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How to save money in trying times

Betsy, left, and Molly Beaton grind a bar of Fels-Naptha (laundry bar soap) in a measuring cup before adding Borax and Arm & Hammer washing soda to create homemade laundry soap in the kitchen of their Fargo home recently. Betsy's New Year's resolution is to make her own laundry soap for her family's use to save money. Jay Pickthorn / The Forum

Betsy Beaton was looking for ways to save money on household expenses when she found an online recipe for laundry soap.

"The cost of laundry soap is ridiculous," said the Fargo resident, who saves her family of four about $3.25 weekly and $169 annually by making her own.

She gets all the ingredients at a local supermarket.

Beaton is among a growing number of Americans - some apparently motivated by the nationwide recession - who are looking to trim daily spending.

Newsletter editor Gary Foreman sees the trend as a silver lining to the economic turmoil.

"This is an opportunity for consumers. It's time to try some new things," said Foreman, who edits the Bradenton, Fla.-based Dollar Stretcher newsletter and Web site

The organization's Web site states that 200,000 people receive its newsletter and another 150,000 visit its site daily.

Public interest in money-saving tips really has picked up in the past three months or so, said Foreman, formerly a financial planner and purchasing manager.

Some people looking to save a few bucks have very little money and need to cut expenses, Foreman said.

"But many (cost-cutters) have good incomes. They want more money for retirement or for their children's college education," he said.

Some cost-cutters are motivated by a simple desire to get good value because they feel foolish if they spend more than necessary, he said.

At the other extreme, some folks make saving money part of their lifestyle and constantly search for ways to save, Foreman said.

Identifying and eliminating bad habits can help, he said.

Foreman recalls that he once regularly made a big pot of coffee at home in the morning, drinking only part of the pot.

Later in the day, away from home, he would buy coffee - an expense he would have saved if he'd brought along coffee from home.

For most consumers, food and groceries represent the best source of potential savings, Foreman said.

One of his hints is preparing food in bulk - enough spaghetti sauce for two or three meals, for instance.


- Use the envelope system. Figure out each month how much to spend in different categories, such as gas, food and clothing, and allocate cash to envelopes marked for that use. Once money in the envelope is gone, spending in that category stops.

- Luke Koterba of Moorhead, who said his family has gone from saving about

5 percent of take-home pay to more than

25 percent.

- Turn off your oven five minutes before the scheduled baking time is up. Electric stove burners and smooth top burners can be turned off two to three minutes before the cooking time is up. Both the turned-off oven and burners will continue to cook your food.

- Carolyn Gaarder of Fargo

- Fill the washer rather than washing many small loads.

- Carrol Dahl of Tolna, N.D.

- Get to know your neighbors and borrow or lend seldom-used items such as ladders and compressors.

- Carol Wickenheiser of Fargo

- Ask store clerks or salespeople if discounts or coupons are available.

- Wickenheiser

- Track your expenses for a week or a month and write down everything you spend. Look for things to cut out and realize how small things add up.

- Nancy Kvamme of Fargo

- Stock up on items you use regularly when they are on sale.

- Kvamme

- Turn down the heat a few degrees and wear sweaters.

- Janice Richter of Fargo

- Reuse your bath towel once or twice before washing.

- Richter

- With computer printing, set the default mode to "draft" unless you're printing an important document. This uses less ink. If it's important, override the default when the print screen comes up.

- Janinne Paulson of Stanley, N.D.

- Use a product known as liquid electrical tape to extend the life of your dishwasher racks when the factory coating begins to wear off.

- Paulson

- Buy an automatic thermostat and have it set at lower temperatures when you're not at home.

- Tessa Rasmussen of Moorhead

Food and groceries

- Drink water instead of pop at work.

- Heather Brager of Fargo, who said she's saving $37.50 per month doing it.

- Drink water instead of pop when eating out.

- Carrol Dahl of Tolna, N.D.

- Plan meals a week or a month in advance. This makes it easier to buy items on sale and in bulk.

- Kari Ahrens of Moorhead,

Jessi Schaefer of Frazee, Minn.,

and Sarah Mudder of Mandan, N.D.

- Don't shop for groceries when you're hungry. Eat first, and you'll be less likely to buy on impulse.

- Mudder

- Don't throw away half of an unused onion or leave it to rot in the refrigerator. Instead, chop it up and freeze the mounds.

- Janinne Paulson of Stanley, N.D.

- Check out library cookbooks and online recipes for relatively inexpensive bean recipes, and eat meat less often.

- Paulson

The food can be frozen and part of it reheated when desired, he said.