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Living on a Budget
by Jeanne Lee, AARP The Magazine, September/October 2010 issue
Clip coupons strategically
Thanks to the sagging economy, coupon use surged 27 percent in 2009, the first increase since 1992. But you no longer have to devote your Sundays to cutting up newspaper inserts. Easy-to-use Web tools can slash your grocery bills by 50 percent in 15 minutes a week. The trick is to use coupons only when the item is also on sale.
First, start saving your Sunday coupon circulars for at least a month. Then, once a week, go to couponmom.com or hotcouponworld.com. You'll see every item on sale where you live, along with the date of the corresponding coupon. You can also customize your search to find items that are free if you combine a manufacturer’s coupon with a store’s coupon.
Shop your pantry
You’ve probably heard the advice "shop your closet," which means taking a fresh look at the clothes you own instead of hitting the mall. Leamy’s twist: Shop your pantry. Once a month skip going to the supermarket for a week (except for perishables such as milk) and use up your canned and frozen food. Rotating pantry staples will pay off big. Leamy saves as much as 25 percent on groceries each month—though for this to work, she points out, you must have a weekly grocery budget—and not exceed it.
Sign up for restaurant alerts
Go to your favorite chains' sites and become a member of their free clubs, such as Boston Market's VIP club or TGI Friday's Give Me More Stripes. The restaurants offer their members discounts, freebies, and other perks.
Dine out with discounts
Before going to a chain restaurant, check online for promotional coupons or coupon codes. Sites such as ShopAtHome.com and RetailMeNot.com provide a one-stop source of dining discounts.
Save big with small plates
The latest dining-out trend—small-plate menus—is also easy on the wallet. "More and more restaurants are introducing small-plate menus that remove the shame that has plagued entrée sharers," says Douglas Trattner, dining editor at Cleveland Scene. Splitting three or four small plates costing $5 to $8 apiece lets you sample more dishes while spending less.
Don't just take our experts' words for it—we want to hear how you're cutting costs. E-mail us your best money-saving advice!
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