Budgeting Tips from the Trenches
It used to be called “pinching pennies”. Now it’s known as “stretching a dollar,” maybe because inflation made pennies so valueless it didn’t seem worth the effort to pinch them. But no matter what phrase you use, it all comes down to making the money you get from paycheck to paycheck last longer and go further.
Getting more bang for the buck is a subject that always fascinates consumers, but never so much as it does during a recession. Of course, being in the middle of what is turning out to be the biggest “economic slowdown” since the Great Depression, the subject keeps popping up every time you pick up a newspaper or turn on the television.
Many of these media outlets are asking financial experts to give their views on how America should be keeping expenses down as the cost of living rises and the pink slips start mounting. But in spite of all of their expertise, conventional wisdom tells you that the real know-how comes from the people on the front lines. The average consumer, with the unemployment check instead of a paycheck, or with a paycheck that was slashed, who has to make a mortgage payment and put meals on the table, understands what it takes to keep body and soul together.
That’s why the following working people have been asked to contribute their best ways to save a little here and there, because, as your mother always said, “Watch your pennies, and your dollars will take care of themselves.”
This first list of suggestions comes from Chrissy Scivicque, Content Manager for OfficeArrow, a network of executive and administrative assistants, office managers, and small business owners. Chrissy is also a former Executive Assistant:
“1. Brown bag it. Stop wasting precious dollars dining out. Save money (and calories) by packing lunch and taking it to the office. To avoid missing out on valuable team bonding time, establish one day a week to indulge in a meal out with the group.
“2. Borrow it. Libraries are often forgotten, but it is easy to save by borrowing instead of buying. These days, many public libraries house a huge collection of movies and CDs in addition to books.
“3. Grow it. Consider starting a fresh herb and vegetable garden. Not only do these foods taste better when picked fresh, but a garden like this also saves a ton of money. Plus, it provides a convenient supply of fresh goodies, so no gas is wasted hitting the grocery store throughout the week.
“4. Change it. Switching to Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) can significantly lower energy bills. They use 75% less energy than standard light bulbs, and they last about 10 times longer! They also produce less heat, so they are safer. These bulbs are a win for both the wallet and the planet.
“5. Care for it. Whatever ‘it’ is, take care of it. That could mean one’s health (prevention is less expensive than treatment) or just a pair of nice shoes (polish can make an old shoe new again). Show a little love to personal items, and they will last a lot longer.
“6. Skype it. Take a look at that phone bill and see how much it is per minute. Why pay for domestic or even international long distance calls? Skype allows consumers to make free calls to other Skype users all over the world through their computers. It also offers very cheap calls to land lines and cell phones domestically and internationally.
“7. Trade it. When they have an abundance of something (tomatoes in the backyard, for instance) or a special skill (auto or computer repair), consumers should use the barter system to obtain products and services from friends and neighbors. Trading is good for one’s wallet and community.”
Sarah M. Place, MBA, President and CEO of Place Trade Financial, Inc. provided this roster of her favorite money saving tips:
“1. Always compare price per ounce when shopping for groceries. It is incredible how often I find that the products that are sold ‘in bulk’ or in larger packages are significantly more expensive than smaller packages. Years ago we were taught that buying in bulk offered big savings and many people just pick up that larger item and move on not realizing that they may be much better off if they took a few seconds to compare.
“2. Always travel with a bottle of water. So often we get thirsty (or hungry) when we are out and it is so easy to pull up to a drive through or convenience store to buy something and spend a few extra dollars when we could have a brought something from home. Invest in a nice bottle to carry with you. Even if you only spend a buck each time on a drink — that can really add up over time!
“3. Invest in a crock pot — it is such a great tool. It takes just a few minutes to throw ingredients into a crock pot in the morning and let it simmer all day. When you come home from work that house smells great and dinner is ready. Saves time and money. Never throw away a chicken without either turning [it] into soup, chicken and dumplings, or at least throwing it in your crock pot to cook down for stock. Toss that stock in the freezer and who knows what you will create with it later — it is just great to have homemade stock on hand when you need it versus the store (expensive) brands.
“4. Save on your utility bills. Often times there are services that you do not need or fees that can be waived or deleted with one phone call. Last month I finally decided that I could live without my home phone because I was tired of paying so much, but was torn because I still need it to support my alarm system. I called my service provider, explained my situation, and within minutes she wiped about 30% off of my total bill without reducing my service. I was in shock, but quickly thanked her, and am now enjoying the savings. It is worth asking — the worst thing they can do is say no.
“5. Enjoy events for free. Check your local paper or community calendar for free or close to free events. Larger communities often have festivals and events that you can attend for free. In Raleigh, NC, we have a summer concert series with nationally known musicians/bands that play for free to the public, free movies on the lawn, and every ‘First Friday’ of the month the city’s artists open up their shops and studios for the community to come and enjoy their wares while mingling with fellow art lovers.”
These are hard times, so no matter what your economic status, it pays to save where you can. That extra money may come in handy when you least expect it.