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Published February 02, 2012, 11:30 PM

Richards: Save 50 cents here and there to boost your family’s budget

It never failed. Every time I stopped to fill up my car with gas, I remembered the coupon for 4 cents off per gallon was still hanging on my refrigerator. Heck of a lot of good it did me there.

By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM

It never failed. Every time I stopped to fill up my car with gas, I remembered the coupon for 4 cents off per gallon was still hanging on my refrigerator. Heck of a lot of good it did me there.

So I’ve started to keep those gas coupons, whether from the grocery store or a coupon mailer, in my car. That way they’ll be with me when I need them.

It may not seem like a big deal to save 50 cents on a tank of gas, but if you fill up weekly, that’s about $25 a year.

In my family, $25 is an extra contribution to one of the kids’ college savings accounts.

Now think if you could make five or 10 or 20 small changes that would save 50 cents a week. Suddenly you’ve got hundreds of extra dollars in the bank, provided you capitalize on them.

That is, transfer that extra money into a savings account to make sure it isn’t frittered away elsewhere.

It’s pretty painless to save 50 cents or more a week on groceries, entertainment and utilities. Find a 50-cent grocery coupon for something you were going to buy anyway, or switch to a generic brand. Trade a vending machine can of soda for a glass of water. Borrow books or movies from friends or the library. Turn the thermostat down a degree or two.

Go meatless for one or more meals per week. Considering most cuts of meat cost around $3 per pound, compared to $1 or less for protein-rich beans, this move saves quite a bit of money, not to mention it’s better for your health.

One small change my family made was to switch our city-issued garbage can from the medium to the small size, a savings of $3 per month, or $36 a year.

We never seemed to fill up the 64-gallon cart, largely because we take advantage of free curbside recycling.

Also, I think when you’re focused on saving money, you produce less waste. You don’t buy as much stuff, so there’s not as much packaging to throw away. Cooking at home results in a lot less garbage than takeout or delivery food containers.

Once you’ve made easy changes to save 50 cents or a dollar a week in several areas, think bigger.

How much could you save by making your own coffee or brown-bagging your lunch just one or two extra days each week? If it doesn’t seem like a lot, take that amount times 52, to think in terms of what you could save in the course of a year.

Also, tally small inflows of cash, such as the extra dollars you get recycling cans or selling things you don’t use. Collect your spare change and add it to the savings stash.

Every time you pass up on a tempting purchase for savings sake, whether it’s a candy bar or a new pair of leather boots, put that money aside, too.

Finding the smallest ways to trim your expenses is a good way to start saving, even if it’s just 50 cents at a time.

Sherri Richards is a thrifty mom of two. She blogs at www.topmom.areavoices.com.

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