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Don't Break the Bank: Tips for the Household Budget

Most of us always appreaciate new ways to be a bit smarter with our money. If it wasn't your New Year's resolution this year, you can always make a late start and implement a few new approaches to making your money last. Finishing taxes on one year and looking at the lengthy year ahead, a little time taken to reflect on spending habits can help lead to better financial security during the slow economic recovery. Although the majority of us do not have direct influence on the big companies and banks, we do control how we run our individual households, and as the economy improves slowly, many of us will be tightening our spending budgets and looking for ways to save. Below we have provided some online resources for everything from keeping a balanced budget to finding ways to shop a bit smarter.

Know your budget:
Before you can adjust your household budget to save, pay off debt or get ahead in your payments, you have to have a realistic look at what you owe and what you earn.

Revisit your grocery list:
Reconsider how you buy groceries and what you buy.

Coupons, discounts and closeouts:
Buy on Sale - not occasion: Now is the perfect time to shop for next year's holidays, birthdays and special events.  Take advantage of post-holiday and season end sales.  Think ahead and you can squirrel away presents for the year at half the cost!Many sites online now offer ways to compare the best deals by product or store. Whether looking for new electronics or ready to head to the grocery store, check out these sites before you buy. Also take time to review the forums with customer input and reviews. A bit rough around the edges, the customer reviews on these sites are often short and to the point.

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Be an educated consumer:
Be more particular about the products you buy. Taking time to read reviews and learn the pros and cons others have experienced before you buy will help you choose better products that will last longer.

Rack up rewards:
There are many programs out there to reward shoppers. Take the time research them and find one that works for your shopping style. If you shop online there are shopping portals that offer rewards. If you shop a little bit everywhere, consider a credit card with flexible reward points. If you shop at one store the most, get a rewards card with them.
*A thing to remember with reward credit cards is that they usually come with a higher APR. It is better if you can charge and then pay immediately and not rollover this debt. That way you can get the rewards without the extra interest.

Buy and barter used:
Flea markets and garage sales can be great if you have the time and the weather to get one going. Maybe you don't have either? Then how about trying the same bartering and selling online? Besides the already popular eBay, you may be surprised at how many sites there are that will allow you to exchange, sell and buy cheap!

Get it FREE:
Drive like it's $4 per gallon!  Luckily, this is not currently the market.  However, we all learned better habits when the crunch was real.  Save money by keeping gas-efficient routes for errands.  Take the bus once a week to work.  Be creative and you can save time and money!There are some sites that will help you sift through the spam to get free items. Be warned that some of the free items still come with many "free" emails.

Compare Insurance Carriers:
It is true, if you have been accident/incident free for a while you may be able to save by switching to another insurance carrier. Every company may offer something different in incentives, but take a look and see if a switch can't save you some money this year.

Be your own travel agent:
Consider your vacation plans carefully in advance. When shopping for tickets, shop around to more than one vendor. It is not unusual for some airlines to give better deals then the online travel agencies. If you are a spur of the moment type of traveler, you might consider researching a couple major cities before tempted by last minute weekend travel deals. Like consumer reports, travel blogs are a great way to get more information before you go. Did you know you could see an opera in Vienna for $5? Well, now you do…

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