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By: Gregory M DeVictor
Copyright (c) 2013 Gregory M DeVictor

Housing costs make up a large part of the family budget. While the average American family has little control over their mortgage, they can save money on utilities, cable bills, cell phone charges, gasoline, insurance, health care, taxes, bank fees, a new car, and much more. This article teaches you 10 easy ways to save hundreds of dollars right now.

1. Have your furnace tuned up every two years and save up to 10% in fuel costs. In addition, clean or replace furnace filters at least once a month. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy consumption.

2. Set your thermostat one or two degrees higher in the summer and one or two degrees lower in the winter.

3. Switch to basic cable. Use the money you save on 100 premium channels to pay off debt or build up cash reserves.

4. Pay your utilities on time to avoid late charges. Some gas and electric companies charge as much as $2.50 for a late payment.

5. When buying clothes and shoes, quality is far more important than quantity. Always buy brand-name clothes and shoes at department store clearance sales, online closeouts, off-price retailers, and outlet stores. You could save up to 80% over regular retail if you buy winter clothing in February and summer shoes in October.

6. Contribute regularly to your employer's 401(k). If you cannot contribute to the max, contribute enough to receive your employer's matching contribution. The average match is 50 cents on the dollar and up to 6% of your salary.

Let's say you earn $50,000 a year, contribute 10% to a 401(k), and receive a 50% match from your employer of up to 6% of your salary. Here is how your annual contribution and match break down:

$50,000 -- annual income

$5,000 -- 10% contribution to 401(k)

$3,000 -- 50% matching contribution (a.k.a. free money) from your employer up to 6 per cent of salary

$8,000 - Total yearly contribution to retirement account

7. Avoid check cashing stores. Check cashing business are generally located in neighborhoods that have no commercial banks, credit unions, or super stores like Walmart. They charge a fee of 2 -- 20% to cash a government, payroll, or personal check. The processing fee is based on the check's face value ($500, $1,000, etc.). Check cashing stores also sell money orders for as much as $5.00, which is nearly five times what you would pay at a grocery or drug store.

8. If your employer has a health care spending account, don't lose another dollar and use it.

A health care spending account, also known as a flexible spending account or FSA, is a tax-advantaged plan that allows you to set aside a portion of your earnings to pay for qualified expenses such as medical and dependent care. Money deposited into a health care spending account is not subject to payroll taxes, thus saving you money.

Here are examples of eligible expenses for a medical FSA:

Dental treatment

Eye exams

Lab fees

Physical exams

X-rays

Here are examples of eligible expenses for a dependent-care FSA:

Before and after school care

Babysitting fees that are work-related

Day care expenses

9. Don't buy a calendar. Type in "free calendars" (with quotes) on Google and you will get over 200,000 results.

10. If you've been eating out more than twice a week, consider eating out no more than once a week, once every two weeks, or even once a month. You'll appreciate eating out more, and you will also be surprised at how much money you save.

Which is more important? Building up cash reserves or spending $65 a week on take-out pizza, sushi, and chicken wings?

This article has taught you 10 easy ways to save hundreds of dollars right now. To live smarter financially, be sure to live below your means and create a lifestyle that conforms to your income. You can have money left over at the end of the month and will not be burdened with trying to make ends meet.


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Gregory DeVictor is a consumer finance professional and published author. Join over 3 million people who use SavingStar grocery e-coupons. There is nothing to clip or print. Save on popular brands like Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Classico, Yoplait, Progresso, Little Debbie, GOYA, and Ziploc. To learn more, go to: http://SavingStar.com
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