No one needs to be told that times are tough. Unemployment is up and so are prices. The heavy load of debt that most people carry has caused them to become more cautious, so they save more. The savings rate rose from 2.8% to 3.6% over the past quarter. Fortunately, there are ways to keep that rate high without suffering too drastic a cut in your lifestyle.
The key is to seek and practice new ways of saving money, made easier than ever by the Internet revolution of the past 10 years.
Not long ago, buying a king-sized bed over the Internet would have been unthinkable. Now, while perhaps not commonplace, it is easy, painless, and a great way to save hundreds off a new bed. There are thousands of other products and services that could equally well be cited as examples.
Around the home, it’s possible to save money by thinking in new ways, too.
You can lower your home heating bill and reduce your electricity usage without freezing or living in the dark. You can give parties at home more often, even splitting the cost with the guests. Today, no one will think you’re cheap since they’re all in the same situation.
You can lower many other costs, too, and not sacrifice your enjoyment of life or short-change those you care about.
You can get low-cost, high-quality gifts by altering your shopping habits a little bit. Instead of reaching for the first, high-ticket item that pops into your head, slow down. Spend a little time thinking and researching, use the Internet to find that odd gift that will be kept forever but doesn’t cost a bundle.
You can keep your entertainment expenses down by adapting that idea. Do something out of the ordinary. Instead of eating at that same high-priced restaurant you always use for special occasions, seek out something new that’s less costly. Download a free movie instead of going to the theater. Seek out sporting event venues that are lower than the usual cost of football tickets, such as sports bars.
Reduce your medical expenses with a similar technique.
Shop around and consider a less expensive health care plan if you’re not covered already by one at work. Even if you are, think about whether the premiums you pay actually add up to less than the price of, say, a dental or eye checkup. Insurance companies bet that the money you pay them will bring in more than the cost of the portion they pay on your bills. They’re experts at such calculations, so follow their lead and use it to your advantage.
You can also save money on credit, if you’re creditworthy. The best way is simply not to use it. Interest costs money, that’s how banks get rich. Keep some of that money yourself. If you do take out a loan, use the fact that you are a good risk to your advantage. Bargain hard.
Think about how and where to save money and you’ll find dozens of new ways to keep more of your hard-earned cash. Then, splurge once in a while to relieve the pressure of long-sustained discipline and to keep life fun. That’s saving the new-fashioned way.