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Frugal families: 15 ways to save

Penny-pinching

A little thought, a little creativity and a little time can brighten your home, wardrobe and table - and give your family budget a big boost, too.

Mom shopping with daughter

Let's get something straight: Living a frugal life does not mean living on the cheap side of town! Frugal, by definition, is about the wise and creative use of resources, materials and time.

Being wise in our use of dollars does not always call for buying the least expensive item available. For instance, buying a very cheap appliance might mean repairing it more often, or even replacing it more quickly.

Frugal living, in other words, is about knowing that you get what you pay for. But – you should always get the most possible for your hard-earned dollars.

Try these 15 tips to save money

Minimize transportation costs

1. Consolidate errands and shopping, "batching" them, if possible, around your route to or from work and school.

2. Watch that speedometer - transit experts say it costs 20 cents more per gallon for every five miles over 60 mph.

3. Maintain your tires and keep them inflated. Properly inflated tires improve your gas mileage by at least three percent – or around 12 cents per gallon.

4. Empty the trunk. Every 100 pounds of additional weight means you lose fuel economy, or nearly 10 cents more per gallon.

5. Keep the car in good condition. A poorly tuned engine burns more gas, and a new air filter can improve mileage as much as 10 percent – or a cool 36 cents per gallon.

Spend dimes, not dollars, on home décor

6. Paint is the least expensive way to change décor, but be creative, said Meegan Berner, Upstage Interior Design, Phoenix. "Use geometric patterns and lines, and more than one color of paint. Embellish with ribbon, nail head trim or even decorative thumbtacks."

7. Keep your key pieces in neutral colors, and use throw pillows, small rugs, or even candlesticks for color accents.

8. Use chalkboard paint, Berner suggested, to create whimsical, interactive surfaces in the kitchen, laundry, home office or playroom.

9. Check out local craft stores for interesting items to embellish painted walls; repurpose where you can. Use mirrored glass tiles to create a mosaic mural; turn old skateboards into shelves for your son's room; arrange old evening bags to hold small items in your daughter's room.

Reduce your grocery bill and eat better, too!

10. Look for house brands. "I buy the house brand cereal," says Rose Tring, of Laveen, Ariz. "My boys (six and three) think that if it has tiny marshmallows in it, it's good cereal."

11. Shop ethnic markets, suggested Chef Amy Ahrensdorf, a mom and chef for SunWest Appliances. "They often have excellent buys on produce, and even many kitchen staples."

12. Don't buy prepared foods, such as cut-up fruits, vegetables, even chicken.

13. Reduce food waste by planning ahead, Chef Amy said. "Take your chicken breasts and pop them into a baggie with some marinade before you freeze them. By the time they thaw, they'll be marinated and ready to cook."

14. Clip coupons. "It really works," said Marilyn Appel, Ocean View, Dela. "As long as it's something you already use or eat – I save at least $20 on every grocery bill, and I'm not rigorous about coupons."

15. Eat in. "Dinner's when you can really connect with your kids," Chef Amy said. "When you eat in with your kids, the emotional and physical benefits could outweigh the dollars you save."

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