Sunday, November 8, 2009

Big Ticket Savings

If you've just been downsized, or have had your hours or pay cut, or you just want to stop the flood of money out of your wallet, saving is on your mind. Cutting out the $4 lattes helps, and over time can really add up. But economizing on small items takes years to have a big impact. If you've suddenly gone from being well-ensconced in the middle class to thinking about food stamps, you need big savings fast. Housing is the largest monthly expense for most households, but one that's very difficult to change. Here are some ideas for more immediate ways to save.

Cars. Keep your old car longer. Other than housing, few things cost a typical household more than the expense and depreciation of a new car. If you're part of a multi-car household, think about getting rid of one car. Drive less. Public transportation and/or carpooling are usually cheaper than driving your own car.

Home Cooking. Cut back on restaurant meals--and especially the bar tabs. Home cooking is generally less expensive, and you have much more control over the ingredients. Some restaurants dump salt, sugar and fat by the truckload on their dishes, for a variety of nefarious reasons. A home cooked meal can be quite tasty and satisfying without half the bad stuff. If you don't know how to cook, stay out of restaurants, buy a week's worth of frozen pizzas and TV dinners at the supermarket, and by the end of the week, you'll be avidly learning to cook.

Clothes. When you get down to it, most clothes purchases are discretionary, not essential. Cut back, and look for sales and discounts. You need a work wardrobe. But you don't have to dress like royalty at home or at the supermarket.

Entertainment. Entertainment is ultimately something that happens between your ears. You have control over what you find entertaining, and it doesn't need to involve a lot of money. When you were 18 and broke just about all the time, you probably had quite a few good times. You still can, even if you're broke today.

Shop for less. If you're a shopaholic, stop going to the mall. Shop at thrift shops, Goodwill and garage sales. Go to places where you can buy interesting stuff for less than $5 or even $2. That way, you can buy lots but not spend much.

Reduce your income. If you're still employed with a good income, arrange for some of your paycheck to be automatically transferred from your checking account into another account. It can be a savings account, a money market account, a mutual fund account or wherever else you might like. That way, you'll automatically save something without having to consciously decide what you have to do without. You'll have less spending money, and the thing of it is that you'll adjust to spending less.

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