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Spending Makeover


Turn frugality into family fun

As the current economic crisis persists, families need to look to the brighter side of things. With salaries shrinking and jobs on the decline, it's the perfect time for a makeover on spending habits.

This budget cut doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Families can embrace this time as a way to cut expenses and put them towards family activities. Here are some ways:

Cut The Cable
Cable can cost more than $1,000 a year. Most TV shows and some movies can be watched online. If you want more of a selection, rent a movie from the library -- it's free! Most people never take advantage of their neighborhood libraries. You may as well, that's where your tax dollars are going.

As long as you are at the library, encourage your kids to start reading for fun. Developing this habit at a young age will help kids with study habits down the road. You can also borrow CDs. Since children often do as we do, and not as we say, make sure you are getting things for yourself at the library, too.

Shop Smarter
Eating out is a big strain on a family's budget, which means it's time to spend more time at the grocery store. Don't forget to check the specials. Arrange meals based on what is on sale, and also purchase generic items as opposed to brand name. Try to avoid pre-packaged or pre-made dinners, which cost more.

Make Dinner
Making dinner doesn't have to be a chore -- especially if you enlist your family's help! Kids really do enjoy helping out, and who knows, maybe you have a chef in training on your hands. As long as you make it easy and fun, it won't feel like a chore.

Eat Out Cheaper
If you do feel the need to eat out, take advantage of "gift certificates" from web sites like You pay $10 for a $25 gift certificate. As long as you were going to spend more than $10, it works in your favor.

Have Fun
There are plenty of free or low-cost activities that can bond your family. Instead of watching a movie, why not play a few board games? Scrabble, Taboo, a deck of cards and Pictionary all cost under $20 and can be used for years. For outdoor fun, try apple or pumpkin picking and make homemade pies. Since produce prices are on the rise, you can also garden as a family and grow your own vegetables and flowers.

The knee-jerk response to these times may be to sulk and act forlorn. But it is always best to put a positive spin on a tough situation. Your kids will probably be grateful for all the extra time you are spending with them. In time, they will also be thankful for the lesson you are teaching, which is simply to live within your means.

How is your family making fun from cutting costs? Weigh in on The Exchange.
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