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Instant Money Savers

While making a run to the drugstore, my husband was pulled over for driving with an expired car registration. Apparently, the renewal had been due around the time our 5-month-old was born, and it slipped through the cracks. After paying $120 for the ticket and impound fee (yep, they towed the car!), it hit me: Our shrinking bank balance wasn't just the result of expenses like diapers. Short on time and organization, we were letting serious money wasters eat away at our wallets.

I vowed to plan ahead a bit  -- and we've actually saved hundreds of dollars. So can you, with some inspiration from real moms, including two professional organizers:

Money drainer: Oops  -- your son's dentist appointment was actually last Wednesday. Now you have to pony up a fine for not canceling 24 hours in advance.

Money savers:

? Become one with your planner. If you're religious about recording all commitments in a planner (paper or electronic) you won't have to rely on your already overtaxed memory. Or use your cell phone's calendar  -- most of the newer ones can be programmed to alert you a day or two before an appointment, enough time to cancel.

? Create a message center. Dede King, a mom of four in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, labeled the inside of a kitchen cabinet with the days of the week, then glued two clothespins by each day: one for her "To Do" list and the other for her "To Buy" list. At the start of each week, she writes her lists and clips them to the corresponding day. On her way out, she grabs that day's list and knows just what's on the agenda.

? Request a reminder. "Ask service providers to call you in advance to confirm your appointment," says Anne Blumer, a professional organizer in Portland, Oregon. "Any service that has a cancellation penalty should give a reminder."

Kristen Finello, a mom of two, also writes for Bridal Guide.