Getting Back to the Basics

Reader Contribution by Brenda Kipp

Like most people around the country, I’m trying to find ways to cut back on expenses. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been looking at my budget trying to find ways I can trim it down. I also got on the Internet to do research on how to save money, pay down debts and manage my finances.

I’ve found that there are things I thought I couldn’t live without that I’ve managed to give up. It’s amazing what a person can live without when it be comes necessary (needing to buy a new car did it for me).

I decided since I wasn’t watching that much TV anymore, I’d not only get rid of the channels I wasn’t watching, I’d give up my DVR as well. That was a hard decision. I loved my DVR. Anyone who has one can tell you how much better they are than a VCR. It’ll be hard going back to the dark ages and relearn how to program my VCR, not to mention being unable to pause and rewind live TV, but I’ll survive.

Another thing I decided to cut back on is my hair color. I’ve had it professionally colored for more than 10 years. I began having my color done at the beauty salon because I didn’t want my color to look like it was from a bottle. Also, it just seemed easier to have it done the same time I got my hair cut and I didn’t want to deal with the mess myself. I haven’t quite decided whether to try to do the color myself, or just let my hair go natural. Would that be so bad? Would people think less of me because I had gray hair? I don’t think so.

I’ve always been a bargain hunter, trying to get the best value I can for a product, but I’ve really had to hone my skills in that department recently. I switched grocery stores, so I can save money on groceries. Besides, the store is closer to work, so I’m saving on gas, too.

Speaking of gas, getting a newer car has helped me save on gas just in the short time I’ve had it. Not only is it a more fuel efficient car, I’ve found that filling the gas tank when it gets down to a half a tank helps me budget better for gas. Although I couldn’t afford a new car, I was able to benefit from the sagging economy and get a great deal that I probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Another way I’ve been able to save money is by patronizing dollar stores more. Why pay 3 or 4 dollars for an item at one store when you can get the same or similar item for a dollar? You do have to watch some of these places though. I’ve discovered that some of the dollar stores aren’t any cheaper on some items than discount stores. If you go to a store where everything is a dollar, you’re more likely to get a better bargain, providing you don’t care about brand names. I’ve been getting generic brands for years, so that doesn’t bother me. More than likely, the same company that makes the brand names also makes the generic brands.

I’ve also curbed my spending on clothes, eating out and entertainment. I have all the clothes I need right now, I can take my lunch to work (which is probably healthier for me anyway) and I can rent movies from the library for free.

There are several books from which I’ve been gleaning information. One is America’s Cheapest Family by Steve and Annette Economides. The Economides have managed to feed their family of seven on just $350 a month, buy cars with cash, go on fabulous vacations and put money in savings. If they can do it, anybody can!

Other books I would recommend include Managing Debt for Dummies, The Tightwad Gazette (a compilation of The Tightwad Gazette newsletters) and Penny Pinching 101.

Online resources are abundant and only a click away. The one I’ve been going to quite often is I’ve already benefitted from one of the Web site’s articles called “Little Steps: 100 Great Tips for Saving Money for Those Just Getting Started.” Another helpful article is “31 Days to Fix Your Finances.” It’s a downloadable document that you can purchase for $2.

As anyone who has been in debt will tell you, it took some time to get into debt, it will take time to get out. Aside from hitting the lottery, there is no quick fix to getting out of debt. I am, however, willing to do whatever it takes to become debt free and stay that way. Once I do, I will be able to do my part to stimulate the economy.

Are you finding creative ways to survive this tough economy? Have you found books or online resources that have been helpful to you?  If so, please share them with me. We’re all in this together.

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