Mar 11, 2009

5 Tips for Surviving in a Rough Economy

In our economy, most people are trying to spend less and save more. Some of us are even just trying to survive! Even if you've already tightened your spending, is there MORE you can do to cut corners?

Here are a few ways to thrive, not just survive these hard times!

1. Spend Less Than You Make...Save the Rest

Pay down debt and build up your "emergency fund" if you haven't already. It's always important to have at least a little wiggle room in your budget. If you are cutting things close every month, it's time to re-evaluate your current lifestyle.

* Start by creating a budget. Print out a hard copy so that you have a visual reference.

*You may need to move into a smaller home. You'll not only save the rent/mortgage difference, but possibly utilities as well.

* If you're renting, look for a place that includes at least some of the utilities into the rent. Do they have a fitness facility so that you can drop your gym membership?

* Consider trading in a more expensive car, for a more budget-friendly and fuel-efficient one.

2. Limit Your Shopping Trips

Plan out your errands before you leave the house. The less you drive, the less you'll spend on gas and car maintenance. Reduce impulse buying by making a list before you leave the house. Staying out of the stores gives you more time to do other things.

* Shop at a one-stop-shop type store that will cut down on your time, energy, and gasoline.

* Save the grocery ads and shop at a store that matches prices so that you can eliminate unnecessary trips.

* Stop perusing the department store circulars that come in the Sunday paper unless you are shopping for something specific to cut down on temptation.

* Unsub from email lists for department stores that can encourage needless spending.

* Shop online if possible. Sites like Amazon and eBay have competitive prices and often times you can get free shipping with your order. Just be careful not to buy something just because it catches your eye.

* Support "Handmade". Online sites like Etsy carry an assortment of items for those on your gift list, often at very reasonable prices. Plus, you could be supporting a college student or a stay-at-home mom who is trying to provide for themselves or their family

* Take a second look at thrift stores or garage sales. Often times you can find very good condition or brand new items, for a fraction of the price.

* Plan a menu for the entire week before you go shopping. Better yet, take inventory of your coupons and what's on sale at the grocery store, and plan your menu accordingly.

* Evaluate every purchase to decide whether you really need it or not.

3. Be Resourceful

Use your imagination and tap into your creativeness to see if there's another way to use something before throwing it out. Also, before running out and buying something, think about what you already own, and if there's anything else that could work for that purpose. It will give you a sense of satisfaction to know that you just saved yourself some money!

* Look for online bartering sites.

* Maybe a neighbor or friend will exchange services with you.

* Create your own gifts or cards. The recipient will appreciate your thoughtful and heartfelt gift!

* Can you DIY? Make your own cleaning products? Grow your own produce? Do your own repairs? There is so much information available to us on the internet, that it's possible to learn to do just about anything for yourself!

4. Less Really Is More

Sometimes less really IS more. Consider eliminating some things from your life. This will increase your quality of life....and increase the size of your bank account. The things that are most satisfying and important in life are usually free. Spend time with your family and friends. Volunteer in your community or church. Take a class or start an inexpensive hobby. All of these improve the quality of our life without draining our bank accounts.

* Invite friends over for a potluck-style dinner instead of dining out.

* Research free activities going on within your community, and bring your friends along.

* Borrow DVDs from the library or Redbox to save on movie rental or theater fees.

* Consider lowering your cable down to "basic" or even eliminate it altogether. With the new digital conversion, the channels you get are almost just as good.

* Turn the tv off altogether and read a book.

* Shutoff your landline if you rarely ever use it.

* Declutter and sell what you don't need. Craigslist, eBay, and garage sales are great ways to do that.

* Pare down outside activities and have a family game night instead.

5. Give to Others!

Count your blessings. Even in a rough economy, we still live in the wealthiest country in the world! Now is a great time to reach out to the less-fortunate. If you can't afford to give money, give your time. Nothing in the world lifts the human spirit like caring and friendship can.

* Donate unwanted items to the Goodwill, Salvation Army or other charity.

*Volunteer your time at a food pantry or shelter.

* Make a meal for a family who has lost a job. (or had a baby, or lost a loved one....)

* Sponsor a child in a less-fortunate country.

* If you spot a really great deal on something, consider buying as many as you can and donating them. Often times, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, and such can be purchased for pennies on the dollar with a good sale and coupons. If you can't make use for them, somebody can!

Challenge yourself, and see yourself as well as your bank account grow!
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