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4:49 AM Tue, Nov. 20th

Nickel’s, Dime’s and Quarter's: It All Adds Up to Common Cents.

I could tell you how to save money, but it’s like telling someone how to go on a successful diet. In today’s economy, we need to put it on our daily menu. It all boils down to moderation, consumption and finding the right balance for your individual situation.

If we took a look at our monthly finances we would automatically know what we spend for rent, utilities, insurance, gasoline and the rest of our expenses. The rest of our expenditures comes down to four elements: speed, convenience, economy and our hourly worth. Speed, how fast we can get it? Convenience, all we have to do is order it, and it comes ready-made to us. Economy, can we afford it and how cheap can we get it? Hourly worth, is it worth spending your time to spend the money to go get it?

There are more than a thousand ways to save money, but I don’t think I’d be afforded the space or could maintain your attention through such a long list, so I’ll narrow it down to nine ways to make your nickels, dimes and quarters go further:

1. Buy it cheaper. For most of us, it's not a hidden secret that Wal-Mart will match other grocery stores' prices, but beware it just might be cheaper at the other store. Those of us who buy the paper know that food sales ads come out in Tuesday’s paper. For those who don’t, when you’re through with the sales ads, pass it along to someone you know who’s in need of saving money at the grocery store. Not everyone gets them in the mail.

2. Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk is not always the way to save the most money. Next to the item price you’ll see a price per ounce in small print. Use that for a comparison. Buying more of the smaller item might be the best price.

3. Make it last longer, or simply repair it. Doing home repairs is where the people at Home Depot, True Value and Ace are helpful. They’ll tell you what you need and how to do it.

4. Use it less or more often. Program it. Not just for your morning coffee but invest in a programmable thermostat. Same goes for that fishing license. If you do it often, then a one-year license is a must. If you only go one or two days out of the year, a day pass will do just fine. Don’t be too quick to upgrade. By the time you upgrade that computer, T.V. or DVD player, something new and better comes along.

5. Compromise. Buying generic instead of name brand. A lot of name brand companies provide grocery stores with store brand products. Milk, for example, comes from the same milk processing tank. Just like the gasoline you pay at the pump. Buy the used rentals at Hastings, rather than buying the DVD brand new.

6. Wrap it. You’ll save hundreds of dollars heating your hot water heater, especially in the winter. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been in line to pay my utility bills and have heard “I don’t understand how my bill can be so high.” In the winter time your water heater is working as hard as a marathon runner, but it's running 24 hours day. Another thing people normally forget especially those with mobiles, is if it doesn’t have insulation underneath or a newer composition roof on top, you might just forget about running your heater because you're just heating your home for a few minutes while the rest of the air goes outside. My highest gas or electric bill has never exceeded $100.

7. Make it. Cooking dinner for a family is a lot cheaper than eating out. I’m not saying don’t do it. There are times it becomes a necessity to deviate from “the plan.” When you’re cooking for one or two, invest in a Food Saver so you only have to prepare or cook something once. It comes in handy when buying meat in bulk, but the key I’ve found is when its half frozen, they work better. I’ve perfected McDonalds, Jack-In-The Box, Burger King, Taco Bell and Del Taco for under $10 for a family of three. Knitting that scarf and hat or a child’s drawing makes it a special gift. I’ve never been one to be fond of Halloween because it teaches a child to take candy from strangers. Yet, I understand the fun in it. To make it even more fun, I had a rule, if the kids wanted to go out Trick-or-Treating they would have to make their own costumes. Over the years they’ve come up with some doozies with the junk we have lying around the house.

8. Discount it. If you’re a senior, 55 and older, have AAA, are retired or active military you get discounts practically anywhere. Restaurants, hotels, airfare, bus and train tickets. If you income is low income, on Cash Aid, Food Stamps or Ahcccs, or disabled there is a discount available for you somewhere. Your school children are entitled to Free or Reduced Meals. There’s the CARES discount on your utilities and budget billing. Electricity for summer. Gas for winter. If you own only one property and are a widow or widower, or disabled and meet the income requirements, contact the County Tax Assessor’s office to get a waiver on your property taxes; and if that’s not enough, if there’s any money left over you’re eligible to get a waiver or have the balance applied to your state vehicle registration. Use coupons. The secret to doing this isn’t just clipping the coupons out of the Sunday paper or food ads. Go online to the manufacturers website to see if they have coupons you can print or call the manufacturer to ask them if they have any coupons they can send you for the products you use. Don’t hesitate signing up for their mailing list, because you’ll get their coupons on a regular basis. Doing this has saved us money on such things as diapers and dog food. What a contrast! My grandmother passed on a word of advice, if a business wants to sell it, they’ll be willing to discount it, you need to ask if they will make the price adjustment or on big ticket items throw in free delivery.

9. Recycle, reuse or pass it along to someone that can use it. Hold a garage sale if your stuff has value and it’s worth your time and hassle to deal with it. Anything aluminum or metal, there’s money in recycling. It might not be much in today’s economy but it all adds up, when you think about it. Take advantage of the $3 savings on Staples old ink cartridge return. Wash out that ziplock baggie (except when its been used for raw meats and poultry) and hang it in your dish drainer to make it last longer. Those plastic bags you get at the store have the most valuable use. As trash bags, smelly diapers, doggie poop bags, and yes, to cover your hair after you put that hair dye on it. When I say pass it along to someone that can use it follow a simple rule: no stains, no tears, no buttons missing or broken zippers. If you don’t have friends to donate it to, donate it to places like a homeless shelter, Cornerstone Mission, your local church, Arc Thrift Store, Salvation Army or Saint Vincent de Paul or a Goodwill Store.

Time plays a very important role in saving money.

1. Become more organized. Purchasing a gift ahead of time when its on sale in May for a birthday in June. I’ve gotten in the habit of shopping for Christmas all year long. Simply planning for meals ahead of time so you don’t replace your time and money getting fast food.

2. Be creative. Not everything you do has to cost money. Go for a hike or have a family picnic in the park. Play a game of basketball or gather a group of friends over to watch a movie or barbeque and have everyone bring something to munch on or drink, so its not solely on you.

3. Scale down. Eliminating the non-essentials or just cutting back. Again, don’t be too quick to upgrade. Shop for less. Look in the thrift stores first and the mom & pop stores before going out and paying department store prices. Roll your own cigarettes, in doing so you not only get to pick your tobacco, you save far above the cost of driving over the hill and purchasing them at your favorite casino.

4. Let your fingers do the shopping. When you’re looking for a specialty item let your fingers do the shopping on the Internet and by calling stores listed in your local phone book. Then weigh the cost of going to get it verses having it shipped to you.

Now that we've started our financial diet, what other ways do you know of to save money?