Recessions and downturns have people nervous. But rather than bemoan the economy and long for change, getting proactive about spending habits could help you get a leg up on the financial swoon. Here are eight tips on doing just that.
1. Share the cost.
What are friends for, if not price proration?
If you do find yourself in need of making a big purchase this summer, it might pay to consider sharing the price tag with a friend or two. For instance, why not turn that BBQ into a timeshare? Need a new four-wheeler? Your friend would be happy to split the cost and negotiate visitation rights. Being creative with bigger purchases could make the dent in your wallet much more manageable.
Big purchases aren't the only ways that can benefit from this strategy, though. Do you think Costco expects you to finish that vat of peanut butter by yourself? Of course not! Going "halvsies" with a neighbor on bulk items makes a lot of sense, too.
2. Eat in.
Cooking at home is hard work. There is the grocery buying, the kitchen prep, the cooking itself, and the remembering to turn the stove off. How does Paula Dean make it look so easy?
For a little effort, though, the payoff will be noticeable. Eating out certainly makes life easier, but it also makes life more expensive. With the price of an average meal at a restaurant, consumers could eat three or four meals at home. Plus, they could do so in a much healthier way.
Cooking at home is one of the first tricks you should try when hunting down deals. With a few simple ingredients, you can have a cheap meal that will fill you up at dinner and give you leftovers for lunch the next few days.
3. Buy generic.
The popular phrase among yuppies and tree huggers used to be "Buy organic," but with the state of the economy the way it is, spendthrifts and tightwads would be better off buying "generic."
At the grocery store, pick up fake Oreos rather than the real thing.
At the electronics shop, treat yourself to a bulky no-name music player and not the expensive iPod or Zune.
At the dentist, get the knock-off whitening strips rather than the fancy-shmancy Crest product.
The difference between brand name and generic product is often marginal at best, meaning that you can save yourself a good amount of money without sacrificing much in the way of quality.
4. Shop online.
There's no sense wasting gas, wasting energy, and wasting a Saturday afternoon on a Kanye West CD when you can find it for a similar price (or a cheaper price) from the comfort of your living room.
Online shopping is an appreciated alternative in tough economic times. Driving anywhere is a chore that most consumers would avoid if they could, so nixing the mall trip for electronic window shopping is definitely the way to go. Plus, shopping online could end up saving you money on the products you are looking for. Rather than having one or two real-life stores to shop at, the Internet gives you a bevy of options, making it easier to find the lowest price. The time, expenses, and effort you save by shopping online are well worth the cost of shipping and handling.
5. Coordinate your errands.
Saving on gas is getting more and more important, especially for money-conscious consumers, and one of the biggest hits on the gas tank is putzing around town doing errands. While errands themselves are not optional, criss-crossing the city from one stop to another certainly is.
Plan ahead when you leave the house. You can cut down on gas if you make your trip as efficient as possible. Instead of going willy-nilly from one store to the next, hit them all in order and synchronize locations based on what you need and when you need it. There is no sense in going to the grocery store five nights a week. Go once, and stop by the bank on your way.
Going on vacation is fun... if you're rich. Otherwise, a trip to the coast is a daunting money pit of high gas prices and expensive hotel rooms. Not to mention the souvenir whale sippies.
Why not stay at home instead? More and more people are taking this route with the increased prices of travel, and they often end up having just as much fun at home as they would have out on the road. There are usually plenty of activities in your hometown that you have always thought about trying but never had the time. Rather than going away to some place new, you might as well do the activities you're always talking about doing.
Buy a kiddie pool for the backyard instead of driving to the beach. Spend time in a park and pass on the weekend at Yellowstone. Rent "Apocalypto" instead of taking that trip to Central America. There are a number of ways to have fun and relax around town, and they'll be cheaper than doing the same in a different city.
7. Go vampire hunting
Everyone knows to turn off the lights when you leave a room, but not everyone is aware that their electricity is still being sloughed off by unfettered "vampire" devices. These electronics get their name from the way they suck energy at night when no one else is looking. One of the biggest culprits is television sets, which almost always remain warmed up so that there is little wait when you want the TV turned on. Where is Van Helsing when you need him?
A good way to protect against this secret siphoning is to hook up all the delinquent devices to a power strip. This way, you can simply flip a switch at night and save yourself some extra dough on your electric bill.
Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects are a fun, rewarding way to save money. Even if you aren't an expert on a given topic, there are plenty of ways to research and learn how to do a commendable job. Besides, the effort you put in will be much cheaper than hiring a professional to do the same.
DIY could mean something as complicated as rewiring the microwave to receive FM stations or something as simple as mowing your own lawn. If your expenses are tight, doing a project yourself could potentially save big bucks, and you'll end up doing a fine DIY job on your budget at the same time.
What are you doing to fight back in tough times?