The topic of personal finance has always seemed formulaic, and to some extent this structured approach has value. Without a doubt, we should aim to save as much as possible, and we should always evaluate our various accounts to project return on investment. It doesn't matter what our income level or budget is we should do our best to leverage programs like company-matched 401(k) contributions and pretax benefits. If we want to guide our decisions, we can plug and chug our unique numbers into the miscellaneous calculators that experts create to help us visualize and analyze our objectives. Especially for the finance novice, a variety of cookie-cutter approaches have held strong to command the discipline of healthy budgeting.

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

From a sociological standpoint, however, we are living in times of opposing financial forces, and as a result budgets are tough to manage. As unemployment rates stagnate and educational costs soar, technology is helping people access information for boundless learning opportunities. In other words, the wealth gap is growing, and the digital divide is narrowing. People need to find a way to save, but skyrocketing student debt, high living expenses and low-paying jobs stand in the way of that goal. However, technology and information are on our side to help us get creative – no matter where we stand on the wealth spectrum.

The result has been an emerging frugal living phenomenon. Now, more than ever, we rely on each other to fine-tune our savings tips and tricks into manageable and customizable savings strategies. These days, virtually anyone can launch blogs or peer-to-peer communities, and people like J. Money, FrugalDad and the EveryDay Minimalist have ventured to share their frugal living insights with audiences who are interested in learning.

What lessons should we learn from the web's frugal living experts? Below, we list four sites you should take a look at.

Creativity in Budgeting
Heather Schisler at PassionforSavings.com teaches us to approach shopping from nuanced perspectives. As a feature, her website shares freebies, coupons and deals. Schisler hosts free extreme couponing classes to help people build stockpiles, find high-value coupons, organize deals and use sites like Amazon and Ebates. Schisler's experience comes from her background as a stay-at-home mom, and her lessons are applicable to anyone and everyone – mom or not.


Entrepreneurship in Everyday Ideas
Over at ThePennyHoarder.com, Kyle Taylor teaches us easy, wacky and real ways to make some spare cash. From spying on the mail man, keeping insured, renting out your car and selling homemade "macquariums" on Etsy, Kyle teaches us how anyone and everyone can become an everyday entrepreneur. Best of all, he appeals to a range of budgeters from serious investors, hobbyists and fans of cash-back systems.

Strength in Community
WiseBread.com is a community of personal finance writers that specializes in anything and everything relating to money. As we very well know, the topic of money transcends money to encompass topics of philosophy, mental health and practicality. WiseBread provides a home for all of these subjects.

Personal Empowerment Through Sound Decisions
MoneyCrashers is a site that aims to educate and empower its readers in the areas of debt, investing, credit, education, real estate, insurance and spending. The site leverages the expertise of a team of writers to provide diverse perspectives on timeless topics like how to choose a bank, credit trends and shopping best-practices.

The Bottom Line
Regardless of how much money you make, how much you owe or how old you are, you are in control of your budget. Yes, if you have a student loan or credit card debt, you need to pay it, but you can still make strategic decisions to support your financial future. What we learn best, we learn from each other – and by leveraging the expertise of the web's frugal living community, we are better equipped to tap into our creative minds.

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