Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ten Ways to a Frugal New Year

Start the new year off on the right foot! Now's the time to review, revise, revisit and rework, whether it's yourself or your financial picture. Get going on the track that will put you in more frugal (read: prosperous) condition for this year and the year after and the year after...

Review all of your insurance
Home owner's insurance,  vehicle insurance, health insurance, life insurance, whatever you have. The beginning of the year is a perfect time to be sure you're paying the least amount possible for the amount of coverage you need. Raise your deductible if you can, revamp values, revisit needs. Go over everything first by yourself,
then with your insurance agents. Tell them you need to lower your premiums, but don't cut yourself short if you need to use the insurance.

Get a grip on your taxes
Don't overpay the government. If you did this year, make some changes right away so that you won't next year. They don't pay interest and a bank does. Enough said? If you're afraid you'll blow any extra money, the frugal thing to do is have it automatically sent to savings before you get your check. Don't underpay, either, because the government will charge you a penalty. (Usually, it's not too high, so count your pennies and decide which is better for you.) It's probably impossible to get it just right, so if you overpay by just a little, that's safest.

Don't be too good for your own good

Not everything has to be top quality. For instance, children's clothing is usually outgrown long before it's worn out, so it's frugal to buy them inexpensive clothes. Other things that you won't use often before they're outdated, can be of lower quality since they don't have to last. Weigh your options carefully before buying anything.

Shake hands with Second Hand Rose
Not everything has to be new. Second hand cars, clothes and household items can save you a bundle. Do your homework before buying appliances or mechanical items (including cars and lawn mowers) second hand, though. Know what to look for to spot problems. Never be shy about asking why the owner is selling. It's not frugal to buy someone else's problems.

 Get your hands dirty
Learn to do your own maintenance on the car and the lawn mower. You can save a few dollars by doing it yourself and it's not as hard as it may seem. The internet is filled with information on just about everything. Before you buy another, or pay someone else to fix yours, do some research to see if you can fix that microwave or CD player or vacuum cleaner yourself. You might be surprised at how much you can do to save.

Turned on? Turn off

TV's, computers and other entertainment electronics may not take a lot of electricity to operate, but if they're on for hours with no one watching, listening or using them, they're wasting it. Most electronics have "instant on" features, which sit idly by, sipping up electricity 24/7 whether the component is being used or not. It's worth a few dollars for a power strip with a switch. Turn them off at this switch and they won't keep sipping all day and night.

Ignore the masses
"They" say you should do this and "they" say this is good, and "they" say you shouldn't be without this. They might be right sometimes, but don't believe them just because they say so. Take your own situation into account, look at it and pretend like you never heard anyone talk about it. Do you really need it? Want it? Take your time and make a list of pros and cons if you need to, but make your own decision based on what you want and need. Be your own person, not an echo of someone else.

Send your big balance credit card to Never-Never Land
If your credit card balance took on a life of its own and is out of control, you need to close the account. You'll have to pay the account off, of course, but you don't have to pay it off to close it. Only after you've closed it, cut up the card. Don't destroy everything that has the card number on it, though, as you might need it when you deal with the issuing company. They will continue to send you monthly statements until it's paid off.

Get on friendly terms with a good bank

One that will give you free checking and allow you a savings account with no or very low minimum balance required. (Never go under that balance, whatever it is.) Then use the savings account. It's good for short term savings for certain wants or needs - anything from a new furnace to a set of tires. Be religious about putting money into it, even if you can only afford five or ten dollars at a time. It's much more frugal to pay for something before you get it rather than after. Savings accounts pay you interest. You pay lenders interest. Which would you rather do?

Stay healthy!
I know it's easier said than done, but if your health is good, do everything you can to keep it that way and if it's not, do everything you can to get it that way. Get the exercise you need, get the rest you need and watch what you eat. Doctors are adding a new rule to healthy living now: Keep a positive attitude. Doctors, drugs and hospitals cost more than you need to pay, even with insurance.

If you find this list a challenge, let me ease your mind somewhat. You don't have to do all of them right away. Work your way into it and tackle the things that seem most interesting or easiest first. When you see the progress you've made toward a more frugal lifestyle, you'll be motivated to do more.

Some of you do some of these already, but if you don't do them all, now's the time to tackle the rest. And if you do all of them now, more power (and savings) to you!

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