Saving money is one of the highest priorities that people have when the economy is bad, but when you have to buy the necessities for your family, it's hard to cut things out. Instead, here are a few tips for saving money on the things that you have to buy.

When the economy is suffering, people tend to spend less and save more. While this is a great strategy for creating a financial safety net for your family, it doesn't help much when it comes to buying the necessities. Food, clothing, shelter and basic appliances and entertainment can all be managed when you follow a few money-saving tips.

Clip coupons. You know all those ads that line your trash can after the mail comes each day? Look through them. Get to know them. Even if you have a supermarket that you go to on a regular basis, you should consider going to different markets in order to save more money for your family. Even with the coupons, look at the items that you are buying and check their per-unit cost. If you understand how much each bite of food costs, you will be more likely to spend a few extra minutes to shop around and find better deals.

Watch the sales. Stores tend to have certain cycles that they follow for their sales. While holidays are the most obvious ones, other times of year will have a greater number of sales available. As you spend more time watching the sales, you will begin to develop a better sense of when to buy certain items. This will also help you to know when to stock up on non-perishable items so that you can save the most money.

Shop around. If you are strapped for cash, there is absolutely no reason to have loyalty for a certain store. Take your cues from sales, discounts, and coupons to know which store to shop at. You can even save gas by walking to your supermarket or driving to a shopping center that has multiple shopping options available. The one caveat to this is to take into consideration the club cards that many retailers have. These are free to join, often come with extra coupons and discounts, and will increase the amount of money that you can save.

Aim for "Black Friday." Black Friday is that dreaded day following Thanksgiving that kicks off the Christmas shopping season. Many retailers have unheard-of deals on this day, but there is a lot of competition. If you aren't quite ready to don football pads and helmet to get the best deals, you might want to stay home. A viable alternative, though, is Cyber Monday. The Monday following Thanksgiving, many online retailers post similar deals.

Other alternatives. Don't limit yourself to finding deals in traditional stores. eBay and Craig's List are great sources for used (read: cheap!) items. You can also find many necessities at garage sales for literally pennies. When it comes time to find gifts for people, you can use your crafty skills to make them something (or, better yet, have your kids make them something). Groups of friends have also resuscitated the practice of bartering and sharing; instead of throwing away those clothes that your kids are too big for, pass them along to your friend. When you are in need of something, check around to see who else might be able to help you out.

With a little bit of creativity, any shopping experience can be turned into a bargain-fest in no time.

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