In this economy, everyone is looking for ways to save a buck.
There are plenty of tips out there to help save money and if those plans are put into practice, you’ll start to find new ways to earn and spend those dollars responsibly.
While the measures that can be taken in order to manage money better might not surprising, they’re proof that frugal living is possible.
Stop Eating out
Those trips to the drive-thru and the neighborhood restaurant might save you time, but in the long run, reducing the amount spent on meals outside of the house could save you quite a bit of money.
In 2010, the average consumer spent $2,505 eating out, according to the United States Department of Labor.
While that figure dropped from $2,698 in 2008, it’s still a considerable amount considering the average amount spent on health care services was $3,157.
Once you start limiting the amount you spend eating out as opposed to cooking at home, you’ll start to the see the savings, according to Dr. Douglas Dotterweich, an urban and regional economist with East Tennessee State University.
“I know some people that are busy people, but they seem to eat out for virtually every meal, and that’s just not a practice my wife and I have really gotten into,” he said. “We might eat out once or twice a week, but not seven times a week. And that makes a big difference, saving money that way.”
Even grocery shopping can become a slightly-less expensive affair.
There are a number of farmers markets in the area that offer fresh produce at a low cost. Not only are you saving money, but you’re helping local vendors stay in business.
And when it’s time to hit the grocery store, make sure to look for coupons and sign up for store rewards programs.
Shop around and compare prices for large purchases, or buy used items whenever possible
Looking around before you make a big purchase might be an obvious tip, but with the internet at your disposal, comparing prices for vehicles, appliances and other items has never been easier.
If the big box shops don’t have a price that’s in your budget, there’s always the option to buy it used via sites like Craigslist or classified ads in the newspaper.
Dotterweich said buying used is a great idea and the extra effort is worth it even if it takes a little longer than expected to find a good deal.
Even if the used item requires some up-front repair costs, sometimes it yields a better deal than purchasing something that is brand-new.
“Sometimes we think of that as being second class but if the things are good condition, nobody has to know that it was used. Those items have substantial savings.
Yard sales, garage sales and thrift stores are all great places to find a deal.
Find free things to do for fun
As the summer nears even closer, parents are soon going to be looking for ways to entertain their kids while they’re out of school.
Johnson City has a number of parks, lakes and trails that could make for a better afternoon than taking a trip to the mall or the movie theater.
Dotterweich said looking for free things to do, like going the library, is always a good idea.
“We don’t always think like that, but when you don’t have a lot of resources, you tend to think that way,” he said.
When it comes to sending your child to a summer program, Dotterweich said to pick one instead of several.
“Staycations” are also another way to minimize spending while maximizing fun.
“We’re near a beautiful area of the country. Mountains and lakes are very plentiful, so there’s plenty of options in this area,” he said.
Create a budget and don’t waver from it
Making a budget and sticking to it is probably the most important part of saving money and learning good spending habits.
Unfortunately, Dotterweich said most people don’t even bother creating a budget to live on, which becomes problematic when you begin to rack up debt.
“That’s a hard thing to do in an economy like this. You’ve really got to get a handle on this. Tough situations can lead to good outcomes sometimes. Being forced to do one could help them,” he said.
Perhaps as a response to the economic downturn, Dotterweich said there has been a strong shift in the last couple of years that has made people begin to buckle down.
“They’re becoming more important, I think. They’re things that people are emphasizing or maybe feeling like they have to do now, where before they felt like they were optional. It’s a change of mindset,” he said.
That change in the way you think can certainly help to keep you from spending, spending and more spending.
If you find yourself having a hard time sticking to a strict budget while trying to climb your way out of bad debt, Dotterweich said reducing, limiting or eliminating credit card use can always help.
“People that have lower incomes, especially, are having a harder time getting out and staying out of debt, and credit cards are a big part of that,” he said.
When looking at trimming your debt, Dotterweich said negotiating or talking with a credit counciling firm to set up a payment is one of smartest things a person can do.
“Most creditors would prefer to get some sort of money rather than no money, so if they put you in a bad account file and aren’t getting any money, it’s not really beneficial,” he said.
Sometimes communicating with creditors will help, even if you’re generating more interest along the way.
“You’re making a good faith effort to try to get things back on track, and most creditors are going to work with you if you’re willing to do that,” he said.