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Penny Pinching Without The Pinch

money
CBS/PHOTODISC
Saving money is not an easy task. Unfortunately, it's something most of us need to do.

Saturday Early Show financial adviser Ray Martin says the trick saving is finding a way to do the things you love for less.

Most of us have heard the money-saving stump speech: stop buying cappuccinos, rent movies instead of heading to the theater, and don't even think about buying that designer outfit. While this is good advice, many people tend to ignore it. In America, savings rates are pitifully low and personal debt levels are alarmingly high.

According to Martin, people know that they should be saving. So what's the problem? He says nobody likes to sacrifice to save, and many people place a high value on how others view them. Most Americans, Martin explains, want to look successful with nice clothes, a nice car and a nice house, among other things.

Martin provided some suggestions on The Saturday Early Show for how to pinch pennies while making fewer sacrifices.

Dining Out

Go For Lunch: Cutting back on eating out is one of the best ways to save money. A report in this week's Wall Street Journal claimed that the average employee could save $100,000 over 30 years by brown-bagging it at lunchtime. But, Martin says if you just can't bear to give up restaurant meals, lunch is actually a great time to hit expensive places. You'll get the same amazing food and the same attentive service for less money. Also, you'll be less tempted to indulge in a bottle of wine, a luxury that can bump a bill up by $30 to $50 or more.

Bring Your Own Bottle: Speaking of wine, more and more restaurants are allowing patrons to bring their own wine. After all, in a down economy, customers bringing their own wine are better than no customers at all. Expect to pay a corkage fee. Considering that a glass of wine at a restaurant can cost almost as much as a bottle from the liquor store, even paying a corkage fee can wind up being a cheaper way to go. And recently, many restaurants have been lowering or eliminating their corkage fees. Martin says it's a good idea to call ahead an alert the restaurant that you're bringing your own bottle.

Ask About Specials: Martin says he was thrilled when he recently discovered that some restaurants offer "theater meals." This option is similar to a price-fix or pre-fee menu (three courses for $35 for example). Even establishments that offer a pre-fee may offer a theater menu, with smaller portions for less money.

Shopping

Sleep on it: Martin suggests waiting 24 hours before making a big purchase. After taking a breather, you may decide you don't really need it or even want the item.

Re-Shop Purchases: Martin says after a large purchase, it never hurts to ask for the latest savings on the item you recently bought. So, keep your receipt handy and an eye on prices to see when and if they go down.

Know When to Shop: Most items routinely go on sale at the same time each year. For instance, grills, patio furniture and other household items are marked down close to their peak season. Grills may be cheaper in late summer, expensive pots and pans may cost less near Thanksgiving. New-model bicycles are released in the fall so last year's bikes should be on sale now. Department stores typically put merchandise on sale once it's sat on the shelf for nine weeks. Chains such as the Gap mark clothes down after four weeks. If you are tuned in to these cycles, you can watch for prices to drop and then be the first customer in the store. Martin says this way you save money and get the cream of the sale selection.

Go Secondhand: Don't neglect consignment stores. Children's clothes in particular tend to be in good shape because they are outgrown. But even adults can find good casual clothes and even designer garments in secondhand stores.

Events

Check the Library: Public libraries and school libraries often offer free or low-cost passes to local theatres, zoos and other attractions. It's always smart to call and inquire before heading to the library for freebies.

Call Your Community College: Most community colleges sponsor free or inexpensive theatre productions, music events and museum exhibitions. Others offer use of daycare facilities and fitness centers at competitive prices, even if you're not an enrolled student.

Use Coupons and Clubs: Martin says to consider buying a book full of coupons such as "The Entertainment Book," which is full of deals on restaurants, movies and even things like oil changes. The book is offered in many areas at prices starting at about $25. There are also a variety of "rewards networks" that partner with local businesses to offer discounts once you join the network. Joining a group such as AAA can also result in savings.

More Tips

Martin says you might also try one of the "tricks of the penny-pitching trade."

Don't spend your change. Instead, Martin says, collect it all in a jar or in a change sorter. You'll be surprised how quickly you'll accumulate a substantial amount of money.

Martin also recommends doing some creative accounting in your checkbook. If you write a check for $13.24, enter it as such in your checkbook register. However, when subtracting from your balance, subtract $14. You now have 76 cents "hidden" in your account. It's kind of a forced savings, Martin explained. This only works if at the end of the month you actually save the total amount of "hidden" savings in your account, he says.