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What Are Some Ways of Cutting Expenses?

To really get the most out of what you can save from your expenses, think about what you buy on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. If you haven't already practiced cutting your expenses, you might be surprised how much you can save.

Let's think in terms of your last month's spending. Think of everything that you paid for--no matter how big or small--and see where you might have spent less and saved more.

The following are some proven ways of cutting down expenses and saving money:

Cut down on long-distance telephone calls or make calls when rates are cheapest. Research the most cost-effective long-distance plan for your household. Compare the different providers, then choose the plan that best fits your long-distance needs.

Cut down on restaurant and take-out meals, as well as costly prepared foods from the supermarket. Preparing your own food from scratch saves lots of money.

Bring your lunch to work. You'll quickly realize how much money is saved after one month of "brown bagging." Try putting yourself on a lunch budget whereby you treat yourself one or two times per month.

Try to reduce your home-utility bills by turning off lights when you're out of the room, being conservative with the thermostat, checking weather stripping to eliminate drafts, or air drying dishes and laundry.

Avoid paying costly automatic teller machine (ATM) fees by using only your own bank's ATMs, and make sure you're not paying your bank for any fees for services you don't want or need.

Seek out garage sales and your newspaper's classified sections for discount purchases. Garage sales can be an excellent source for items such as children's toys and clothes, while the classifieds can provide excellent buys for various new and used items.

Go to matinee movies instead of the more-expensive regular runs, and look for cheaper-priced theaters offering "encore" films that have been out for a month or more.

Clip newspaper, magazine, and other print coupons for necessary items you would normally purchase--but not for items you don't really need. Eat before you go grocery shopping so you won't be tempted to make impulse purchases.

Save on expensive dry-cleaning costs by purchasing a book on fabric care. Although many clothing labels read "Dry Clean Only," such books identify effective, cheaper methods of cleaning garments.

Use your local public library. In addition to free reading materials, many libraries offer free or reduced-price videos, audiotapes, CD-ROMs, and children's games for rental.

Practice do-it-yourself repairs and maintenance around the house, when possible, rather than paying for expensive services. Do-it-yourself books can be found for such projects as plumbing, wood and floor repair, landscaping, and painting.

Comparison shop for clothing and household items.

Create your own greeting cards. As the prices of store-bought greeting cards continue to rise, you can save money each year by designing your own birthday and holiday cards, or sending free E-mail greetings from the Internet. Put your skills to work if you have a computer and printer, or design cards freehand.

Avoid expensive gift-wrap. Shop dollar stores for gift bags.

Take care of your teeth to prevent costly dental bills. In addition to brushing twice per day, flossing regularly can help drive down costly dental care.

Exercise for a healthier body and state of mind. Consistent exercise over time can reduce health-care expenses.

If you drive an automobile, learn how to change the oil rather than paying someone else to do it. Changing the oil yourself every 3,000 to 5,000 miles can save up to a few hundred dollars per year and help preserve the life of your car. If you are unable or not willing to perform this task yourself, seek out coupons in the mail and newspapers for reduced-price, oil-change deals.

Join a co-op or food-buying club to save hundreds of dollars per year over regular supermarket prices. Call the National Cooperative Business Association at 1-800-636-6222 for a list of regional warehouses.

Buy store-brand cereal instead of national brands. If your household goes through a box or more per week, you can save over $100 per year by purchasing store brands.

Shop around for the best gas prices, and plan your errands and driving destinations to eliminate unnecessary miles.

Pump your own gasoline and use the lowest-octane suggested in your vehicle's owner manual. You can also save on gas by getting your engine tuned up as suggested and keeping the tires properly inflated.

If you're considering getting a dog or cat, look no further than your local animal shelters. The small purchase fee often includes vaccination and neutering, which can be expensive at the veterinarian's office.