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Last week Department of Labor Stats and Consumer Price Index Stats confirmed that things are more expensive and most of us have less money to pay for those things. Here is some advice.

Create Extra Revenue Streams – Make Your Hobbies Earn For You.
Warning: This will require investing more of your free time in income-generating activities. But the good news is you don’t have to pick up a midnight shift at the local 24-hour diner to make extra income. Instead, find a clever way to monetize an activity or hobby you’re already doing. For example, if you have Web skills, consider freelancing on the side to help people with their Web sites and blogs. You can do this all from the convenience of your home.  If you have a knack for cooking, offer to cater friends’ parties. Sell items on (EBAY) or have a garage sale.  Babysitting rates for out-of-college young professionals can run around $10 to $15 per child per hour.

Lower Your Interest Rate – Average $30 monthly savings.

Based on Federal Reserve data the average household has credit card debt of around $8,500.  If you were able to slash your interest rate by 30% from say, 15% to 10.5%, that’s a savings of at least $30 per month.  You can lower your own rate without the Fed’s help.

Thirty-five percent of consumers are carrying a monthly balance on their Visas (V), Mastercards (MA), and Amexes (AXP) and more than half of these folks could lower their rates by simply calling their bank and asking. If the annual rate on your credit card is higher than the national average of around 11%, call up the issuing bank and ask for the lowest possible rate.  If you’re especially ambitious, ask for 0% APR for the next six months, since that’s what all the credit card companies are offering you in the mail these days, right? 

The trick is to make it seem like you will move your business elsewhere if you don’t get a lower rate.  Make sure you’re in good standing with the credit card company.  This trick works best for those using less than 30% of their credit limit and who’ve barely every missed a monthly payment. 

Keep it Simple – Up to $100 monthly savings.
Buying generic pharmaceuticals and filling your grocery cart with store-brand products instead of upscale labels can help save up to 50% on everyday goods.  While the quality may not be identical, with most products these days, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference. Considering the average two-person household spends $200 a month on groceries, a single person could save a quick $50 just opting for basic brands.  Want to cut another $30 to $50 a month? Reduce your eating out habits in half, since families spend more than 40% of their food budget on dining out, according to Consumer Reports.

Catch more of Farnoosh’s advice on Real Simple. Real Life. on TLC, Friday nights at 8 p.m.