46. Get a free tree. Many municipalities gladly provide and plant ornamental trees in the swath of grass between the sidewalk in front of your house and the street.
Cost: Just a phone call to your town's public works department.
Savings: $300 you don't have to pay for the tree and a professional landscaper to plant it for you.
Bonus: You get free advice from an arborist on which flowering trees will thrive best along your property's border, given such factors as sidewalks, power lines, and snowplows.


47. Pay your January mortgage bill in December to take the interest and property tax deductions in the current tax year.
Cost: Freeing up cash flow to mail your check early. (Make sure the bank processes it before the end of December.)
Savings: About $500 on taxes.
BONUS: Lowering your taxable income may qualify you for child tax credits, Roth IRA contributions, or other benefits that phase out at higher incomes.


48. Choose in-stock materials, including tile, wood flooring, entry doors, or cabinetry, when remodeling. Retailers want to empty their warehouses, which means you'll pay less for the same quality as special-order stuff.
Cost: Fewer choices, but that can be good when you're looking at a thousand different tile options.
Savings: $300 or more on home-improvement items.
Bonus: Not having to wait three weeks for the product to arrive.


49. Pay your property taxes yourself instead of having your mortgage lender do it. If you have good credit, ask your lender if you can set up your own escrow cushion in an FDIC-insured savings account, such as those at ING. These earn around 3 percent interest.
Cost: None.
Savings: A check for $500 or more from the mortgage company, which is probably holding two tmonths' worth of tax payments in escrow—plus you'll earn better interest in your own escrow account than what your lender credits you.
Bonus: Paying your taxes every six months (or every three, depending on the town) instead of with your monthly mortgage, gives you more cash-flow flexibility.


50. Buy a new furnace or water heater. The 2008 federal economic bailout package includes tax credits for energy-saving upgrades made in 2009.
Cost: Between $500 and $3,000, including installation, heavily offset by the money you'll save on fuel.
Savings: As much as $500 in federal credits, which come right off your tax bill.
Bonus: You may also qualify for state credits as well as rebates from your local utility company. Find out at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.


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