The Cheapskate's Guide to Living Well in East County

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Making ends meet is getting tougher. The cost of gas, food, college and just about everything else is going up, while wages have failed to keep pace with inflation.
This column provides info on where to find bargains in East County, plus other tips on how to get more for less.

September's Money Saving Tips

Beat the Heat: Can't afford gas to drive to the beach? Take the kids to the sprayground play area at Santee Lakes, which also has float tubes and paddelboats. Or visit a public pool such as the La Mesa Recreation Center or Fletcher Hills Recreation Center in El Cajon. Senior centers, libraries, movie matinees and shopping malls provide cool respites for the elderly during hot summer days.

Free Summertime Entertainment: Instead of spending money on movies or other high-priced entertainment, check out the many free events listed on our calendar, such as free concerts, festivals and outdoor movie showings offered throughout East County.

Flowers for Less: Dress up your household with gorgeous bouquets of fresh flowers for as little as $3 a bouquet at the La Mesa Farmer's Market, every Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.
You'll also find bargains on locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

Breezy Savings: Save money by turning off air conditioning. Invest in ceiling fans and floor fans instead. To save more, turn fans off before leaving home.

Go Fishing: Find a shady spot at one of East County's many lakes (such as Lake Jennings, Lake Murray, Santee Lakes, or Lindo Lake Park) and drop a line; you may just reel in dinner! Catfish, trout and bluegill are among the fish found in local waters.

Back to School Supplies: Buying back to school supplies can be a major budget-buster. To maximize savings, make several stops. Pick up loss-leader items for a fraction of regular cost at office supply store sale bins. Check swap meets, 99 cent stores and other discount chains. Find used college text books at Ross Books, in college bookstores or online vendors.

School Clothes: Check with your child's school about dress codes before buying school clothes. Visit resale children's clothing stores (listed in the yellow pages); many items look new since kids often outgrow clothes before wearing them out. Spring Valley and Santee have swap meets each weekend with bargains on new and used clothing, or shop discount stores and yard sales. At retail stores, ask about rewards cards for frequent buyers to save more money on clothes, shoes and more.

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