Pinching Your Pennies
Getting Through Hard Times
Over the last few years many people have learned that pinching your pennies is very important in the midst of the economic downturn. Unfortunately this downturn has left many individuals laid off, unemployed, strapped for cash and looking for ways to get through hard times. Just to survive many people are living off their savings, 401k's or check to check. This is frustrating to most because they never planned on being in a position where they needed to use their savings at this point in life or not being able to save at all.
Learning to pinch your pennies is a good way to help those living off their savings make their money last longer and provides those living from check to check with breathing room and an avenue towards saving. The problem with pinching your pennies is it requires a change in lifestyle. No matter how hard times get, it is a major adjustment that one has to make. To successfully make the transition to penny pincher you have to be dedicated and willing to make tough decisions about things that you are accustomed to doing, however with a few adjustments you can begin to change some of your circumstances.
For those that are renting, a viable option is to downsize or get a roommate. Yes this may be an inconvenience but you will literally be able to save hundreds of dollars every month and thousands over the course of a year. Downsizing may include going from a 3 or 2 bedroom to a one bedroom or moving into a different apartment complex. The alternative of getting a roommate may not be a popular idea once you have tasted the independence of living by yourself but it is probably the most cost effective alternative and may end up saving you the most money.
Homeowners have a harder decision to make. Singles who own homes have the option to sell but the problem with selling is that the housing market isn't very strong and many owners may not get the value out of their home that they need. Getting a roommate or renting their home may be a better way for them to pinch pennies. For those who are living with a spouse or already have a roommate, finding other ways to cut corners will be very helpful.
Before you say, "hold on, I have to eat", im not saying you have to eat less but rather be more conscious of what you buy, where you buy it from, and how you buy it. Pinching pennies through grocery shopping is very easy. All it takes is awareness and a little time and research. TLC even dedicated a new show to extreme shoppers who save 90%+ on their grocery bills. To start, you need to invest in a sunday paper and find coupons of those items you plan to buy soon. Get enough coupons and you can have some major savings, also find out which stores double coupons to get even more out of your buck.
Next, you have to be conscious of where you shop. Dollar stores are usually cheaper than some of their larger counterparts, and stores have different sales every week, so its your job to find out which store(s) will help you save the most money.
Lastly, consider buying cheaper, store brand items. You may find that there isn't much difference in a lot of items you buy except the price. Some of my favorite store brands are meats, cheese, milk, eggs, dish detergent, vegetables, juice, bread, frozen entrees, paper towels and garbage bags. Imagine if you saved .50 cent on each of these during a trip to the store you would have saved $5.50 and that's before a single coupon was used. Master the art of grocery shopping and you will be a penny pincher extraordinaire.
Lowering your electric bill can be very hard because it can have a direct effect on your comfort level, especially if you have never had to limit its use. If you sit down and think about it you can find many ways to save electricity. One easy way is to turn everything off when no one is at home especially air conditioners and heaters. When you are home, only use lights in rooms that are occupied and consider using windows, fans and space heaters when the temperature allows.
To lower your water bill, monitor your showers, the longer your shower the more money you waste, also wash clothes in cold water as much as possible. If you have plants you may want to consider using bath water to water them. Another easy way to save water is to limit the number of times you wash your care every month.
Home phones are becoming unpopular as more people are turning to their cell phones. Consider discontinuing your home service and saving those dollars every month.
Cable/Satellite offers you many options and hundred of channels, but ask yourself do you really need 500 channels or does your picture have to be in HD? Take it a step further and ask your self will it really kill you to live without your TiVo/DVR. Downgrade your TV services and you will save yourself quite a bit every month
Internet has become almost synonymous with breathing to some but unless you use your internet for some pretty intense downloading or streaming most normal internet users wont need the plan that offers the most MB. Call your internet provider and find out which plan best fits your usage type.
Cell Phone-consider going to a different plan. There are many all inclusive plans now that are between $50-$60 dollars a month. Ask around to see who has the best deal and don't rule out a month to month plan. Don't forget to ask the store rep if you are eligible for any discounts. Many companies have employee discounts for their workers through cell phone companies and many state, federal, and military employees also receive discounts too.
Eating out-limit the number of times you go out to eat every month and when you do go out have a plan on how much you will spend and stick too it. Also coupons for restaurants are rising in popularity and you can find great deals on sites like Groupon and Restaurant.com. For example, Restaurant recently had $25 coupons on sale for $2.
Gas-With gas prices rising try to run all your errands in one trip instead of making multiple trips and if possible try to schedule most of your appointments and shopping trips in the same vicinity. Car pooling is also a very good way to save gas.
Bars/Clubbing-Find clubs with free entry and limit alcohol intake. If you feel like you have to drink, have a drink before you leave home. Drink soda when you go out if you feel like you must have something. Doesn't cost much and you usually get free refills.
Clothes Shopping-Look for sales. Every week a store has some sale and if you really want something, you can usually wait a couple of weeks and get it at a better price. Learn to shop clearance racks and end of season sales to find discounts of up to 90%.
Electronics-I never buy electronics at regular price and suggest you do the same. They are marked up seriously high and usually go on sale every other week. Consider buying returned items. Usually returned items have little or even no use, and for the inconvenience of an open box you can generally save 15% or more. Other options are to buy refurbished goods and online from reputable websites and proven sellers.
By sitting down and creating a budget and pinching pennies in even just some of these categories you will find yourself saving money and able to make it through your hard times until you get back on your feet.