Three Florida households learn how to stretch a dollar

MIAMI _ How much money does it take to get by?

It's a question being asked more and more these days by _ and of _ Average Joes and Janes.

With the economy shrinking due to job losses and an emaciated real-estate market, we went in search of a rare breed of family these days: ones that aren't struggling financially.

They're not rich, or poor. They're average. They're middle class. And they're living comfortably, as they like _ paying their bills and building their savings.

As the Hank Williams Jr. song goes, these are families "tryin' to make a dollar out of 15 cents," and succeeding at it.

Three families agreed to track their spending for one month and share their budgets _ and savings tips _ with The Miami Herald. What we found with each household were four common denominators: simple lifestyles, a knack for bargain shopping, restraint, and use of credit cards only for the most extreme emergencies.

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