Eight Tips on Saving

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ImageWhere does that leave the consumer? The consumer is forced into a position where he must learn to stretch his dollar to its worth. Here are eight tips to help manage your budget and increase your saving.

Times are hard for many

A recent USA Today/Gallup poll found that 73 percent of Americans consider rising grocery prices as a concern for themselves and their families. Little question remains that the United States is dealing with a recession coupled with high rates of inflation. According to the US Department of Labor, the average hourly wage has just started to increase by mere pennies every month after a period of declining. The bottom line is that consumers have less money to spend, but higher bills to pay off.

Adding to the energy and gas cost woes for consumers, prices for food staples have recently skyrocketed also. The Department of Agriculture has stated that food costs in July 2008 were 12.1 percent higher than those recorded for July 2007.The breakdown according to the Labor Department for this year so far: egg prices increased 34.5 percent, white bread is up 16.3 percent, milk has gone up 13.3 percent, and fruit prices have increased up to 17 percent for certain fresh fruits. 

Where does that leave the consumer? The consumer is forced into a position where he must learn to stretch his dollar to its worth. Here are eight tips to help manage your budget and increase your savings: 

Slash your bills: Very often we pay unnecessary fees on our accounts. Check with your cell phone carrier and remove any unneeded features from your contract, such as a 400 text messages a month plan if you're only sending out four messages a year. Also, if you find yourself not using your cell phone that often, don't rule out ditching your contract for a prepaid plan. We don't really need equipment protection if our phone itself isn't worth the fifty dollar deductible by the time we actually file our claim with the company. Road assistance is another feature you can remove from your cell phone plan; it's probably useless if you already have a road service with your current insurance company. 

Buy generic brands: Try the store brand. Chances are you won't notice a difference in taste. For example, Nabisco Wheat Thins cost $4.29, whereas the Kroger brand of the same product costs $1.24. That's a three-dollar difference. Muir Glen Organic Garden Vegetable Soup costs $3.69 for a 19-oz can, whereas Whole Foods 365 Organic Vegetable Soup costs $ 1.69 for a 15-oz can.

Make a meal plan before you shop: Experts suggest having a list and a good idea of what you'll be cooking for the week. Check the ingredients in your fridge and cupboards. When you go shopping, you'll avoid buying anything you don't need. 

Pay your credit card bills on time: Credit card companies charge customers large sums for minor transgressions. A bill not being paid by 2 pm could cost you at least an extra 29 dollars in late fees, and if by some chance the late fee pushes your account over the limit, make it another 39 dollars. Sign up for email or mobile reminders about your due date, since both services are offered for free by most companies. 

Take advantage of the library: Public libraries are free, and some may charge a nominal annual fee for using the service. Bookstores can leave your wallet empty, especially if you are a frequent reader. If you insist on reading all the latest books, speak to your library and request that the book be brought in from another library. 

Brown bag it: Instead of wasting your money on unhealthy vending machine products that also happen to be unusually pricey simply by virtue of being in a vending machine, use a brown bag lunch instead. The options for a lunch can literally be endless – leftover pizza slices can be frozen and used as a quick fix for lunch, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches no matter how cliché will also do the job. It would be wise to invest in a reusable water bottle. Fresh fruits are inexpensive alternative junk foods that keep both your wallet and your body healthy in the long run. 

Go green: Conserve energy around your home; turn electronic appliances off when they are not being used. Most new appliances have an Energy Saving Logo. Buy the most energy-efficient appliances; you'll be helping to save the planet as well as reducing your energy bills. Turn off your lights when you don't need them. It'll slash down your electricity bills with little effort, and also make your bulbs last longer while saving up on energy.

Fix leaky faucets: One drop per second can add up to 165 gallons a month to your usage. Water your lawn only when needed, and turn off the water while brushing your teeth. You could save three gallons of water each day! 

The possibilities are endless! All it takes is a little effort and a small amount of dedication to see some positive results with your financial assets. And remember, by going green you are not only helping yourself; you're also helping the environment!

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