Thursday, March 6, 2008

Small sacrifices help in unstable environment

DULLES, Va. (3/5/08)--When the economy is booming, small luxuries almost seem like necessities--like that daily cappuccino or that soda from the vending machine. But in today's economic environment, many consumers are cutting back (AOL News Feb. 27).

One Wisconsin man used to stop at a local convenience store each morning and buy coffee for his 5 a.m. commute to work. Now he fills a thermos and takes it along for the drive.

His wife, who used to pick up a sandwich during lunch-hour errands, is being more conscientious about packing her lunch.

The couple has invested in a membership at a local wholesaler to take advantage of discounts on cases of Gatorade. Their 10-year-old son, an avid hockey player, used to ask for a Gatorade from the rink concession stand several times a week. Now, he's content to throw a bottle from home in his bag and drink it after practice.

In a time of belt-tightening, there are many ways to cut back:

Rent movies. A night at the cinema easily can cost $40 for two people--after stocking up on buttery popcorn, large sodas, and peanut clusters. Instead, rent a movie and stay in. Pop corn in the microwave.

Get a library card. Instead of running to the bookstore to buy your favorite author's newest release, reserve it at the library. You also can rent movies there.

Cook dinner at home. If you're itching for a night out, consider cooking your main meal at home and going out for dessert. You'll still have the social enjoyment--but at a fraction of the cost.

Double your recipe. When you make a home-cooked meal, make enough for leftovers for the next several days. Or, freeze half so you're not running to the grocery store as much.

Use coupons and "savers" cards. Comb the Sunday paper for coupons and take advantage of grocery store savers cards. The woman mentioned earlier saved $30 last week and bought only the things she needed--except for a half-gallon of ice cream. Check for online coupons from the stores you regularly shop, too.

Drink tap water. At $1.25 a pop, purchasing bottled water adds up. Fill a cup with ice and get water from a faucet. That's probably all that was available when you were a kid--you'll survive.

For more information, read "Live Simply to Reap Savings" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

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