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CONSERVATIVEATHEIST

As we all face tough times ahead, what are some simple tips to help the economically challenged?

Not all of us make $250K a year so it's not something we can consult our financial advisors, accountants and lawyers about, what can the lower and lower middle class people do to save money or just be able to afford to live?This is not a political platform. I am looking for some advice on what things I can do to pay my bills without going into deep dark debt. Please don't ask give me rhetoric, give me some ideas.
CONSERVATIVEATHEIST:

Thanks to Conservative Atheist for inspiring this question. I am getting some great tips that I hope other can benefit from as well as my own family.

MamaV:

Sit down with pen and paper in hand. List your income, and your major bills, like mortgage/rent, utilities and regular monthly bills. STOP using any and all credit cards. Make a budget allowing for food and essentials like gas for car or taxi fares. Figure out where you money is going and keep track. Do not buy anything you don't need. With food shopping. plan meals ahead make a list for what you need for those meals, and do not buy anything that is not on that list. If you use a car. plan trips and errands in a circle, instead of running all over town, back and forth, to here and then there. Walk if you can. Turn the thermostat to a lower temperature and put an extra blanket on the beds and dress warmer while inside. turn off lights and unplug unused appliances. (believe it or not as long as they are plugged in there is still juice going in there even if they are turned off) Cut out extras or at least limit them to only once or twice a month. like entertainment, Like movies and restaurants. Instead rent DVD and have family movie night, with homemade popcorn and apples for snacks. Or family game night. Visit the local library and pick out a good book to read, Pack your lunches and bring from home, instead of buying out. Use coupons when ever possible. Only wash full loads of laundry, and full loads for the dishwasher too. Use large appliances during non peak times before 12 noon and after 6:00 p.m. Take shorter showers, and turn the water off when brushing your teeth.

CONSERVATIVEATHEIST:

Very good tips, and few that I didn't realize, like unplugging unused appliance. We had things plugged in for the convenience of us but tomorrow after I vote, I am going to go through the entire house and examine what we have plugged in that are not being used. I know one is a griddle. It's convenient for quick meals but I can plug it in easy enough. There are probably tons more that I haven't thought about.

John P:

You are in the same boat as a lot of us. We have cut back everywhere we possibly can, even cutting down the water heater, the heat, changing the light bulbs to save energy and washing bigger loads and half drying and letting them dry on hangers. things like that and every little bit helps. I have not had a new pair of pants in ovr a year and i do not wear dresses as it is too cold here. I stop wearing makeup and saved a great deal there. Go to the utility companies and see if there are groups that will help you pay your bills, there are up here.

CONSERVATIVEATHEIST:

Thanks for sharing those tips with us patpat. I personally have made many changes in the way we live, not because I had to but because I didn't want to be forced to in the long run. I cannot wash any bigger loads though, they don't make machines big enough to handle my brood's dirty clothes.

I don't know about you utility companies in Alaska (I think that where I read you were from) but in New York we don't get much help except the HEAP program. It doesn't pay alot but there are a lot of families worse off than us that are eligible and I'm glad they are getting help to stay warm this winter. I recently found out that I could switch my electric energy supplier and save 7% on the delivery costs. I haven't seen the first bill yet but I'm optimistic.

I hope others read this Q and share even more tips with us.

Alabama:

Let's see. Oh, I got it....why don't us average working American taxpayers bail out the rich guys. That ought to fix everything.

CONSERVATIVEATHEIST:

That is an example of what I expressly asked people to avoid doing here. Did your read it. I want to know how I improve the gas mileage on my car to get more for my gas dollar, not more rhetoric. Thank you for not respecting that.

Alabama:

Excuse me.

FFFY:

If you don't have the cash to pay for it then you don't need it. Credit will comsume you fast. Set up a budget (break down your spending for each day, week and month) this will give you an idea of what you are spending your money on.
Save as much as you can.
Pay off your debt as fas as you can. Start with the smallest amount and pay it off (avoid paying the minimum on this one or you will never get it paid off), then go to the next and so on applying the amount used to pay off each debt to the next one. It starts to add up quickly once you get it started.
Sell stuff you really don't need.
Good luck.

CONSERVATIVEATHEIST:

Excellent tips, George Washington. I hope that I will not have to go into debt. I was lucky enough to pay off all my credit cards before I left my job to try working for myself. So far, I am a little better off and my prospects look good. My daughters use only their debit cards and keep the credit cards for emergencies. My sons are both looking to invest in real estate for long term equity not to flip them. I have never been deeply into credit cards because as you stated, if you don't have the cash to pay for it then you don't need it.

Georgia:

Limit car trips as much as possible; do all shopping in one trip once a week.
Car-pool.
Buy off-brands and generic.
Buy clothes in a consignment shop. And only when you need to, not just when you want something new. (I haven't made this work with shoes, though. If you're on your feet a lot, it pays to buy more expensive, comfy shoes that will last.)
Grow a garden.
Lower the thermostat.
Lower the temp on your water heater.
Turn off lights/TV etc. when not in use.
Cook from scratch instead of pre-packaged. (Crock pots are great.)
Watch where your money is going and limit the extraneous stuff -- magazines, junk food, gum, wine, Starbucks, cable TV, high speed internet, restaurants, whatever.
Instead of renting movies, read books. With a library card.
Definitely pay off your debts as quickly as possible, and also try to put a little away every month that you absolutely will not touch except in dire emergency. After a couple years of frugal living, you might find that your emergency fund is larger than your anticipated emergencies, and have a little to invest.

