Vickie Bane
December 15, 2008 12:00 PM

They have a five-bedroom house with a pool in Scottsdale, Ariz., take vacations and wear brand-name jeans: all on an average yearly income of $42,000. “All we’re doing is living below our means,” says Annette Economides, 47, who with husband Steve shares secrets of thriftiness in their bestseller America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money. For the past 26 years the couple have stretched their dollars by shunning credit cards, rarely dining out and paying cash even for such big-ticket items as their used ’99 Ford van. The couple took a marriage prep class that emphasized budgeting, allowing Annette to homeschool their five kids—John, 25, Becky, 23, Roy, 19, Joe, 16, and Abbey, 14—while Steve worked as a graphic designer. And by making extra payments on their mortgage principal, they are close to paying off the $220,000 fixer-upper they bought in 1994. Says Steve, 51: “We stay on an even keel no matter what the economy does.”

THEY SHOP FOR GROCERIES ONLY ONCE A MONTH

Armed with coupons and walkie-talkies, Annette and Steve search for sales at Bashas’ supermarket in Scottsdale. Recent purchases include:

• 8 20-lb. turkeys

• 15 cans of baked beans

• 6 gallons of whole milk

• 12 loaves of bread

• 15 1-lb. packages of pasta

• 10 dozen eggs

HOLIDAY SAVING TIPS

GIFTS

Have kids make wish lists. “They may not get it all, but they know they’ll get something they want,” says Steve.

ENTERTAINING

Go potluck. “We provide a main dish, everyone else brings drinks and hors d’oeuvres.”

PARTY FUN

Try a white elephant exchange: Guests wrap and bring inexpensive items from their homes. “It’s regifting, but we all howl with laughter,” says Annette. “Something you thought was so stupid, people are fighting over!”

CHARITY

Don’t wait. “Giving is in our yearly spending plan,” says Steve. One idea: The post office ships flat-rate care packages to U.S. soldiers for $10.95.

Outfits for the Family $71

Rehabbed a $220,000 House

Average Monthly Food Bill $350

Clipping Coupons

Looking for Deals

Freezing Future Meals

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