Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My advice on Saving Money

I honestly don't understand how it can possibly be hard to save money. I guess that's because I never had any. Never.

Growing up we did without things that people can't live without today. We didn't have a cell phone, an ipod, a microwave, new clothes, expensive vacations (remember those long drives in the family station wagon?), or even a computer. But today we just can't do without them. Why? We could probably get rid of all of them, have a simple, more peaceful existence, and wind up with more money than you know what to do with.

We also grew some of our own food. So if you have some yard (front, back, side), you can tear out those flower beds and plant some vegetables. That will stretch your food budget, you'll know where the food came from and how it was grown (completely organic, which used to be the ONLY way to grow food), and have the satisfaction of eating what you grow yourself. It might even keep the kids busy enough to ignore the fact that you gave their game console away.

Which reminds me. When I was a kid, we gathered at the dining room table and played card & board games. Remember playing such games as Yahtzee, Life, Monopoly, Canasta? They didn't take any electricity and provided wholesome family fun for hours.

Another thing I remember from my childhood is that we used and reused everything. Old clothes were mended, then torn up and made into something else (your old shirt might become my winter hat and mittens), then torn up again and made into rags, blankets, rugs. But today we're too busy wasting everything, then we wonder why we're in so much debt and the landfills are overflowing with perfectly good items.

Allow me to make a few suggestions.

1) The ONLY way to stay out of debt is: Don't spend more than you have. Conversely, the ONLY way to get into debt is to spend more than you have. There is no other way to get in, no other way to get out.
2) Do not waste what you do have. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Just don't waste it!
3) Cut out spending on things that aren't necessary. Things you probably spend money on that are NOT necessary are: a) cell phone, b) ipod, c) television d) eating out e) vacations f) new clothes g) microwave
4) If you absolutely had to do without those things, you could. I've done without them for years. My parents never had them, either. I'm not saying to get rid of everything. But any you can cut out of your life will save you money.
5) You can vacation with relatives or go to a hotel for a few days in your own town. My dad took a vacation every Summer for 30 years and never left the State.
6) Instead of going to J.C. Penny, the Bon Marche', Target, or Macy's to buy your clothes and furniture brand new, check out the second-hand stores. Many times you can find a whole outfit for the price of just one new item elsewhere. And you can buy a whole set of furniture for the cost of one new recliner.
7) When grocery shopping, do not go to the center of the store. Stick to the perimeter. That will save you money, you'll eat healthier, and force you to cook meals at home (which will save you even more money).
8) Tear out your flower garden and plant vegetables. Get a pressure cooker so you can can your vegetables (remember Mason Jars?) and eat them out of season (the canned vegetables, not the Mason Jars).
9) Do not use credit cards. Just don't. Cut them all up (right now) and throw them away.
10) A deck of cards and a pitcher of lemonade make great home entertainment for a tiny fraction of the cost of going to a movie or a ball game. And you don't have to worry about finding a parking space.

These are tips I've heard and read my whole life. It's also how I've lived my whole life. Mostly because I've had no choice (I didn't have any money to waste), but also because I don't see the point in wasting things. Why spend $200 for a family of four to attend one baseball game when you can watch it at home for practically free and get a better view of the field?

Or even better, take a bat and ball and go out to the backyard with your family for a game of your own. Now that's saving!

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