Five easy ways to save money now

We all do it. We clip coupons, vow not to eat out, and pack our sack lunches. But inevitably that triple

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latte and other impulse buys sneak up on us and we find ourselves slipping into our old habits. You don’t have to change your lifestyle drastically to save a little money. But a few tweaks here and there will do wonders for your pocket book and your peace of mind.

· Barter – It’s an age-old way to pay for what we need. We all have an area of expertise or professional service we could offer. Perhaps you can sew, draw or cook. The next time you need a haircut, ask your stylist if you could teach her a Pilates class in exchange for a cut and color. Or offer to trade knitting lessons in exchange for swim lessons. There is a deal to be made around every corner.

· Trade – Swapping baby-sitting, dinner, coupons, clothes, and toys won’t just save you money it will make life easier for you and your friends. One evening, host your friends’ children while they enjoy an evening out and ask them to return the favor. Bring some home-cooked meals that freeze well to a pal’s house and the next week she can do the same for you. Get together with a group of friends and swap toys, clothes, books, DVDs and coupons. Throw in a potluck lunch to keep it festive.

· Buy and sell – Make friends with your neighborhood consignment shop. Every month or so, clear out toy cupboard and closet space, and bring your cast-offs to your local children’s consignment store. In exchange for your items, the store will offer cash or an amount to spend at their store. Whether it sells children’s clothes, furniture or adult clothing, there is an opportunity to find quality goods while saving money. For Internet-savvy people, there’s money to be made on selling items at online marketplaces.

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· Shop smart – Whether you’re in the market for a new stroller or TV, doing your homework beforehand could save you hundreds of dollars and spare you from buyers’ remorse. When shopping online, read as many reader product reviews as you can and find out the store’s return policy. For a fast price comparison, visit or a similar Web site. When seeking deals at stores, scan all of your weekly circulars that arrive in your mailbox. Sometimes bulk shopping at a warehouse store makes sense for items you use all the time, like toilet paper. And use coupons wisely. Remember it’s only a deal if you’re actually going to use it.

· Give things away freely – Sometimes what goes around comes around. Giving away items to your local charity not only will free up valuable closet space it will also earn you a nice tax deduction. Likewise, giving gently used clothes and household items to a friend who will use them won’t only earn you “friend” points, but you could find yourself on the receiving end the next time.

Saving money doesn’t have to mean going without. It just means learning new shopping habits and making tiny adjustments about how we view our possessions. Maybe it will even net you enough change to buy that triple latte.