11 ways to save money online

By Linda Rosencrance, Computerworld |  Internet, ecommerce, recession

Maybe you've heard: We're in an economic downturn. For that reason, most of us are tightening our belts and looking for deals. So to help you keep more of your cash, here's a list of 11 ways you can go online to save money. Some of these sites aren't new, but they bear repeating as a guide in turbulent financial times. We welcome you to add your own suggestions in the "comments" field at the end of this story.

1. Buy used hardware online
You can find all sorts of computers, computer equipment and other hardware at eBay.

The DMOZ Web site provides links to a number of resellers of used computer equipment (we haven't checked them all out so we can't guarantee all the links are still active).

Abacus Computing offers second hand computer equipment.

CCNY offers used and refurbished gear from such vendors as Sun Microsystems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.

2. Free Web development tools
Here are some sites to help you find some free Web development tools.

BittBox offers free graphic design downloads and tutorials.
Softwaredeveloper.com offers users free downloads and tips.
Work Boxers, a blog about professional Web development also offers free downloads.

At Smashing Magazine you can get information about software, applications and other online tools that you can be downloaded for free.

3. Compare gas prices online
These Web sites that help you find the cheapest gas prices in your city or even your neighborhood. Plug in your ZIP code and you'll get the latest on the lowest prices.

Gas Buddy is a network of more than 181 gas price information Web sites for the U.S. and Canada that help you find low gasoline prices. To provide the most up-to-date information, GasBuddy asks drivers to enter information about the prices at gas stations they frequent.

MSN AUTOS receives pricing data from more than 90,000 gas stations in the U.S. each night. However, the site warns that prices may change more frequently than it obtains them.

Motor Trend Gas Prices is updated daily with new data from approximately 100,000 gas stations and convenience stores across the U.S. Like MSN AUTOS, Motor Trends doesn't guarantee the accuracy of the prices it displays.

Mapquest Gas Prices lets you browse by state and drill down by city. This site updates gas prices seven times a day, and does not display any price that is older than 48 hours.

4. Find the best gas credit card online
Now that you know where to find the best gas prices, here are a couple of Web sites to help you find a credit card that offers cash back on gas (and other purchases).

Card Fusion offers a "Gas Cash Back Credit Cards" category that feature cards that give you cash back for buying gas. "With Gas prices at its historic highest these cards will save you a lot," according to the Card Fusion.

Card Ratings offers Gas Rebate Credit Cards that offer up to 5% rebates on purchases at gas stations as well as on other purchases.

5. Shop for a car online
Use the Internet to save money when you purchase your next car.

Cars.com provides pricing information for new and used cars, side-by-side comparison tools, photo galleries, videos, a large new and used-car inventory, and a lot of advice to help you with your buying decision. Cars.com also provides daily tips on how to save money on gas.

Yahoo Inc.'s auto site provides much of the same information as Cars.com. The Research Center offers pictures, reviews, interior views, quotes from local dealers and a tool to help find rebates and other incentives by make and model. You can also find everything you wanted to know about environmentally friendly vehicles in the Green Center.

Log on to Edmunds.com and you can get pricing, unbiased car reviews, ratings and expert advice for getting a fair price on a vehicle as well as the latest incentives and the deals of the month. If you're planning to sell or trade in a vehicle, this site can determine how much it's worth.

6. Find the best deals on insurance
Use these and other Web sites to find the best deals on various types of insurance including auto, life, home, health, disability and long-term care.

Insure.com provides instant up-to-date quotes from more than 200 insurers, including 30 life insurance companies. The site also allows you to purchase insurance from the company you select.

Like Insure.com Insurance.com brings insurance companies together in one place to compete for your business. By comparing rates, you can pick the company and buy the policy that's right for you, either online or by talking directly with a licensed agent.

7. Use online directories instead of calling directory assistance
It costs as much a US$1 to call directory assistance for a telephone number. Instead, try using free sites, such as Anywho.com, Switchboard.com, AT&T Corp.'s online directory assistance Web site. Other sites can be found by doing an online search engine and typing in "free online telephone directories."

8. Online coupons or coupon codes save money on online and offline purchases
Try these Web sites to get started: Printable Coupons, as its name suggests, lets you print out coupons for groceries, restaurants, retail stores and other locations, including coupons you can use in Las Vegas. RetailMeNot.com offers consumers an easy way to find online coupon codes that are entered into the checkout page at the participating merchants for instant savings; UltimateCoupons.com helps you find such things as coupons, sales and special deals including free shipping. This site offers primarily online coupons but also offers some printable coupons.

9. Read books online
Why pay for books or buy an expensive e-book reader when you can read certain books for free online or download them to a PDA or iPod?

The Readbookonline.net Web site offers about 1,000 mostly classic texts, including novels, short stories, poems, essays and plays. Many of these books are from such well-known authors as William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Robert Frost, Edgar Allan Poe, Alexander Pope, Arthur Conan Doyle and Jane Austen.

Download free books to your PDA or iPod at ManyBooks.net. You can browse through the most popular titles, view recommendations, and read recent reviews written by other visitors. There are 21,220 eBooks available at this site.

At The Literature Network offers users more than 2,700 books and 3,800 short stories.

10. Rent textbooks online
Speaking of books, you can save some money on college textbooks by renting them instead of buying them.

Founded in 2006, Bookrenter.com lets students at schools across the country rent textbooks. Bookrenter, which says it has millions of titles to choose from, offers rentals for one to four months. There are no late fees and you can opt to extend a rental period or buy a book. The company also offers free return shipping.

Chegg.com also offers textbook rentals. Chegg says it offers students over a million titles to choose from, and free return shipping. But Chegg goes a step farther than other companies; Chegg says it plants a tree for every textbook rented. Since its inception in August, Chegg says it has planted over 100 acres of trees, equivalent to 100 football fields.

11. Bank online
Most banks offer users the opportunity to conduct their bank business online. Not only is it convenient, but it will also save money because you won't have to drive to your local branch to perform transactions, plus some online banks offer better interest rates than the brick and mortar businesses.

Online banks use a secure Web site set to view your account information and print it out if your want. You can also view and print out copies of canceled checks. In addition, you can transfer money from one account to another, pay bills and order checks. If you opt out of receiving paper statements, you'll even save some trees.

Although most brick and mortar banks offer online services here are a couple links to Internet-only banks. ING Direct provides services online , as well as via telephone and mail. ING Direct offers Electric Orange, a paperless checking account that pays interest and the no-fee or minimum balance Orange savings account.

E Trade Financial also offers banking products and services online, including savings and checking accounts and certificates of deposit.

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