Save hundreds with these small changes to your budget

Back in January 2009, the Chicago Tribune asked me to have my family finances revamped by a series of experts. The exercise proved challenging, to say the least: Baring your financial foibles to the world is like waving a red flag in front of every hater on the Internet, and then begging them to ridicule you for foolish purchases and the like.

But it also proved a boon that I wouldn't take back for anything. It allowed me to pick the brains of some very smart money people in my quest to get the Good Ship Carlozo righted and sailing toward financial security. One of those experts, Julie Murphy Casserly, a Chicagohealers.com wealth and asset specialist. Casserly gave me the most to think about in terms of my wasteful habits. (Like: Eating out for lunch every day.)

Casserly thinks most families mired in the Great Recession -- the longest economic downturn since the Great Depression -- can save $500 or more a month by making a few simple adjustments. So if you're still struggling to manage and cut down your household budget, here's how you can do it -- making small changes with variable expenses such as groceries, food, clothing, shopping and entertainment: