Monday, April 6, 2009

Depression Era Tips - They Still Work

I read this by Lou Carlozo in today's Chicago Tribune and thought it was interesting and reassuring.

Thankfully, most of these ideas have already been instilled in me by my parents although neither of them really were aware of the Great Depression as children - one wasn't born yet, the other just a toddler living overseas by the time the GD "ended". Something about seeing these tips in writing and written by someone else made me feel good - I guess reminding me that others out there think the same way and this way of thinking is good (although of course I already knew that :-) but it's always helpful to have a refresher.

10. Shop only for necessities. Ask yourself, “Is this something I want or need?” This comes in handy often - especially since I'm a sucker for a sale! I'll remind myself that no matter how cheap it is it still costs money - do I really need it? Usually the answer is "no".

9. Throw away your catalogs. Do this as soon as one comes in the mail. Purchase only necessities. Yes - don't even open them up because you will find something you want (but probably not need). Go one step better and save a tree by calling the company's customer service department and remove yourself from their mailing list. When I'm on a really tight budget I won't even look in the Sunday paper sale ads unless I need a specific item.

8. Avoid eating out at restaurants. Make family meals at home; establish a limit such as one restaurant meal a month. If it's too hard to only eat out once a month give yourself a budget and put that money (cash) in an envelope. When it's gone, you are done eating out for the month.

7. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Pay cash for as much as you can and avoid the use of credit cards. Pay down credit balances to avoid paying high interest fees. This one seems like a no-brainer: if you don't have the cash to pay for something, then don't buy it. I like to use credit cards when they benefit ME - one with no annual fee and gives me points for some sort of benefit that I find valuable. No more airline miles for me - too many black out dates, etc so I use a Starbucks Duetto Visa which gives me points for free Starbucks every month. It's a small benefit, but I run all my purchases through the card (pay it off in full each month) and enjoy the no annual fee and free coffee (plus quarterly coffee bonuses too!)

6. Don’t ever pay full price. With retail stores offering sales like never before, wait until a coveted item goes on sale—or ask a manager if the item’s price can be reduced. Oh yes. If it is not on sale, I'm not buying it. Even my 4-year old knows this, especially with groceries. When an item I use regularly goes on sale I buy a few of them so I don't run out when they are NOT on sale. It takes some forethought and planning but it's a great way to stay within your grocery budget.

5. Plant more gardens. A fun family project, planting a garden can save you lots of money on food in the long run. We enjoy having a garden - both vegetables and fruit. We don't plant enough to sustain all of our needs but when you can pick two pints of raspberries in one day it feels great, especially knowing those would cost about $8 in the grocery store (especially for organic fruit!)

4. Conserve on gas and become more energy conscious. Avoid long drives, and at home turn off lights and space heaters/air conditioners whenever possible. We use our programmable thermostat religiously which takes out the need to remember to turn the thermostat up or down at night or when we are leaving for work. I also try and plan my errands so that I can either walk to do them on the weekends or drive in one big loop so there is no back-tracking or return trips needed. I look at it as kind of a game.

3. Be thankful for what you have. What truly matters isn’t accumulation of items, but relationships. Don’t spend on trinkets for fulfillment; invest in your friendships and relationships instead. I try to remind myself of this regularly, especially when I get jealous of a neighbor's new car, big house or fancy clothing. It's not easy to do all the time, but it puts things in perspective to remind myself of how lucky I am.

2. Pay yourself first. Put aside a defined amount from every paycheck into savings and investments. This one is another tough one to do, but if you wait until after you have paid all the bills to save something for retirement or to put in an emergency fund you will never do it. Take advantage of direct debiting to have money put into a 401K, IRA or savings account before you even see the money. My employer offers direct deposit (love it!) and also the option of me scheduling my paycheck to be diverted into accounts that I specify in advance. This allows me to not only put money in my 401K but my personal savings account too.

1. Look for ways to help others. The best way to overcome low feelings in this recession is to help those in even greater need. Acts of selfless giving and kindness cultivate riches no recession can steal away. Amen!

1 comment:

Monica said...

The best advice I've read in a long time.