, you are using a greater portion of the reduced amount you can now borrow. How many cards do you need? While the average American household has nine, two or three active cards should be plenty. (By the way, these are the times you should never, ever use your credit card.)

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You fall for common grocery store promotions

Here’s a well-kept secret: When a grocery store advertises a special (say, buy 10 containers of yogurt for $5), you don’t have to buy the number of items they’re advertising. In this case, you could buy one container for 50 cents. Unless the store specifically states otherwise, you should buy as few as you want. Also: Don’t fall for limits. Keep your money in your purse when you see signs like “Limit six per customer. Stores know that customers will buy more of an item if they think there’s a shortage, and there generally isn’t. Check out 50 more supermarket tricks you still fall for.

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You dropped your wholesale club membership (and no longer use the pharmacy)

If you decide to stop paying for a wholesale club membership, you can still buy prescriptions there even if you’re not a member. The pharmacy may tack on a small fee, but you have the right under federal law to fill prescriptions at any pharmacy, so tell the person asking for your ID at the front door that you’re only visiting the pharmacy. (But don’t get carried away; you won’t be able to buy anything else without a club membership ID). Learn more tips to wholesale shop without a membership card.

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You frequent discount stores

They tempt you not only with their excellent bargains, but also with their, “I don’t know what I was thinking when I bought this” impulse buys. How can you avoid these temptations? Avoid the shopping cart. Buy only what you can carry in your arms. You’ll end up buying only what you really need and want. Here are 56 more almost effortless ways to save money.

Get More Smart Ways to Save

The new book Reader’s Digest Quintessential Guide to Saving Money offers dozens of secrets tricks to cut household bills, find unexpected sales and freebies, make the most of your health care, and more. Learn more and buy the book here.