January 2009

A Penny Saved…Nine easy ways to trim the fat out of your budget

Author: David Brown II

Let me guess: You’re already struggling in this economy, Christmas is in the past for another eleven and a half months, and all you got this year was an empty bank account, right? So, what is the best way to start the New Year? Trim the fat! (No pun intended). Here are nine easy ways to get rid of some “luxuries” that somehow turned into “necessities”—some that may actually help with those holiday love handles!

1. Read the newspaper online. Don’t we all have a PDA or computer nearby at all times anyway? Not to mention the trees you will be hugging! It doesn’t sound like much, but reading the newspaper online would save you around $12 a month. Over the course of a year it comes out to $144, or does a month of free electricity sound more like it?

2. Clip coupons. Valpak isn’t just for the grocery store anymore! You can find coupons for local business services such as doctors, dentists, exterminators, golf courses, clothing stores, contractors, and everything in between. Head to Valpak.com or grab this Sunday’s paper for some great savings.

3. Go basic. Do you REALLY watch all those HiDef channels? In an economy that requires you to work more and get paid less, you’re probably having trouble finding the time to relax in front of the tube anyway. Basic cable is around $40 a month. Adding all those bells and whistles will easily push you over $100 or more per month. Let’s put it this way: Going back to basic cable could save you an average of $50 per month… or enough to book that flight to the Bahamas for next year’s anniversary.

4. Quit smoking. It’s always the sore subject, but if the lung cancer, constant drained feeling, dragon breathe, premature aging, and unsightly wrinkles aren’t enough, think of this financially. One pack per day will run you an average of $4, including tax (in South Carolina) or $120 per month, which happens to be what your cell phone will run you every month… get the picture now?

5. Bring cash to the bars. Budget how much you’re allowed to spend, bring only that amount, and leave the credit at home! Most importantly, never open a tab. Five to six drinks in, and you will soon forget how much you’re actually spending. And guys, be honest: Does paying for her friends’ martinis REALLY pay off?

6. Brown bag it to work. If you’re like me, sometimes the only reason we eat out is to get some fresh air away from the office stress. But have you ever saved your receipts for just one week? Let’s say you eat out for lunch five times a week. At an average of $6 per meal, you’re spending $120 per month. Try this instead: Pack your lunch, along with a beach chair, and enjoy your lunch break on the sand. What a way to break up your stressful day!

7. Drop that $50 per month gym membership. A simple Google search of “exercise at home” will bring up 95,000 pages (I just checked) filled with information that will help you get in shape in the comfort of your own home with little to no expense for equipment. Isn’t running outside a lot more fun than running on a treadmill anyway?

8. Take the morning gourmet coffee stop out of your routine. If you grab a $2 cup at the local gourmet coffee shop every morning for one year, you will spend over $700 on something that will be making its way back out of you by the time you get to the office. Ounce for ounce, unleaded regular gas is about 10 times cheaper than gourmet coffee. You’re better off buying one gallon of gas every morning.

9. Keep track of your spending. If you’re like me, and you can’t stand the extra weight in your pockets or fumbling for a pen in line at the grocery store, you don’t have to use an actual checkbook. In an age where the cheapest cell phone is more technologically advanced than the first Apollo spacecraft, we have a wide variety of online banking and check-booking applications at our fingertips. If you don’t like the clunky hand computer, you can also save your receipts and easily balance your budget in the safety and security of your own home. Use online banking tools, Quicken, Microsoft Money, or websites like www.download.com, where you are able to search for a number of free money tracking and budgeting systems that will help you stay on track. Just remember, what goes out must also come back in!

After cutting your expenses the last thing you want to do is get off track again. You now need to ask yourself two questions at every purchase: “Is this something I can live without?” and “How could I put this money to use if I don’t buy this?” We all automatically assume the equation: Money is tight = Work harder. Don’t kill yourself! Cut expenses FIRST! An extremely wise and very successful businessman recently told me, “Always cheat on your job.” There are more important things in this world than your income.

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