Pocketbook Helper$

With "the R-word" -- recession -- hovering, and inflation accelerating, every little bit helps when it comes to saving a few dollars.

And you can do just that with the aid of the Internet, AOL Consumer Adviser Regina Lewis explained on The Early Show Friday.

She alerted viewers to several Web sites that help them get more bang for the buck.








Grocery prices are up almost across the board. People really feel it: Food accounts for about 15 percent of the average household budget. A big driver of higher food prices is wheat, whose costs has risen 44 percent. Cereal is one of the most obvious examples, since wheat makes up about 24 percent of the total cost of getting it consumer-ready. One of the ways manufacturers are trying to hide the price increase is by making cereal boxes smaller.

The best way to get around rising grocery prices is to stick to a list, so you avoid impulse buys. Also: Play the coupon game!

Print out coupons at home from sites such as They'll tally your total savings in the upper-left corner. Lewis saved $8.75 on items she was actually going to buy on her next shopping trip. After all -- manufacturers want you to have these, but only if you use them on their products. Retail 101!

Also log on to the Web site of the specific grocery store where you do your shopping. You might get a better deal on items such as milk and eggs -- you'll learn what's on sale, and perhaps the store is offering to double or even triple coupons you present. Don't fall for two-for-one offers if the price of one is the same as half the cost and you don't really need two. And be realistic about buying in bulk: If you're buying stuff you're not going to use until 2009, especially if you're putting it on a credit card, you're amortizing Windex!

We're not all natural coupon clippers. But, there's a bunch of folks out there who do it as a sport! Actually, it's a business, and those folks resell them on They literally take newspaper circulars, chop 'em up, and resell the coupons. You might buy, say, five dollar-off coupons for 25 cents. So, for 25 cents, you'd save $4.75. Plus, you''d have to buy five Sunday papers to pull it off any other way. Coupons from arrive in the mail.

GAS click on gas

You could find there's a difference of as much as 50 cents per gallon in prices at the pump along your typical daily route. So, if you're filling a 20-gallon tank, that's $10-12 a week, twice, so you're talking $20-$100 a month!

The best part about the site is that it's regularly updated; if a station doesn't send in its latest prices within 48 hours, the station no longer shows up in search results.

Imply type in an address or zip code, and MapQuest will give you regular updates of the lowest prices in a radius of up to 50 miles. The gas stations are plotted on a map. You can also find listings for alternative fuels like such as diesel, bio-diesel, and hydrogen.

Gas and diesel prices are updated as many as seven times a day, but not every station sends in updates every day.

The site also now has a Gas Price Calculator: Enter your trip distance, your car's miles-per-gallon and the cost per gallon of the gas station you picked from the site. Hit "calculate," and you'll quickly get the approximate cost of your trip.