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Taking a few simple steps can help you save money

Here are a few simple steps to help you save money:

■ Many businesses have reward cards that give discounts on purchases, or offer prizes or money back on purchases. I suggest you sign up for those cards.

Kroger's reward card, the Kroger Plus card, gets you sales pricing on items and a discount on gasoline at Kroger and Shell stations.

Speedway stations offer the Speedy card, which offers rewards.

■ It can be hard to keep track of all those reward cards. I recently organized mine on my smartphone, loading all my cards on a free app called Cardstar. If you don't have a smartphone, most businesses can access your account if you give them your phone number.

■ Some credit cards offer rewards, too. My card gives me points so I can get money back or gift cards. I buy everything on my credit card and try to pay off my balance every month. When I need to buy a present, I use my points to get a gift card.

■ I don't have a written budget of my daily expenses. I use Microsoft Money to balance my checkbook, and that gives me a breakdown of all my expenses. I'm often surprised to see what I am spending.

■ Plan for special events or for home projects so you can make smarter purchases.

■ A couple of times a year, I try to see that all services are the most appropriate for me and offer the best price. I call about my insurance rates, my cable bills and any other monthly expenses that can fluctuate. I called the phone company recently and had more services added for free.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be proactive.

■ Many insurance plans have a preventive health plans that will help you with your gym membership costs. Check with your insurer.

■ If you are part of a Medicare health plan or a group retiree, you might be eligible for SilverSneakers, a free program that helps older adults stay healthy and active. HealthwoRx, 161 Lexington Green Circle, Suite B2, offers the program.

■ Seniors can save 10 percent on their bills by shopping the first Wednesday of each month at Kroger.

■ If you belong to any clubs, check out their discounts. AARP members can receive a coupon for $5 off a purchase of $20 or more at Walgreens. It's good until July 30.

■ Being a student can mean discounts at area businesses.

■ Some businesses will honor other businesses' discounts. When I got my oil changed at S&S Tires, I brought in a coupon from another business, and S&S matched the price. If a place wants your business, it will accommodate you.

Credit card discounts

■ Bank of America's card can get you in free at 150 museums, zoos and aquariums across the country on the first full weekend of every month in 2011.

■ American Express cards offer discounts on sporting events, concerts and plays in major cities.

■ Continental Airlines OnePass Plus from Chase and Delta SkyMiles from American Express let you and as many as eight companions check a bag free.

■ The Discover card offers discounts from more than 200 retailers.

School supplies at Staples

■ Staples 50-page Photo Supreme paper is $14.99, with a $14.99 rebate.

■ A five-pack of Brite Liner Grip yellow highlighters is $4, with a $4 rebate.

Other deals

■ Snapfish offers a free 5-by-7 personalized soft-cover photo book when you enter seven photos during the month.

■ Get three free 5-by-7 folded greeting cards from Snapfish. You also can create 99 4-by-6 prints at Snapfish for a penny apiece.

■ Get up to $8 off on one ticket to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 when you buy any of the Harry Potter movies on DVD or Blu-Ray (in store only) at Best Buy.

■ Jazz: Live at the Library is 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month at Central Library, 140 East Main Street. Free.

■ Southland Jamboree is at 7 p.m. Tuesdays at Collins Bowling Center, 205 Southland Drive. Free.

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