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5 Ways to stretch the family budget

Sarah Caron is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and editor. She lives with her wonderful husband, two adorable kids and two funny beagles. Check out her food blog at Sarah's Cucina Bella.

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If you have been following the news at all, you know that the economy is in peril. If you have stepped outside your home, you know that gas prices are sky rocketing and it is impacting the cost of food, entertainment and more. If there was ever a time to live more frugally, this is it.

Family of Piggy BanksYou might not have envisioned living in a downturn economy with your family, but that is the situation we all are facing. And if you are among the majority of women, you are probably worried about that. A new study from CoolSavings.com revealed that 97 percent of women age 25-34 are worried about the economy and trying to cut back on expenses. Overall, in all age groups, 93 percent of women are worried about their family finances.


What can you do to shave some money out of your expenses? Here are some suggestions:

Eat in

Twenty-four percent of women surveyed by CoolSavings said that they were skipping the restaurant meals (and with good reason). Eating at home costs much less, and it puts you in control of what your family is eating. A family of four can easily eat a balanced dinner for $10 or less at home. In a restaurant, count on a tab of $50 or more. Plus, your kids will benefit from seeing you cook up healthy meals at home.

Buy kids clothes at consignment stores and tag sales

I'm sure you never imagined trolling tag sales and consignment stores for good deals, but this is a great way to save money. Often times, consignment stores will have never worn or barely worn clothes for sale for a quarter of the original retail price. The nice thing about consignment stores? Someone else has already picked through and found the best of the best. However, tag sales are great too. You might just find an unworn pair of Nike sneakers for your daughter for just $2. It definitely happens.

Sign up for discounts

Diaper, formula and baby food companies have online forms where you can fill out your information and get on their mailing lists. They send out coupons and even samples to entice you to buy. It's totally worth the two minutes to sign up when you are getting $7 off formula and $2 off diapers and that savings adds up.

Make a trade

Sites like Freecycle and Zwaggle allow you to offer up your old items and get items from other users (with Freecycle, there is only an honor system, Zwaggle uses a points system for the bartering). The nice thing? It's free.

Think before you buy

Is this one a no-brainer? Nah, 'cause you are probably used to being able to sneak in a $6 clearance tote or a killer $25 top that's 75 percent off. But does junior really need another Elmo video and can you live without the expensive coffee drink? Ask yourself: Do I really need this? More times then not, the answer is probably no. So step away from the sales rack and put the money back in your wallet.
I know. That last one is a doozy.

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