The current credit crunch and subprime mortgage lending mess has a lot of consumers concerned, with some hoping that the federal government’s economic stimulus package will give the economy a needed boost, at the very least put some extra money into their wallets. Regardless of what steps the government takes to ease worries, consumers have plenty of options available to them now to help them manage their money wisely. Please read on for some sensible money managing tips.
Strategize — Short of developing a comprehensive budget plan to tackle financial concerns, having a strong grasp of expenditures and income can go far in helping your gain control over your money. Some families are comfortable with calling a meeting to include older children to discuss the current state of household finances. Without sharing hard details, parents can convey to their older offspring the seriousness of the current financial situation and come up with ways to trim expenses. Eating out less often; scaling back vacation plans; combining television, internet and telephone accounts to one company (DSL, for example); are some short term ways to win. If your children are getting ready for college, discussing what it will take to help them get through school can also be beneficial.
Explore — Take a good look at your spending habits for the past few months by looking closely at your check book and credit card statements. If you aren’t using a program like Quicken that tracks income and expense, then consider purchasing this program to help you keep tabs on your family spending habits. Next, pull out your 401(k) plan, college savings plans and other long term savings information to see if you are on track. Don’t cut back on your long term strategy for a short term benefit; if something needs to be cut, then find it through your regular monthly spending.
Consolidate — Your trips to the supermarket for groceries may be supplemented by side trips to the bread store, druggist, and other retailer. Cut your costs by joining a warehouse club where savings of 10 to 30 percent can be realized every time that you shop. Skip those big items you will never use or will become stale before you finish them, but choose those items you need and will use on a regular basis. Once every few weeks head off to the supermarket to bring home smaller items; use your store savings card and coupons to trim your costs further.
Reduce — If you have a car lease that will expire this year, give careful consideration to what type of vehicle to replace it. Likely, you’ll pay more for insurance with a newer set of wheels and your gas consumption may stay high if you go with a vehicle larger than what you need or use. The auto industry expects a downturn in sales for 2008 — you’ll be in a much better position to bargain a deal this year than last. Also, consider purchasing a high quality used car instead of a new vehicle or a lower cost model such as a Chevrolet Malibu (pictured) instead of a Cadillac CTS. If you haven’t already done so, combine your car and home insurance pland for additional savings.
Innovate — You can cut costs in other ways including lowering your thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer; plan your vacation to start in the middle of the week when rates are lower; stay at hotels allowing you to redeem your reward card points; share a large vacation home with friends or family members instead of renting separately; and on and on.
Americans have always been a resourceful people no matter what the federal government tries to do to put a brake on inflation fears. Of course, if that $1200 check does come your way this summer, avoid having it spent in advance. Count on what you have in hand, not what is being promised to you.
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