How to beat the higher cost of living

Perhaps you've noticed: Living is expensive.

In January, you paid an average 3.9% more for basics -- the roofover your head, the food in your fridge, the visits to your doctor-- than you did 12 months earlier in Southern California.

A government forecast says that food in general will set you back 3.5% more this year.

People are coping in many ways -- patronizing the public libraryinstead of the bookstore, kicking the brand loyalty habit, arguing(often successfully) with credit card companies, finally takingtheir fathers' advice to check the tire pressure, mowing their ownlawns.

Check out some dollar-stretching tips. Tweaking your household finances to save hundreds of dollars a year doesn’t have to hurt — too much.
Dinner for 99 cents Savvy shoppers can find name-brand and organic products at discounters like 99 Cents Only.
Getting back to basics Contrary to how it feels, stuff is cheap. Really. So why do we feel so squeezed?
Quick econ lesson