CONSERVATIVEATHEIST:

Hi Knute, Great tips. I do enjoy my library and I have learned that I can find more than just books there. They are a great FREE entertainment and information source.

I know what you mean about shoes too. I spend more on them because of my sport. I am a tri-athlete and I have to protect my feet. They are an investment that have actually paid me a nice return. I didn't see it that way before but now that I am a decently ranked contender, I have to make sure that my footwear will protect my moneymakers. LOL

Thanks again.

Literally Speaking ™:

Look at the side wall of the tires on your car, inflate them to the max pressure but know it will create a little harsher ride than using the manufacturers recommendation but will decrease rolling resistance and increase fuel economy, pool as many of your errands into one trip so you don't have to make several, your car burns more fuel when cold than at any other time so the least amount of warm up time the better, as soon as you crank it up, begin your trip, don't let it sit there to warm up even if it's cold as hell outside, it will warm up faster underload as in driving than just sitting there. Have the plugs changed if they have 30k miles if pre 95 and if 96 or newer have them changed every 50-75k miles, they say platinum plugs in later model cars can go 100k but don't trust it. Check and change the air filter and fuel filter every 15k miles keep the oil changed every 3-5k miles (longer if you use synthetic oil) synthetic oil will also decrease engine wear and thus increase fuel economy (DO NOT change to syn if you have over 50k miles) Have the front end (4wheel) alignment checked once a year even if your tires are wearing normaly and it drives ok to you, it may have gone out of alignment ever so slightly over a period of time and you get used to it as you drive, empty your trunk and anything in the passenger area that is not needed, excess weight decreases fuel economy,

That's about all I can think of off the top of my head as far as saving $$$ where a car would be concerned.

:o)

CONSERVATIVEATHEIST:

Those are some great tips Literally Speaking. I used to rely on my hubby to take care of the car for me but I am on an independent learning kick as far as vehicles are concerned now. I don't ask him about the maintenance stuff just the major problems I run off and defer to his judgement.

I drive a 95 Chevy Suburban and my tires definitely need to be changed. I have some truck tires on it now and I don't believe they are best for my needs or fuel economy. I knew a few of tips you posted but not all and I am appreciative of the help. Perhaps the other users here can get their vehicles in better shape too.

Is there any danger in inflating the tires to max pressure? Like blow-outs? I always used the recommended PSI. I don't care if the ride isn't harsher if I have better MPG.

Peter:

I'm also one of those economically challenged. I have started watching my spending habits more

CONSERVATIVEATHEIST:

What tips can you share with us Vernee to help us watch our spending habits. I have 10 kids in all and 6 still live home with me. It's not easy but I am trying not to make it harder.

Peter:

Well, I have cut back on a lot of habits that I use to have like, eating out frequently and compulsive spending. Also, now, when I buy groceries, I buy the items that I need and not the ones that I want because they will have to come later when I save the money to buy them. I keep my heat on 65 degrees always and wash my laundry with cold water oppose to hot as much as I can. I also buy a lot of non perishable foods like can goods, rice, pasta and grains to keep handy to make quick healthy meals. I also drive a small car so my gas expenses hopefully will not be too bad because I work an hour away from my home. But, you being a parent, you most likely do a lot of these things already. But good luck, I know you will come up with some great ideas. Take care.

Lester:

- Make a budget and stick to it.

-Avoid debt as much as possible

- Where you have debt, pay off the highest interst rates first, *not* the lowest amount unless short term cash flow is crucial.

- Make sure you, at a minimum, take advantage of any matching benefits at work. There is no place else where you will get 50% return.

- Maximize any benefits you have at work. Particiapte in any plan that can give you an extra buck.

- Continually invest in yourself and you career. Learn new skills, look for ways to cut costs at work, make yourself indispensable.

- build up a savings of 3-6 months expenses

- Contribute as much as possible to your retirement plans. If your income is less than, say, $60K, a Roth is probably best. After that, it depends on what you think tax rates will be in the future.

- Insulate your house and maintain your car properly

- When things are on sale, buy things in bulk and save them.

- go to www.bankrate.com to look for good deals on savings accoutns, money markets, CDs, etc.

- invest in low-power, high luminosity light bulbs incuding LED and CFL

- learn basic maintenance on your car. Any healthy individual without back problems, etc. can learn to change oil, brakes, etc.

- look for "vampire" devices using power, and turn them all the way off as possible. TVs are especially bad in this regard.

CONSERVATIVEATHEIST:

Good stuff Lester. I didn't think about investing in new skills as a part of a savings plan but you are right. If we make ourselves more marketable, we benefit ourselves and our employers. Great point.

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