Thursday, April 23, 2009

Maximize Your Savings during these difficult times

We are well and truly in the midst of a recession. Demand – both industrial and consumer, is at one of the lowest levels seen in many years, prices of most everyday commodities have fallen drastically, and the stock markets have witnessed lows, almost not seen since the time of the Great Depression of 1929.

Obviously, such difficult times require tactful ways of coping with the situation. Life cannot possibly go on the way it has been. Changes will have to be made; even with a healthy bank balance, with so much insecurity surrounding income and earnings, it is wise to bring about a more prudent and frugal lifestyle.

Of course, it is easier said than done. A lot of our spending habits have got so ingrained into our personality that we just cannot forego them, no matter how hard we try. It is like a battle that we are constantly fighting with ourselves. And with no change in spending patterns, it is we ourselves who are the losers. So, do you want to end up on the losing side? I am sure not. Follow the tips below, which will help you curtail your expenses and attune your lifestyle to the recessionary scenario surrounding us currently.

For instance, entertainment. Do you really need to go for the latest flick in town, which is playing at a theatre near you? After all, the cost of going to the movies is much more than just the cost of the tickets…there’s the gas that you will spend in driving to the theatre; once you get there, you will spend on food, and if your trip happens to be with your love interest, you will probably end up buying a gift for him or her as well. Now, if you were to watch the same movie at home, surely the cost would come down drastically – no tickets to be bought, no gas to be spent on, and no gifts to be purchased. Besides, the aforementioned, you would also save on a lot of time and effort, wasted in getting to the theatre, taking the tickets, and so on. My personal experience has been that buying DVDs or even downloading from sites such as Netflix, works out much more cost-effective. The movie remains mine forever, and I can see it as many times as I want, I can pause in between, attend to other chores, and yet at the end of it, my satisfaction from the entire experience remains the same.

There’s another front on which I have seen a lot of parents slip up drastically – their children on whom they simply continue to splurge even as they tighten up their own financial buckles. Remember, that if you are thrifty on yourself, but a complete spendthrift on your kids, the net effect would be zero or even negative, as your children’s demands will only continue to increase. Giving into their demands will encourage them to demand even more. So, remember to nip the problem right in the bud, and teach them firmly, not harshly, the importance of frugality, in the current economic scenario.

I am sure these tips would have helped you in judging the best course of action, for your own effective financial planning, in these difficult times.
Get Going in the Tough Times

There’s a saying, oft repeated in the military services, which says that when the going gets tough, it’s the tough who get going. Considering the current economic scenario, this could not have been more relevant. Therefore, considering the tough times, it is probably time that you toughen yourself, and save money for times ahead, which could be even worse.

None of the initiatives is in fact too big or too difficult. All that they require is a certain amount of determination along with dollops of self-discipline. Together, both these aspects should definitively ensure that you sail through the financial imbroglio, unscathed.

Take for instance, the daily newspaper. I am sure you could do without it; if you really need to read it, you could always go online and read the version there! Perhaps, you could restrict yourself to the Sunday edition only, which in fact often contains numerous discount coupons and offers; if you avail them, even your one day’s newspaper would be free! Do the math for all the copies that you forego on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, and will see that you would already have saved thousands of dollars! Not too tough, eh?

Although gas prices have seen record levels in recent times, off late the prices have come down, rather unpredictably. Yet, having said that, gas prices differ across stations. Maybe not by much, but if you add up the gallons, the consolidated impact is in fact quite a bit. So, before you embark on your next gas-filling trip, make sure you do some homework. Research the stations and see where the cheapest gas is offered. You could also look up online resources that will offer you a comparative tabulation of gas prices in your area.

Taxes are an area that offers numerous saving avenues that we often overlook. For instance, till a few years back, I would simply file my taxes with my accountant and forget about the whole process. It was only at the behest of one of my close friends that I took a closer look at my accounts and saw that I had not been availing exemptions and rebates that I was entitled to…in other words, I was gifting money to the government, which it now owed me! Of course, I fired my accountant…

If you are a smoker and have been considering quitting for a long time, now is probably the best time to do so; after all, not only will you do your health a world of good, you will save a lot of money in the process too. After all, calculations have shown that smokers, over the span of their smoking tenure, spend tens and thousands of dollars, first on the cigarettes themselves, and then a multiplier of that figure on health related complications caused by smoking. Giving up smoking will ensure that you not only live long, you also live happy and well. Do you still need more reasons to kick the butt?

