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Hedy’s Hints: 7 ways to maximize your budget

Today, the name of the game is cost cutting.

Businesses are doing it, so why can't you do it too? I'm sure there is something you want to save you for -- to buy a nice new car, take a summer vacation, or buy new home. For those things and everything else, you can try to cut your expenses. I'm not saying that you should stop buying the things you need or even want. The best way to maximize your budge is by trimming the fat from it.

With that in mind, here are seven tips to help you get more bang for your buck:

1. Each week, plan your meals

When preparing your grocery-shopping list, take a moment to plan out your meals for the week. Be specific because if you don't, you might end up buying more food than you need, which would be wasteful! This step will help you avoid costly impulse purchases.
Don't be afraid to stray from your plan if you can take advantage of coupons, sales, and bargains.

2. Grow your own herbs and vegetables

You can save a lot of money by growing fresh herbs and vegetables in your own garden. Even if you live in an urban environment, patio planters and window boxes are helpful options. In addition to saving money, you can take pride in eating your own food. Plus, you won't have to worry about any genetically modified products or dangerous pesticides!

3. Take advantage of discount thrift stores and estate sales

Retail stores mark up the prices of their clothing and goods because people will still buy them. Why not go to a Marshalls or your local thrift store. Children out-grow clothes extremely fast, so shopping at the mall is almost like giving money away. You can also find great deals on household items at thrift stores. Furthermore, goods are practically given away at estate sales!

In fact, you can host your own yard sale and turn the clutter from your house into cash.

4. Hunt for bargains

Is there a store in your town that's having a going-out-of-business sale? Have you taken advantage of Black Friday Deals or holiday specials? If not, you're missing out! Bargain hunting is a great way to get the most out of your budget. Try to get into the habit of looking for deals by checking newspaper ads, monthly circulators, and online discounters. Email alerts are another way to find out about deals from companies that you like buying from.

5. Buy off-season

The time to shop for new Christmas gifts, at least for the budget-conscious shopper, is after the holiday season. From snow blowers to homes to outdoors equipment, take advantage of lower prices during periods when far fewer people are looking to buy. Off-season and end-of-season times almost always offer the best prices.

6. "Do it yourself"

You could save a lot of money if you fixed things yourself. Homeowners are faced with constant maintenance, repair, and upgrade work. Instead of paying someone to do the job for you, why not do it yourself? If your parents and grandparents could do it, then so could you! We live in the height of the information age after all. Seek help online (there's plenty)!

7. Don't be afraid to ask for help

You can keep your home clean and neat by sharing duties with the whole family. Plus, you can always ask relatives or neighbors for help with some home improvement projects. It's a great way to spend time with your neighbors and get to know them. Plus, maybe you can use some of the money you saved in your budget to cook them a nice meal for their trouble.

Each month, there is more evidence of a turnaround in the housing market. Prices are still very much affordable and mortgage rates are approaching record lows. Get the financing process started early by minding your dollars and cents. Who knows, you could save so much money that you might be in the market to buy a new home. It is after all a buyer's market. Wouldn't you like to take advantage of it?

Hedy Goldman has lots of knowledgeable information to share. She has been practicing real estate since 1996 and is a 2010 gold award winner at Windermere Real Estate SoCal. Hedy sells all over San Diego, but specializes in North County Coastal. She can be reached at (858) 504-2334 or San Diego Realtor.