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3 easy ways to stretch your dollar
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Setting a budget is difficult for all people, but finding ways to save money doesn't have to be. Here are 3 easy ways to cut back on spending in three very common areas. - photo by Candilyn Young
I dont need to waste anyones time with statistics about the rising cost of living. I also dont need to bore anyone with facts about how hard it is for a family to dig their way out of debt.

Im sure you all feel like the job market is as steady as the latest big Hollywood couples relationship. And that rising gas prices continue to eat away at more than your savings.

Life isnt easy, thats for sure, but luckily there are easy ways for families to save money. Actually, there are countless ways, but in this article Ill focus on three areas: food, clothes and entertainment.

Food

When grocery shopping ask yourself: Is it worth buying the name brand? Or, should I try the off-brand that costs less?

For me, the answer is usually Yes.

More often than not, off-brand foods are just as good as the well-known and better decorated packaged foods. In reality, that extra cost is just for the pretty box.

Next, ask yourself: Can I make this just as easily?

This question is one my husband and I ask when were faced with foods like tortillas, marinara sauce and even buttermilk. Youd be surprised how easy these items are to make or to find a cheaper replacement.

Next question is: Can I live with having mainly canned and frozen produce more than the fresh?

Buying frozen or canned produce isnt as tasty as the fresh kind, but it certainly saves money and helps them last longer if you dont eat them fast.

However, if you insist on having plenty of fresh produce, keep in mind that fresh produce is much cheaper, and tastier, when you buy them in the season they are naturally picked.

For example, strawberries season is early summer, and apples are ready at the end of summer through early autumn. You may have to go without some of your favorites for a while, but keep in mind what you save in the long run.

Clothes

As you look at your clothes, and even your kids clothes, think about where you get them and ask yourself: Am I willing to buy clothes from the clearance racks, second-hand stores, and yard sales? Am I willing to arrange a clothing swap?

You wont always find the clothes that are of the hottest styles, but since when did the latest fashions look good on everyone?

Ive been shopping like this for a long time, and I certainly dont have any complaints with what Ive found.

Its definitely nice to go into a thrift store and find a cute dress for me, two pairs of jeans for my husband, and good shoes for my son, all while spending less than thirty dollars.

Entertainment

With the rising cost of movie tickets, and food at the concession stands, nights out to the movie theatre are probably becoming few and far between for many families.

You may have enough money to go out and see a new movie, but before you go, ask yourself, Am I patient enough to wait until this movie is available at the library?

Finding new movies to watch outside of the theater is rather simple:

Go to your local library and get a free library card. Then, place holds on the new movies you want to see, and then look on their shelves for movies you may never have heard of, or find some oldies you love.

While doing this you might even find your library has your favorite television shows on DVD too. I, for one, certainly dont miss the commercials!

Doing this may even help you cut out cable from your monthly bills altogether. What would you do with that extra $50 per month?

Now, again, what Ive mentioned to you is just the tip of the iceberg in saving money in these areas. There are many more ways to save that can be discussed and discovered.

For example, what about your phone? What about cable and internet?

Remember, entertainment doesnt stop with movies and electronics. Look outside your home and see what your community offers; there are museums, festivals and so much more. Most of the time, these community activities wont dig into your pocket that deeply, or at all!

Reward

Keeping an eye on every penny that goes in and out of your pocket can be tiring. If you are always asking yourself, again and again: Do I really NEED this? and then saying no, even though you have wanted it, is hard.

But, before you get to the end of this article, give yourself something to celebrate, like a simple date night with your sweetheart, and dont always deny yourself a treat now and then.

After all, life shouldnt be all about saving money for big things; dont forget about enjoying and creating smaller moments that bring laughter and enjoyment as well.

Now, go out and find what small things your family can enjoy to make this time when money is tight a little easier on all of you.
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