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Travelers looking for an alternative to a generic room in a large hotel chain property can opt for an inexpensive boutique hotel.

There are options in every state worth considering, and rates can be as low as a night. Don't blindly choose the least expensive item when it's low-quality, for instance.

It's a myth that keeping a small balance on a credit card improves credit scores.

On the contrary: Paying off balances can help cardholders boost their scores -- and save money by avoiding interest payments.

With market information in hand, go straight to the manager at a rental car agency or hotel and try to wrangle a deal. Try getting more value with an upgrade or fee waiver.

Smart thermostats can be real money savers -- they learn residents' preferences and can be controlled from afar -- but even a cheap programmable thermostat set at a reasonable temperature can save $180 a year on average, according to the federal government's Energy Star program.

This path requires a lot of self-discipline but can save tens of thousands of dollars.

Many airlines charge for checked bags, but there are ways to fit everything into a carry-on and otherwise eliminate or reduce airline baggage fees.

Consumers who have good credit scores but have trouble paying off credit card debt can move the debt to a card that charges zero interest on transferred balances during a promotional period.

Some, but not all, such cards charge a one-time fee equal to a percentage of the amount transferred.

Disney World now allows outside food, and Disney cruises permit up to two bottles of wine or six beers in a carry-on (although the dining room corkage fee is ).

Negotiating makes sense more often than you might expect.

Another option: Take out a personal loan with a lower interest rate than the credit cards and use it to pay down the debt.

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