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thAs I’ve said again and again, “food” is the budget category over which we generally have the most control.

You probably can’t talk your way into a sizable discount on your auto loan, mortgage or health insurance premium, but a little ingenuity and creativity can whack your meal costs way, way back.

Erin Chase can help. The frugal genius behind “$5 Dinners” and a series of cookbooks, and co-founder of “The $5 Meal Plan,” she has created a new service that combines all her superpowers. Registration for her Grocery Budget Makeover starts Sunday, Jan. 3 and ends Monday, Jan. 11.

Her goal is to “change your mindset and methods of shopping” in 10 weeks. Not just shopping, though; meal planning, couponing and cooking tactics also figure prominently.

This is not some talking-head gourmand who doesn’t understand how regular people (including picky children) cook and eat. I actually know Erin and she is a regular person – a mother of four who avoids most processed foods due to food allergies in her family.


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Finishing your holiday buying in person? Get ready for warfare on wheels – and not just as regards scoping for prime parking spots.

Combat shopping can be murder on your ride. Whether you leave it in a garage, on the street or in a mall parking lot, you’re at risk of being tagged by a clueless driver and/or having your purchases stolen before you can even get them home to be wrapped.

While some consumers prefer to shop entirely online nearly six in 10 will do at least some brick-and-mortar visits, according to the National Retail Federation. Excited, distracted or stressed-out shoppers may dent your fender or scrape some paint on the way into or out of a parking space.

The honest ones will leave contact information on your windshield. The others just keep driving, which is not only bad manners but could also be a hit and run, legally speaking. Most states don’t define this as taking place on roads or highways, and many include parking-lot incidents in the hit-and-run definition.

One of my recent NerdWallet articles can help.


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thWhy am I giving away $10 in Amazon scrip? Because it’s easy, that’s why.

I’ve got too many irons in the fire right now to focus on coming up with a clever giveaway and an even more clever explanation of said giveaway.

Summer + deadlines = not quite enough time to do everything I need/want to do. Thus I’m cutting corners wherever I can.

Heck, last week I skipped the giveaway altogether. Sorry about that.

 


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Grocery GiveawaySavings.com recently gave away $1,000 worth of Amazon gift cards. Now they’re at it again, and upping the stakes.

The online coupon site will give away $2,000 worth of Visa gift cards, $20 at a time. They’re calling it a “Grocery Giveaway,” but obviously you can use the scrip any way you like.

Beat the heat with cold drinks or a double feature in a blessedly air-conditioned theater. Take advantage of summer clearance sales.

Buy that paperback thriller you’ve been eyeing. Put the money toward a facial or a pedicure. Purchase $20 worth of Snickers bars and freeze ’em all.

Your prize, your choice.

 


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thWe’re spending less on back-to-school shopping this year, according to the National Retail Federation: an average of $630.36 per family with kids in K-12. That’s about $39 less than last year.

Almost one in five families are already shopping, both to avoid crowds and to spread out the cost among multiple paychecks.

I’ve got another way for you to stretch your BTS budget: Win the $25 gift card I’m giving away this week.

The card is good at five different stores: Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta and Piperlime. Spend it all in one place, or go from store to store.

 


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