Cutting Down the Money Tree

Let's face it. Our fathers were right. Money does not grow on trees.

Until recently, it certainly felt like it did for the majority of us. However, with the current state of the economy, many are facing financial situations that are not only unfamiliar, but unsettling.

So, after years of spending-at-will, how do you cut down the money tree? Or... at least re-pot it in a safer corner of your home? Below are some helpful suggestions that will not only put money back in your wallet, but will inspire you to find more ways to save.

Around the house

  • Turn off the lights - Lights make up nearly 11% of most electric bills. Cutting them off as you leave a room can significantly cut your bill.
  • Close doors - Keeping rooms closed while not in use not only makes it easier to maintain the room's temperature, but keeps that particular room from affecting the home's overall thermostat reader.
  • Use Curtains - Curtains provide more than just privacy. They block a considerable amount of heat in the summer and cool air in the winter, making your system have to work less to maintain the interior temperature. Using insulated curtains or drapes conserves even more.
  • Raise/lower your thermostat - Changing your thermostat by 2° (up 2 in the summer, down 2 in the winter) can lower your monthly bill by as much as 10%.
  • Cut back the cable - Downgrading your cable bill by only one tier can create significant savings and result in a loss of channels you won't even notice are gone.
  • Get rid of your phone - If you already have a major calling plan through your cell phone carrier, consider dropping your home phone plan down to the bare minimum. A basic plan that includes a phone line and internet service can save you as much as 60% off of regular monthly plans with all the extras. You will still have a land line for emergencies, without paying for the extras you probably never use.

Curbing the Munchies

  • Cook at home - A night at home with a family of five will run between €15-€20 for a home cooked meal. The same meal in a restaurant would cost you €60-€75 including tip. Staying home saves you nearly 75%. Imagine how fast that adds up.
  • Cut back on groceries - Let's face it, food is a favorite past time for most of us. But, shopping for your favorite brands can add hundreds to your grocery bill—unless you know the tricks of the trade.
  • Follow the sales in your local store. Most items have between a 6 and 12 week sales rotation, which means they go on sale every 6 to 12 weeks. Once you know the rotation of your favorite items, plan to stock up and save big.
  • Use coupons. Tired of this broken record? Well, it keeps playing because those that listen know what savings they can bring! Combining a coupon with an item on a sales rotation can allow you to buy it for pennies on the dollar, and sometimes for free.

Creative Free time

  • Kid's activities - Need to get the kids out of the house? Check out local museums. Spend time finding the perfect book at the library. Find a city park that has covered picnic areas. Take them shopping at a Dollar Store. Check out free summer movie programs at local theaters. They'll have fun and never notice the difference you aren't spending.
  • Plan with neighbors - Find other families in your neighborhood that are interested in gathering. Have a covered dish get together. Do a family scavenger hunt. Have a community dog wash. Get the kids together and moving without hurting the cash flow.

These are just a few of many ways to cut back and curb your spending. Managing your money carefully during these tough times is not only necessary for most of us, but wise. Make smart choices. Be creative. And while you're at it, plant a savings tree in that new open spot in your yard. It sure would make Dad proud.

author: Laura Polk

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