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10 Tips from the experts on spending & saving: Mom in charge: Part III

Vicki Salemi is passionate about writing. As a regular contributor to AOL, MSN and numerous sites and publications she also blogs regularly for CNBC European Business, Women for Hire and Manhattan adventures on her website www.vickisalem...

Spending and saving tips

Spending. Saving. Finding the balance. Easier said than done, right? Fatima Mehdikarimi, founder of ShoppingQueen.com, knows how to save money while having a life. "I help consumers shop smart," she says. When you think about spending and saving, it all comes down to creating a budget and sticking to it. You need to leave room for little splurges or you'll be more likely to fail altogether.

Clipping Coupons

Shop smart

Instead of buying something just because it's inexpensive or is in sale, focus on finding the best value. "To find the best deals online or in the store, spend a minute online looking for coupons," she advises.

Shop generic brands

Don't be afraid to try generic brands. "Many times they are made by the same manufacturer as the brand name but just packaged differently. Also most retailers with generic brands offer a money back guarantee. If you don't like the generic brand they will refund your money, so there is no risk for you to try generic brands," says the Shopping Queen.

Save for a rainy day

Easier said than done, right? Wrong. If you start setting aside at least ten percent of your income each pay period into this fund you should be able to reach your goal of saving six months of expenses into a rainy day fund. Whether it's cutting back on eating out or skimping on gifts, these little sacrifices are worth it in the long run.

Get gift cards for treats

One way to curb your spending is to limit your daily latte or ice cream treat. Experts don't recommend eliminating them altogether, but rather simply cut back. "The best way to do this," says Fatima, "is to buy a gift card for a certain amount each month and only use those funds. That way you are clearly budgeting for this treat."

Work that competition

Considering there are so many choices for internet services and cable, satellite and even cell phone services, you can make that competition work for you. "If your rates are high, just call your current provider and ask them to match other providers' rates. Most of the time, you will get a rate discount."

Negotiate

Think prices are set in stone? Think again. Although you may associate negotiations with real estate or a car purchase, countless other items and services are also open to bargaining. You can ask for a discount at the dry cleaners, big box retail stores, monthly services, credit card interest rates and more.

Clip coupons

Ok, this one may seem a bit retro but it completely works. Yes, we're suggesting to use coupons. And lots of them. Discounts are available, it's just a matter of finding them. For instance, you can do a web search for a store's name and the words "coupons" and "promo codes." The same applies to placing an online order.

Recycle

What's a better time to go green than during an economic downturn? You can curb spending by searching places such as freecycle.org or craigslist.org for items you're seeking. Plus, instead of discarding your old items in the trash chances are someone else will have a use for them, too.

Have fun!

Spending wisely and saving prudently doesn't have to be a chore. In fact, you can actually enjoy it. "You can have a life and be financially smart, too. The key is to actually budget for it. When you don't budget for fun you are more likely to over spend and feel guilty at the same time. With a budget you can have fun with a clear conscience."

Get creative

When operating within a budget it's important to think out of the box. Looking to eat out? Why not try a restaurant with a coupon from restaurant.com? Or how about skipping a big, heavy meal and opting to eat a few appetizers instead? Fatima also suggests looking at local community events instead of big city events. "Local communities provide many great festival, movie and entertainment options for their residents. Just get your name of their newsletter list and save money and gas by attending a local event."

Don't miss the rest of the Mom in Charge series:

Mom in charge: Part I, 6 Ways to take control of your family's expenses
Mom in charge: Part II, 5 Things you must know to survive a recession
Mom in charge: Part IV, 25 Ways to cut living costs
Mom in charge: Part V, The 5 rules of saving: When, where & how
Mom in charge: Part VI, 12 Ways to teach your kids how to save

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