Americans saw a hit in their paychecks this week, which makes things harder on working families. Payroll taxes were raised by 2 percent (from 4.2 percent of your earnings to 6.2 percent). This means less money for necessities like gas, clothing, groceries and entertainment.
Here are some ways to combat it.
Hit the dollar store. Get some of your necessities here and only buy what you need when you need. The dollar store is great for toiletries, snacks for school lunches and even toys.
Use Coupons. Get them anywhere you can -- in your local paper, through your supermarket savings card or at sites like Coupons.com. In a savings experiment I did last year I found that with just 45 minutes, a computer and a weekly circular, $146 can buy an average shopper $260 worth of groceries. Over the course of one year, that shopper can save more than $5,000. Also, look for coupon codes online before checking out when online shopping to find additional savings.
Drive less. If you can swap out some trips with walking, carpooling, or bicycling, you can save some money. Think of it this way -- you can gain some exercise!
Cut out interest. If you switch to a credit card or cards on which you're paying 15 percent interest to a card that offers 0 percent on balance transfers, you'll save. Look for a card with a 0 percent introductory period.
Moonlight money. Find new and different ways to earn cash. Did you know that you could earn money by being a taste tester for a product. sitting on a mock jury or being a mystery shopper? These are all great ways to add some cash to your wallet.
Entertain at home. Invite a group of friends over and everyone can bring a meal and the alcohol. Don't spend the money on the drinks out. Friends can rotate hosting.
Quit smoking. The national average is $5.31 a pack. That is a big savings and your lungs will thank you!
Brown-bag it. Pack your lunch. I compared the prices for homemade to the average deli price for three popular sandwiches, and found that you can save $23.75 per week -- or $1,235 over the course of a year -- by doing just a little shopping and taking five minutes each day to prep your lunch.
Stock up on next year's outerwear now. February is the best month to buy low-priced outerwear and it may be your last chance before next fall. If you live in an area that experienced a mild winter this year, then stores near you probably have a large inventory that they desperately need to move out in order to make room for spring fashions. Often this surplus will end up at outlets and off-price department stores that sell discontinued and overstock merchandise.