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personal finance tips

Kate Deveau, 5, divides her savings into baby food jars. Credit: Sarah Deveau

Sarah Deveau has a goal for her family: In 10 years, she wants to move to Nova Scotia, where she grew up, and live on a farm.

To keep that goal in mind, the Airdrie, Alta., mom of three keeps a picture of a farm at hand when she shops. "I keep that picture in my wallet to remind me that every time I pull out my debit card, that whatever I'm buying that day, whether it's a pair of jeans or a slushie, that's going to take me further away from that goal."

Ms. Deveau is using the same technique to teach her five-year-old daughter, Kate, how to save for their upcoming trip to Halifax for a cousin's wedding. "She has little baby food jars that have pictures taped to the front of what she's saving for."

When Ms. Deveau is not running her consignment store, she writes. Her latest book, Money $mart Mom: Financially Fit Parenting, offers tips on how families can stay on budget to achieve their goals. Here, she shares some of her favourites:

Get free government money

Some provinces now allow you to apply for your newborn's Social Insurance Number immediately after the birth. Take advantage of this - the sooner you get that SIN, the sooner you can start contributing to a regular RESP. Even a small monthly contribution will add up, especially considering the matching 20-per-cent government grant. Cha-ching!

Dine in

The permanent exhaustion that accompanies a new baby in the house or kids enrolled in numerous extracurricular activities is a great excuse for ordering in every night, but you'll be eating your way through their diaper and degree money. Give meal planning a try - an hour a week of strategic meal planning will save you hundreds a month in groceries, and reduce food waste. A few cookbooks and a notebook is all you need to start trimming many dollars off your food bill (and a lot of last-minute fast food calories from your waistline).

Cut credit card debt

If you've been carrying a balance on your credit card, ask for a lower rate, even if you have to give up your rewards program. Better yet, meet with a bank's financial services adviser to talk about available debt consolidation options and cut that credit card up!

Bye bye birthdays

Overwhelmed by elaborate birthday parties that seem like nothing more than gift grabs? Us too. Here's a tip - it's OK to decline! And unlike weddings, you don't have to send a gift in absence. Reclaim your Saturday mornings for cuddles and cartoons instead of celebration chaos.

Spend on dates, save your marriage

Setting up a weekly date night is a marriage saver, even if all you do is talk about the kids (it's hard not to, I know!). If you don't have willing grandparents or aunties and uncles, find another set of parents you can swap sitting with on a weekly basis.

Cut out coupons

If you're an avid coupon cutter, take a good, hard look at your pantry and freezer. Is it filled with food you bought just because you had a coupon? Most households aren't very adventurous with their menu, and a food item isn't a good deal if it sits gathering dust or freezer burn.

Take out the trash

We all know small children like the packaging better than the presents, so why do we keep buying them expensive plastic toys? Repurpose "waste" for hours of fun. Empty yogurt cups, plastic spoons from takeout, straws and more can be used in the bath, sandbox or at the beach. Plus you don't have to stress if another toddler walks off with a few of these toys.

Beg and borrow

Need a new whatchmacallit? Before you head to a department store with your wallet, ask your friends, via e-mail or a social networking site, if anyone has an extra. You'd be surprised at how many people have extra microwaves, toasters, televisions or end tables gathering dust in their storage they'd be happy to pass on for just the feel-good.

Have a swap party

We could always use another reason to get out with our girls, so why not start a bimonthly swap party? Make it a potluck event and rotate homes, with everyone bringing stuff they no longer need - books, knick knacks, clothing, toys, even pantry staples!

Divide and conquer costs

Annual coupon books are a waste of money if you don't use the coupons, or only want one or two. Check with your friends to see if they'll go splits with you on one, or if they'll let you pilfer from their book once they've pulled out the ones they'll use.

Do you have any money-saving tips to share with Globe readers?