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Find ways to trim family spending

August 07, 2009|By LYNN LITTLE / Special to The Herald-Mail

More and more people are focusing on discretionary spending and trying to find ways to reduce it. No matter what the state of the economy, families and individuals should be cautious about everyday spending and not let money slide between their fingers.

By spending less, you can save more -- for emergency reserves; for long-term goals such as retirement or college; for a new piece of furniture or perhaps a summer vacation. Put aside money for things you really want and might otherwise put on the credit card.

There are many resources that will provide you guidelines for conserving your money. In general, you want to spend less and substitute lower-cost items for what you normally purchase. Take care of what you already have so it lasts longer. Look for ways to improve your shopping skills. Try do-it-yourself projects to save money.

The federal government has a site you should check out. Go to www.pueblo.gsa

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.gov and click on Money to find "66 Ways to Save Money." This publication offers practical ways to cut everyday costs on transportation, insurance, banking, credit, housing, utilities, food and more.

Among the tips, you will find the following suggestions:

Skip red meat and plan meals around lower-cost, protein-rich foods, such as eggs, beans and dairy products.

Plan your grocery purchases and use of food so that you don't end up throwing food away because it has gone bad.

Be sure to treat spots and stains on clothing promptly -- the longer they remain on fabric untreated, the harder they are to remove.

Plan excursions to limit backtracking and reduce the miles you put on your car. Ride public transportation, or, for short trips, walk or ride a bike.

If your car is older, drop collision insurance coverage, but be sure to get regular maintenance and service checkups.

Avoid buying unnecessary vitamins, tonics or other health-care products; choose cleaning supplies that are usable for more than one purpose.

Prepare recipes in quantity and freeze leftovers for later use. (Be sure your freezer is kept at least three-quarters full for most efficient operation.)

Be choosy about signing up for new credit cards. Shop for credit as carefully as you would for a new car or other major purchase.

Examine your cable and phone bills to find out how much you're paying for "extra" services. Drop those that get little use or that you could get more cheaply in other ways. Instead of subscribing to premium cable channels, borrow DVDs from the library. Instead of purchasing voice mail from your phone company, use an answering machine.

By economizing, substituting and conserving, you and your family are likely to discover you can do more with less.

For additional ideas for "Living on Less" send an e-mail request to LLittle@umd.edu or a self-addressed, stamped business-size envelope to University of Maryland Extension -- Washington County Office, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713. Mark the envelope "Less."

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