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Getting your house in financial order is easier than ever says WomenSource

POSTED: February 10, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Everyone would love to bring home more money, but in this economy, receiving a raise isn’t likely. You may not be able to increase your pay, but there are things you can do to stretch the dollars you earn. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned.

One of the easiest places to trim costs is your grocery bill. That doesn’t mean you should skip meals; it just means reducing the amount you spend on the food to make those meals.

Couponing was once something that grandmothers did to save a quarter on a can of tuna. But shows like TLC’s "Extreme Couponing" are showing the general public they present a real opportunity for savings.

"I’ve used coupons off and on for the last three years," said Amy Bockman Park, a Gainesville resident.

"I have four children and at the time I had some in diapers and some in Pull-Ups, so those were the main things I would use coupons for."

After deciding to be a stay-at-home mom, Park’s family relied on her husband’s income, so she became more serious about couponing as an opportunity to reduce the family’s expenditures. In her quest to save more, Park discovered websites that helped her come up with strategies for getting the most bang for her bucks.

"These websites tell you when items are going to be at the lowest price and they match them with coupons so you get the better deal," Park said.

"In many stores you can use two coupons, a store coupon if it’s available and a manufacturer’s coupon, so you save even more on the item."

Park has learned to stock up on items when she finds a good deal.

"I’m not an extreme couponer, but items in stores go on sale in cycles, so you want to stock up when they’re on sale to last you until the next time," Park said.

"It saves you money in the long run.

"It takes about four to six weeks before you start seeing huge savings."

WomenSource, a Gainesville-based nonprofit, has come up with a financial series that’s designed to help women stretch their dollars. The group is in the middle of the six-week series, "Financial Management During Times of Change," which is being offered through a partnership with the Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County and CredAbility.

According to Laura Haynes, WomenSource program coordinator, the series was designed to help women who find their budgets in limbo from situations like the loss of a job or a divorce.

"There are a lot of women in transition in the community," Haynes said.

"A lot of people aren’t prepared for change. We wanted to offer a series that would help women know what to do, if the situation came up."

Previous sessions have covered topics like surviving on a limited budget and handling life’s big emergencies.

"The top five emergencies that can financially devastate a family’s finances are: job loss, medical debt, divorce, natural disaster and a death in the family," said Lisa Ray, a financial education specialist with CredAbility, which is a nonprofit credit counseling and education agency.

Although the series includes several classes, participants can choose to attend any number of the sessions, which meet from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Mondays at United Way, 527 Oak St. in Gainesville. A light dinner is included with the free workshop, so attendees must register in advance to reserve their spot.

Monday’s class will give attendees strategies for negotiating with creditors. The Feb. 20 session will help participants understand their rights when it comes to handling past due accounts and the final session on Feb. 27 will address how to get out of debt.



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