Plan ahead. Pack lunches at home for work. Make a simple meal plan for the week. Make a list of groceries for easy-to-fix meals. Quick and easy meals can be prepared for a lot less than eating out.

For a family of four, eating at a good restaurant can cost $50, with drinks and gratuity. By cutting out one restaurant meal per week, a family saves $200 per month.

Spend less on entertainment.

The average U.S. consumer spends $2,698 on entertainment, according to the Department of Labor's latest survey (October 2010). That is 5.4% of their annual paycheck.

Imagine if the amount spent on entertainment would go to a savings account instead. If you had 5% of your income automatically deducted and redirected to a 401(k) account, you'd save even more, including tax savings.

There are free and fun ways to entertain the family.

Attend concerts and plays at local high schools and colleges. High school musical events may include choral concerts, or orchestra, band, and jazz performances.

Check out community events. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce and discover activities held year-round. Take free tours. This can be educational as well.

Make use of the library to check out books and free movies for the family. Library services include a variety of programs for the whole family.

Go to the park. Use the walking and biking trails in your area.

Or stay at home for some backyard entertainment. Play badminton, croquet, or baseball. Camp out in the backyard when the weather is good.

Stay focused.

Make a commitment to yourself and your spouse to be accountable with spending. To keep more of your money, focus on the benefits of moving forward with your goals. Link your new habits to positive rewards now and in the future.

Copyright (c) 2011 Deborah Nayrocker. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint required.

Deborah Nayrocker is the author of The Art of Debt-Free Living and Living a Balanced Financial Life. Her Web site is