Last night's local newscast had a segment devoted to "surviving hard economic times." Thankfully, they did a little promo on it so I knew to sit down and listen closely to their advice.
Their feature followed a woman as she did her weekly shopping. The following tips were presented: shop for generic brands, plan your menu around what the store specials are that week, and use coupons. As expected nothing too drastic. Just simple ways to cut back a little.
While I admit these tactics work, the real opportunity to help people "survive hard economic times" was missed. So here's what the audience would have heard had I been the "shopper."
1. Plant a garden (even if it's a window box) and eat seasonally. Don't hae garden "space?" Tear up your lawn!
2. Begin building a year's food, toiletry and cleaning supply by buying extra every time you shop.
3. After a month begin shopping every other week, then every three weeks, then monthly.
4. If you have discretionary dollars (not credit) go out and buy grains, rice, canned meats, spices and coffee, etc. in bulk or large quantities NOW. Date all items and follow the first in; first out rule. Learn to "shop" in your pantry!
5. Put yourself/family on a "Do Not Spend" diet for a month. I did this years ago. Everytime one of us thought of buying something we wrote it down in a tablet that had two columns: the item in one column; the price in the next. At the end of the month we tallied the right hand column - $487.00 (rounded up)! We were so excited we committed to doing it the next month. After three months we realized two things: lots of "I want to buy" thoughts translated into "I didn't realize how much" and "I didn't realize" statements. And, we could save for the downpayment on our first home.
My final "shopper" advice would be to examine the words you use and how they reflect your choices. For example using the word "need" when you really mean "want." Once you do this you'll start examining more of the choices you make every day. Thriftiness and conserving will become second nature.
To stay focused be willing to challenge yourself with little games like these:
How long can I make that tube of toothepaste last? A lot longer if you're willing to cut the top off, slice the tube down one side and across the bottom. On average there are six to eight more uses from the tube - which is folded back to its original shape and wrapped in a piece of cling wrap. Crazy? Depends on how serious you are about "saving."
Of course, in this house nearly everything is dated - either when it's opened or when it's purchased. So the 12 tubes of toothpaste lasts about one month longer than previously.
To most people this little trick probably sounds extreme. But, if you're truly interested in saving and you believe that the economy is going to continue its downward spiral, it's well worth exploring.