Now, do you consider it easier to get going in these tough times?
Strengthen Your Purses, even as the Recession Blows

Difficult times call for difficult measures. The current recessionary phase is by all means, a very difficult one, and does necessitate diverse measures to ensure that we sail through unscathed. Essentially, while demanding that we maintain our composure, it requires that our sources of funds do not dry up, and on the contrary, start to increase. Of course, that is much easier said than done. But “impossible” it is not. In fact, some simple and basic measures can ensure that you manage to swim the tide and emerge victorious!

For instance, have you ever given a thought to the number of times you ate out in a month? Five times? Ten times? Fifteen times? Every day of the month? Now imagine if you were able to bring that number down, by at least half the current value. It could easily translate to savings ranging between 200 to a couple of thousand dollars, depending on the number of times that you ate out. Remember that by not eating out, you save in various ways beyond the obvious, i.e. the bills you pay at the restaurants. You save on gas for your car; you save on time spent in going, ordering, eating and coming back which you could have spent otherwise; and you also save on the interest that you would rake up for the bank, when you pay through your credit card and not pay the entire amount due at the end of the billing cycle…the possibilities are simply endless.

If that isn’t enough, how about doing things that you would normally get done through others, yourself? If you were to add up all the savings on little efforts of labor that you could do yourself, instead of getting it done through others, the savings would be substantial. For instance, doing the routine acts of servicing for your car, such as changing the oil and coolant yourself, instead of getting it done at the service station, could alone save you at least a hundred dollars! If you are organizing a party, whether at home or elsewhere, arranging things yourself versus getting a professional to do it for you, could easily save you a lot of money. If you are a frequent traveler, doing all your booking yourself, instead of relying on an external agent, could actually help you save a lot of money, especially if you are able to do all the booking online. Within this aspect, choosing afternoon flights over morning ones could help you save substantially, as they are always cheaper than the morning ones.

Ever given some thought to the number of beers, lattes, colas, and sodas that you guzzle each passing day? While the lattes and beers cost about $4 each, even the colas and sodas average out at $2 each. Substituting these with good old, FREE tap water could not only help you save at least $120-150 every month, it would do your health a great deal of good too.

So, as you can see, the possibilities to save money during these difficult times are simply endless. What it requires is a firm determination and a will to bring about a change in the current style of living.
Financially Weathering the Recessionary Storm

The days of shopping-till-we-dropped seem well behind us. We are currently well and truly in the midst of a recession, and hard measures need to be taken to ensure that we remain afloat in these painful times.

Yet, how well prepared are we for this difficult period? After all, not all of us are directly affected by the recession, and neither have all of us lost our jobs. However, are we geared up for any such unfortunate happenstance? Many of those who eventually did lose their jobs never foresaw it happening. And when the pink slip was actually handed over to them, they did not have a clue how to react or cope up. Now, do not let such a situation come your way, and be set to face the storm; after all, forewarned is indeed forearmed!

Therefore, a very important aspect at these times is to be alert and well tuned in to the activities of the company you are working in, especially as far as its financial health is concerned. If you happen to know, metaphorically speaking, that the ship is sinking, you should be actively on the lookout for another job, even if everyone around you tells you that your job would remain secure. After all, if the whole ship sinks, it will spare no one, and in fact create a whirlpool around it, taking everyone in the vicinity also down along with it. The day Lehman Brothers went bust, many of its employees simply wondered in disbelief as to what had come and hit them. Yet, many of the senior employees of the company had prior knowledge about the serious troubles their company had been going through. Somehow, they kept convincing themselves that “it” could not happen to them, until September 15, 2008 arrived and their “much-loved” company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Another useful and in many ways, vital step in being prepared during these recessionary times is to have at least one other, alternative source of income. Many of us do not realize that the age hold hobby we had during our childhood, of say, collecting junk of different kinds, could actually prove to be really useful, especially in these days of eBay and the like. Indeed, one man’s junk could well be another man’s treasure, so the key is to realize the inherent value of things around us. To quote another example, many people are very fond of gardening, and so, keep their gardens in full bloom with the lawns neatly mowed and tended to. These individuals fail to fathom that their services would be useful to a lot of others, wanting to maintain their gardens in similar fashion, but just not able to do so. The key takeaway for you here would be that subsequent to some basic amount of introspection, you should be able to realize your capabilities, beyond your current vocation, and ensure that you monetize them.

Summing up, remember that a recession is not the end of the world, and neither is it permanent; there is always hope, as long as you remain financially prudent, stable and strong.