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Cost-Cutting Tips

Small changes to your budget could mean larger bills in your wallet.

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— Beau Lark/Corbis

En español | Wondering where all your money goes, and how it manages to go there so fast? The cost adds up, whether it’s on eating out, food, clothing, entertainment or seemingly innocuous things like gum or bottled water.

The truth is that many of us spend too much. The daily drain on our wallets can be a real eye opener. If you can afford such luxuries as gourmet teas and coffees or designer clothing and still save for your future, great. But if you’re struggling to meet the financial goals you’ve set on your retirement road map, it’s time to look for ways to cut the little expenses — daily, monthly and long term.

A recent financial survey conducted by Ariel Investments found that 43 percent of blacks and 29 percent of whites report making "significant" changes to their lifestyles. Eight in 10 African Americans and seven in 10 whites say they have cut back on spending in the past two years.  A 2009 study conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that more than seven in 10 Latinos have cut back on dining out.

It’s easy to spend money without realizing how much it adds over a week, a month or a year. If you’re looking to keep your nest egg safe or just grow one, the following cost-cutting strategies can help you rein in the spending.

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  • Refinance your home.  If you’re paying high interest on a mortgage and you plan to stay in your home for a few years, consider refinancing. Do your homework to avoid closing costs that might make the move less attractive financially.

  • Reduce your credit card debt. Contact your lender and try to negotiate lower finance charges and then pay down the debt as fast as you can, starting with the high-interest debt. (See AARP’s Tip Sheet, “Managing Debt.)  

Next: More Cost-cutting Strategies >>

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