Top Ten Budget-stretching Ideas
- Monday, August 02, 1999
This may be news to you, but if you're one of those households that spends according to a budget, the rest of us frequently laugh at your expense (or is it our expense?) Perhaps it is motivated by our jealousy of your organizational capabilities, but we sometimes make jokes about your extremism, attributing it to mistakes made during your potty-training years.
But I have to be honest, after talking with Beth Hill, budgeter extraordinaire, I'm considering waving a white flag. It would probably behoove me to join the team of those who have proudly gone before me, those conservationist consumers who have more left over from their paycheck than I do: the budget-stretchers.
In an effort to usher in a new season of practicality in my life, Beth (one of the budgeting team's finest talents) provided some ideas for making money go a long way.
9. Eating at restaurants; drink water - I know this sounds boring, but did you know that the markup on drinks is significantly higher than the rest of the menu? And I don't mean to be a killjoy, but do you remember those grade school projects where you would put your lost teeth in a glass of Coke? Let's face it, water is a great deal all around.
8. Fast food; don't order value meals - This applies especially for those people who would have ordered the burger and a drink, but then see that for only a few cents more, I get the fries too. That timeless truth prevails, there's no such thing as a free fry. So you end up paying more than you intended and digesting the fries, which for some of us, can be construed as a definite liability.
7. Retail Stores; make an offer on floor models - Floor models may be discontinued or have dings that could easily by hidden with strategic plant or corner placement. They aren't usually marked for sale, but if you ask to buy them, a retailer will usually come up with a price. Your best bet is to let them wait to deliver it until they have sold their last units, so they won't be lacking a display.
6. Gifts; buy them all year long and keep a gift box - Last minute gift purchases are usually more expensive since you can't shop around for a better deal. So institute a gift box that allows you to collect good buys as you go, then give them when an occasion arises, such as children's birthday parties, hostess gifts, or anniversaries (preferably not your own.) (In fact, while we're on the topic, this may be one of those budget-stretching ideas that you keep to yourself lest anyone find out that their gift was not picked out with them in mind.)
5. Coupon Clipping; Some coupons are worth the clipping effort and others aren't (they're eventually used to wrap chewed gum, or they mistakenly become liners for the inside of your handbag or wallet.) Make sure you know which are which. Some people have time to clip coupons all day, (yeah right.) If not, keep an eye out as you peruse magazines and newspapers, because you may see good things along the way. The most valuable coupons can be identified by one of the following: biggest percentage, largest dollar value, or items used at least once a week.
4. Pay yourself first - (Well, actually second.) After giving to the Lord, use 10% of your income for investments to build your equity. You can learn to live on less if you take the money out of your paycheck before it even gets into your hand. If cutting your salary creates a problem, then make a commitment to invest any pay increases you receive so you don't have to make cuts.
3. Vacations; try a home exchange - If you have friends who live in other cities or parts of the country, exchange homes for a week. It costs nothing to stay there and you get a much needed change of perspective.
2. Extra income; peddle your skills - Whether you have a full time job or you're not working, you always have a little bit (or teensy weensy bit) of extra time. You can earn a pretty high per-hour cost if you hone and market one of your skills such as carpentry, baby-sitting (you can even combine it with looking after your own children), handy man tasks, painting, or housekeeping. You would be surprised at how many people would rather pay you than a professional (no offense) who will inevitably charge more.and the top budget-stretching idea is. . .
1. Incorporate a "get rid of it" box- How often do you put something away and say to yourself "I wonder if I'll ever use this." What if, instead of putting those things back, you toss them into a box that only gets emptied out once or twice a year. That way, you have several months to retrieve the item if you change your mind (That is, after all, your prerogative.) But if it stays in the box, then you either sell it (sometimes your friends' garage sales will work) or donate it and take the write-off. This technique helps in at least three ways, it's financially smart, it reduces the amount of clutter in your house, and it facilitates a happier marriage.
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Beth Hill is a mother of one and wife of one. She is a Management Analyst for the Federal Aviation Administration, and coordinates the Financial Counseling Team at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD.
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