Give us some practical money-saving advice, for a change

I fell for the same story again.

Every now and then an article pops up about “real ways” to save money in-these-hard-financial-times and against my better judgement, I read them.

I know exactly what they’re going to tell me and others like me in search of sure-fire ways to save money.   It’s the one-size-fits-all approach. Things like borrowing money from my friends and parents, and borrowing against the equity in my home.

Is this really what people trying to make ends meet want to hear? I’m sure some of this advice works well for people who actually have money to spare, but for the vast majority of us, there are no friends and parents from whom to borrow money and the house might have already gone into foreclosure.

Just when I think that I’m the only one looking exasperated by this advice, I’ll read the comments from other visitors to the site and see that those people are also frustrated with this cookie-cutter advice.

I just want to address some of these well-intended pieces of advice here:

  • I’ll deal with the one that seems to pop up all the time: borrow against the equity in your home to pay off credit card bills. Except, what if I don’t own my home? Also, in the past few years, too many people have found they have no equity in their home or a home that they can no longer even afford to own. Next!
  • Invest in mutual funds with low expense ratios. OK, I get it. That is considered good advice. But as I’m already drowning in debt, this is of no use to me. Investing in anything at all is not an option.
  • One piece of advice recommended the reader to get a prepaid mobile phone. This was would be great if I didn’t already have a contract phone with a monthly commitment. But thanks for the advice, anyway.

I did, however, find some better practical advice from a few sites. Of course, they won’t work for everyone, but I think more people who are struggling can put these to good use~

  • How Stuff Works recommends conserving energy by turning down the heat to 68 degrees in winter and even less once you get used to that temperature at home. Here’s advice we could use and also reap immediate benefits from lower monthly bills. And continuing in this vein, reduce the television watching and turn off the lights too, when not in use.
  • If you can afford it, change out the filters in your vehicle and your home air conditioner. You will find that your vehicle will burn fuel more efficiently and your electricity bill at home will see an improvement.
  • Premium TV channels– I can feel a little resistance coming on — but if you’re not watching these channels, maybe you don’t need the full package from the cable company. Or try to renegotiate some free months or a free year off the premium channels, if you can’t live without them. I did that last year and managed to chop about $30 per month off my bill for a year. Every little helps.
  • Switch bank accounts to one that does not charge maintenance fees and do a bit of research to find lower credit card rates. Also, find a bank with an interest on a savings account that you can actually benefit from.
  • The Simple Dollar suggests giving up your expensive habits like cigarettes and alcohol. You can kill two birds with one stone by also kicking bad habits. Start exercising to stay healthy, too, as a replacement. And that doesn’t mean signing up for a gym, either.
  • Cut out eating in restaurants. Considering that we’re already low on funds, I think this would be a automatic side-effect along with cutting out Starbucks coffee, which I love. But some people still need a reminder. I already cook at home all the time, by the way, and I’ve been washing and styling my own hair for years in order to cut back on spending as well.
  • Cancel unused club memberships. You know exactly what I mean:  that popular gym, or that online membership program you paid $75 annual fee for, where you’ve only purchase $50 worth of stuff for the entire year. Drop it now.
  • Here’s one we all could use: stop trying to impress your children with gifts! If we have to all start tightening our belts, this would be a good time to teach the little ones that that big department store for kids is not the place to go to every weekend on an excursion.

There are a ton of well-meaning advice out there for us consumers who need to trim our expenses to suit our static income, short of getting a second or third job. All it takes is a bit of research to find some workable ideas for our individual situation.

If you can offer any other methods that you and your family have used to cut back on expenses I’d love to hear about it as well.

And when you’re done, please turn off the lights and shut down the computer before you leave the house….thanks.

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Categories: MyTwoCents

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