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wknd-saving-wbeRISMEDIA, May 16, 2009-The first step to financial health is to create healthy savings and budget habits, according to the money experts at Bills.com, a free online personal finance portal and a subsidiary of the debt settlement firm Freedom Financial Network LLC. The good news: finding savings really can be simple.

“Money is tight these days, and so is time,” said Bills.com president Ethan Ewing. “If you like the idea of trimming the fat from your budget, but not the idea of spending hours clipping and organizing coupons, we’ve put together a list of 12 ways to save money effortlessly.”

Ewing’s tips include:

1. Use cash instead of credit. People spend more when using credit than when they use cash. Tracking expenses in detail also helps; learn to develop and use a simple budget.
2. Keep the change. After paying in cash, save the change. Once your jar is full, deposit the amount in savings, or postpone a splurge until savings will cover it.
3. Cut prescription costs. Ask your doctor if a less expensive, generic medication will meet your needs. Check with a pharmacist about other discount options for which you might qualify, from AAA programs to $4 prescription promotions to state-sponsored discounts.
4. Buy store brands. A recent exercise by a Consumer Reports writer found that purchasing store brands instead of brand names saved almost 50%. It also saved more money and time than savvy coupon-clipping.
5. Skip the shopping cart. People buy 30% more if they use a large shopping cart. Leave the kids at home, too, if possible. Shoppers who have children with them buy 40% more than those who do not.
6. Unplug unused appliances. Today, many electronics use power even when turned off. Connect the TV or computer to a power strip and turn off the electricity when not in use. Unplug appliances such as a toaster, coffee maker or spare refrigerator when not in use.
7. Chill hot water heating costs. Water heating accounts for 12% of home utility costs. Wrap the water heater in an insulating blanket and lower its thermostat setting to 120 degrees from the typical 140 degrees Fahrenheit. For every 10 degrees the temperature is lowered, energy costs can drop 5%, or approximately $5 per month.
8. Bring your own. Brew coffee at home and bring it to work in a reusable cup. Those who prefer strong coffee can invest in an espresso maker to brew up lasting savings. Or buy soda pop at the grocery store or warehouse club for 20 cents a can instead of from a vending machine for a dollar or more.
9. Review bills for errors. Instead of writing checks on autopilot, carefully review credit card, utility and other bills to be sure charges are accurate. If you suspect a problem, contact the provider. Be especially wary of ongoing charges that might have been incorrect from the beginning.
10. Keep pets small. Love has no price, but when choosing a new dog, opt for the smaller canine. Its annual upkeep costs will average $700 less per year. Or choose a cat for another $60 in savings.
11. Eliminate catalogs. We will not covet what we do not see. Free services such as catalogchoice.com can help eliminate junk mail.
12. Wait before buying. For any impulse buy, wait 48 hours. If you still want the item and can afford it, return to buy it. Many purchases lose their appeal after even a short cooling-off period.

“Being thrifty does not have to be painful,” Ewing said. “With these 12 steps, you can carve some breathing room into your budget without even noticing you have made a change.”

For more information, visit www.bills.com.

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