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Queen of free: 5 ways to save in new year

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The confetti has settled. More than likely, the Christmas decor is packed neatly away, awaiting next year.

The kids have returned to school, and vacation days feel far away in the cold future. Maybe you’ve even already broken a resolution or two.

Don’t give into a winter of despair. There still are plenty of full days in 2014. There is debt to be conquered and money to be saved.

Being intentional with your finances doesn’t mean you have to eat dust out of the corners of your cabinets or wear a potato sack out in public (what you do in the privacy of your home is up to you).

There are hundreds of easy ways to simplify your home and life to keep from overspending, allowing you to leverage those dollars saved in the new year.

Here are five of my favorite ways to keep your finances on track without uprooting your existence.

Paper coupons

Paper coupons still reign supreme in my book. However, if you want to amp up their value, check out their digital cousins. Meijer mPerks, Target’s Cartwheel and digital coupons that you clip to your Kroger Plus Card are the three most popular programs. It takes only a matter of seconds to log into your account and “clip” the coupons you use the most. Coupons are deducted all at once upon checkout.

Do an Internet search (or head to my website) to learn how the programs work. The format is simple and the process painless.

Brown-bag it

We all know how easy it is to rack up $30 a week in lunch expenses. Everyone in your household should endeavor to take their lunch this year. There’s an art to keeping down the costs for lunches packed at home, too. Bring leftovers.

Invest in decent reusable containers that will last. Avoid purchasing pre-packaged lunch-sized items. Fill your lunch full of foods high in nutritional content that will keep you fuller for longer.

Head to the library

When I advise people to take control of their finances, the entertainment budget is the first thing on the chopping block. No more movies, pricey book purchases or cable TV. Enter your local public library.

Filled with new releases, DVDs and plenty of free events for the entire family, the library is your best bet for fun without a hefty price tag. Keep track of the due dates, though. You don’t want to spend more in overdue fines than you would on a full-priced book.

Re-evaluate ITEMS

Take a good hard look around your home. I have a feeling that you have some things you no longer use. Whether you choose to sell them on Craigslist or simply donate them to The Salvation Army (get a receipt for tax purposes), your extra stuff is costing you a pretty penny.

Clutter decreases productivity and your ability to maximize your space at home. From books to dishes, from clothes to furniture, it’s time to purge what’s not in use to clear your space and head. Who knows? You might make a couple of bucks out of the deal.

Build a budget

At speaking engagements, I’m fond of telling the audience that if you don’t do something with the money you save, it will grow legs and walk to Target. It’s not enough to save money, rejoicing over the number circled in red at the bottom of

your receipt.

You have to take the next step of putting that money to work. One of the very best ways to achieve this goal is to take the money you’ve saved at the grocery store or on your monthly budget and apply it toward debt or a savings goal.

Have two to three smaller savings accounts connected to your checking account so that you can quickly transfer extra money out.

 If you leave those dollars in there, you will spend them. A “zero-based” budget requires you to “spend” each penny you make, even if you make a “payment” to yourself in the form of savings.

Saving money and paying off debt isn’t complex. It just isn’t easy.

Daily, you have to make choices that aren’t always the most fun but over a long period of time will yield a gratifying result.

On the other side of paying off $127,000 in debt, I can tell you that you barely remember the sacrifices you made, even though they seem gargantuan at the time. Make 2014 your year of intention when it comes to your finances.

Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. Send questions, column ideas and comments to newstips@dailyjournal.

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