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In this economy, everyone is trying their hardest to spend less and save more. However, if you've already cut corners, what's next? In a down economy there are ways to tighten your belt even more, even if it's on the last notch. Here are some ways to not only survive, but to thrive:

1. Live Below Your Means… and Save the Rest
Pay down debt and build up the emergency fund. In times like this, it's more important than ever to have a little extra wiggle room in your budget. If you're cutting it too close each month - or going over - you may need to reevaluate your big expenses.

  • Move to a more affordable home
  • Trade in your car for a less expensive, more fuel efficient model
  • Create a budget to stay on track
  • Have money automatically deducted from your paycheck and put into your savings account
2. Limit Shopping
The less you drive, the less you'll spend on gas. That's a no-brainer. However, staying out of the stores and really planning your errands will help you limit impulse purchases, too. Plus, by staying out of the stores you'll have loads more time to do other things.

  • Shop at a store that will match prices so that you can eliminate unnecessary trips
  • Stop perusing the store circulars that come in the Sunday paper to avoid temptation
  • Take yourself off email lists for stores that encourage needless spending. Or, set up a filter/rule in your email client to automatically put shopping emails in a folder so you look at them only when you are planning to shop
  • Plan meals for the entire week before you go shopping, and print coupons from Coupons.com to match your list
3. Be Resourceful Every Day
Tap into your creative side to look at what you have in a new light. You'll be forced to use your imagination, which will give you insight into something's hidden potential. You'll also experience a deeper level of satisfaction when creating something out of nothing or repurposing something to give it a new life. There's another great byproduct: you'll save lots of money!
  • Try bartering for the things you need on the Mommysavers Bartering Board
  • Exchange services with friends and neighbors
  • Clip coupons online from Coupons.com - they're free and available all the time
  • Pair coupons with grocery store sales to save even more
  • Make homemade cards and gifts instead of purchasing them
  • DIY: Make your own cleaning products, grow your own produce, make your own minor repairs, etc.
  • Investigate free activities within your community and make a calendar to share with friends
4. Less is More
Sometimes less really is more. Consider subtracting some things from your budget and adding quality of life - and some cash. The things that provide the most satisfaction in life are usually free. Deepening relationships with family, spending time with friends, participating in community, plus doing things that stimulate us intellectually and spiritually all contribute to quality of life without draining our pocketbooks.
  • Instead of going out to a restaurant, invite friends to your house for a potluck dinner
  • Unplug the cable and start reading more books, borrow DVDs from the library or watch shows online
  • Ditch your landline phone completely
  • Declutter your home and sell what you don’t need on Craigslist, eBay or at a rummage sale
  • Avoid over-scheduling your kids and institute a family game night instead
5. Give
Finally, count your blessings. Even during a recession, we still live in the wealthiest country in the world. If you can afford to reach out to those less fortunate, now is a great time to do it. Nothing will make you feel wealthier, and you can give your time even if you can't give your money.
  • Volunteer your time at a food pantry
  • Make a meal for a family who has lost a job
  • Sponsor a child in a developing country

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Kim Danger is the Family Savings Expert for Coupons.com.

She is a nationally recognized consumer advocate and money savings expert, the founder of Mommysavers.com, the author of 1000 Best Baby Bargains, a feature columnist for Organize magazine, and a frequent contributor to newspapers and national magazines like Parenting, Woman's Day, and First for Women.

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