Expenses going up, up, up?


By Vivian Blevins

Contributing Columnist

Are your bills going up, up, and up even as your morale threatens to collapse as your attention is diverted by Putin’s threat of nuclear war, the lies that abound as politicians struggle to get voters to support them, the continuing illegal drug crisis, and never-ending racism.

What does the Serenity Prayer tell us about accepting the things we cannot change and having the courage to change what we can? Each of us must make decisions on the ways in which we manage our financial resources or- as my case has been in the past- fail to manage them. I invite my readers to add to my limited list and to determine if any of my suggestions have potential for them.

First, always strive to have a good credit rating as that will impact your ability to purchase large items as well as the interest rate on said items.

I’m going to place food as the most essential purchase in my hierarchy, and I have a host of tips for you to consider since the average waste of food in American households is somewhere north of 30 percent.

Food: Buy store brands as opposed to name brands. Do the math to determine amount in the container and cost per ounce. Have a list when you shop and stick to the list. Reduce the amount of meat you normally eat. Make pie or cake or cookies as opposed to paying big prices for ready-made items. And only make a tart or a single layer of cake (Cut it in half and apply icing) or six cookies. And use ingredients you already have: raisins, nuts, berries, fruit from your trees or your neighbor’s. Monitor what is in your refrigerator, your freezer, or on your shelves so that you use these items well ahead of the expiration dates. Know the old saying “Eyes are bigger than your stomach” and dish up small servings as refills are always available. Fruits and vegetables are sometimes ugly and cheaper, but that does not negatively impact their nutritional value. Monitor how often you eat out and what the costs are but don’t save money by tipping waitpersons less than 20 percent of your tab. Know that even those daily trips to a cheap drive-through add up as does that $5 cup of coffee or whatever you call the one you order on your way to work. Instead of putting all that plastic that leaches from bottled water into your body, buy drinking containers for all household members, keep them clean, and use tap water. Don’t waste grocery money on items with little or no nutritional value.

Transportation. Plan and don’t make unnecessary trips. Moderate your speed to lower gas consumption. Pay attention to where the price of gas is the lowest (use your computer to search). Shop for the best prices on vehicle insurance. Consider canceling comprehensive insurance on older vehicles. Protect the exterior of your vehicles by parking in places where trees will not drop sap on your finish and birds will not defecate on your vehicles. Ascertain that your teens will be responsible drivers before allowing them to drive alone. NEVER drive under the influence of alcoholic beverages and /or drugs. Buy new cars when the financing rate is zero percent, usually later in the year. Ask yourself if you really need three vehicles. Obey laws of the road so that you don’t get tickets and an increase in your insurance premiums.

Housing/Utilities: If you took out your loan on your home at a time when you had a poor credit rating and your rating is better now, monitor interest rates and associated costs of refinancing and consider refinancing. Watch your home thermostat: higher in the summer and lower in the winter. Adjust the thermostat at night and when you’re away for a weekend or a week. Use LED bulbs. Turn lights off in rooms that are not in use. Consider the cost of maintaining your lawn and make modifications to save. Don’t take long showers and consider how much water you really need in the bathtub. Wash clothes in cold water and have a full load before you wash. Only dry your clothes until they’re dry. Change/wash filters in everything in your house that has a filter. If buying property, research the neighborhood as this is a long-term investment. Always buy a house of the size you need and not that dream home which will drain your bank account year after year. Take in responsible lodgers for those extra bedrooms. Take care of little plumbing issues before they become big enough to require expensive plumbers. If you have special skills, barter with a friend/neighbor who has a skill you need. Pay your bills on time and avoid late fees.

Clothing and Shoes: Consider the seasons where you live, the type of work you do, your leisure activities, your storage space, your current possessions and their condition. Don’t buy things you already own because you’re so disorganized that you can’t find those items. Get rid of anything that is out of style or no longer fits. Enough said, and this advice applies to Me.

Technology: The best advice is to Unsubscribe from all those companies that taunt you with their latest deals or gadgets. When you’re ready to make a purchase, just google those places, find the best deals, and following the purchase, unsubscribe. You’ll save time and money. Learn the basics for checking out what’s wrong when your computer crashes and try them before calling a technician.

Credit Cards, Cigarettes, Makeup, Jewelry, Hobbies, Books, Tuition, Entertainment, and Other Expenditures: Calculate the amount each month/year you spend on cigarettes and make a decision to quit after you add health care costs because of smoking. Tear up all those credit card offers and maintain the cards with good rewards systems. Use your local library instead of buying books. Forget nail salons and learn to do your own nails. Make a decision on a few pieces of quality jewelry instead of succumbing to fads. Ascertain that you will really pursue a hobby before making a sizable investment in supplies and equipment. Ask yourself if your membership dues in anything pays significant rewards for investments of time and money. Seek scholarships for higher education, and get the basic courses required of most universities for any degree at your local community college after you check to make sure the credits are transferable. Read your newspapers and magazines online. Check out all the free concerts/entertainment in your area in schools, churches, parks, libraries.

Miscellaneous: Always insist that every member of your household brush and floss after eating. Dental bills add up even with insurance, and your teeth, and theirs, are closely tied to good health and appearance

In conclusion, how do I know all this about money? After my ex and I divorced, I ran up $30,000 in credit card debt on travel and jewelry and had such a bad credit rating that I could not get a consolidation loan- and I had a fistful of credit cards. I moved from a four-bedroom home I was renting in an affluent California neighborhood to a rented room at a friend’s house. I vowed that once I paid that debt off, I would never charge anything that I couldn’t pay for when the bill came each month. And I haven’t-except for vehicles. That same ex-husband had a problem with getting caught while driving under the influence, so I got my own insurance with the provision that he would not be allowed to drive my car.

One final comment: When you’re bored, agitated, or angry, know that spending money is not the answer.

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