Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Troubled Times

Gas prices are currently the highest recorded for the month of April, federal employees missed a shutdown by the thinnest of margins, and people are living on paychecks that are not keeping up with inflation. We wake up everyday wondering, 'What next?'   On some level, we are all concerned about what could be looming on our financial horizon that could knock us for another loop.

You have probably examined your expenses and made adjustments to your budget. Perhaps the larger things, such as vacations and large purchases, have been winnowed down to a minimum. You have pared back dinners out, shop the clearance rack and gourmet coffee is a thing of the past. You may even wake up in the morning dreading the thought of another day, another financial misery.

Take a deep breath. It doesn't have to be that way. Here are a few more things that can be done with minimal effort and will not only yield a great financial return when all are combined, they will put a confident step in your stride because you will know you've done even more to protect yourself  from any future economic calamities.

**1** Join a local credit union and sign up for a Christmas Club. Most will take deposits as low as $5. When you get that check in November, you will have a cash and carry holiday.

**2** Be energy wise.  Full laundry loads, adjust the thermostat accordingly, cut off unneeded lights.

**3** Let the kids use their allowance to pay for their gaming accounts and school store purchases.

**4** Find an alternative to the cable-internet bundle.

**5** Pay yourself $1 everytime you use your washer. Possible yield $25-$60 per month.

**6** Get healthy. Maintenance medication is very expensive.

**7** Can you make homemade cheaper?

**8** Break money goals into smaller pieces. If you can't see yourself not eating out for a month, try not eating out this weekend only. Goals are more achievable when they are more manageable.

**9** Quit throwing away leftovers. 'Redecorate' them into an entirely different meal so it's more enjoyable to your palate.

**10** Send coupon savings, rebates, overpayments, etc straight to your savings (not checking!)

**11** Shop off season and spend pennies on the dollar.

**12** Plant a garden. My yard is the size of a post card and only two little pepper plants supplied enough to dry and crush for my spice loving husband with plenty left. Crushed and placed in small shakers purchased at the local discount store, they made simple little hostess gifts for family barbecues, etc. It cost  next to nothing and it was a very enjoyable project.

**13** It is warm outside. Drop the gym membership and go outdoors.

**14** Utilize that warehouse membership (we once paid for a membership and used it only once in 12 months. What a waste!)

**15** Determine your gas usage for the month and withdraw that amount of money. If gas prices drop, continue withdrawing the higher amount and create your own Gasoline Slush Fund.

**16** Stay on top of those Due Dates. No late fees are allowed.

**17** Save part of your mortgage/rent payment from each check (if you are not paid once a month) instead of having a huge strain on a single pay period.

**18** Limit grocery shopping to paydays (except for perishables) to avoid frequent unnecessary purchases.

**19** Prioritze your goals for the day so you aren't running in circles. I've been known to waste both time and gas (money) by having to go back to the store for something.

**20** Go online and deposit $10. Do it every Friday. That ten is better off in you online savings account than in some drive- through paying for you to SuperSize your fries.

We can all agree that times are tough. And don't you feel just a little better knowing you are doing all you can to keep the wolf away from the door?  We will still have to make the hard choices, but by making a lot of smaller ones, perhaps we will reach a point where not only do we stave off the wolf, we smack him in the head so hard, he goes away for good!

Pat yourself on the back. You are making smart choices to protect your financial future.

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