Thursday, March 17, 2011

Feel-Good Ways to Save Money

     Most of us don't have the option to suddenly go out and make more money. We're settled into a job and a paycheck, or we're retired and have our fixed income all arranged. Sure, you can get a job at the mall for $8 an hour, but you may not want to do that.

Don't pour money down the drain
     However, we can control our expenses, at least to a much greater degree. It seems there are two ways to go about that. One is the skinflint way -- the way our parents and grandparents did it during the Depression. You watch your pennies; never splurge on yourself; trade down on food and other necessities; and beat back any generous impulse you have to overtip or cut someone a break in an economic transaction or make a charitable contribution.

     But all that is kind of depressing. We Americans like to be expansive, generous, and feel like we're growing and getting richer. There must be ways to save money that are not skinflinty and pennypinching, but are actually kind of clever. For example, finding a way to avoid check-writing and ATM fees at a bank (as suggested on this money-saving site). Who needs them? And doesn't it make you feel good that you're not letting the bank take advantage of you?

     The idea is not to stretch your dollar -- that's depressing. It's not to throw your money down the drain, which is wasteful. I have a few suggestions. But I'm betting* that other people have some better ones. So please step up and offer your own creative ways for seniors to save a buck.

     I've found that one feel-good way to save money is to spend more on items that have not gone up as much as inflation. An obvious example is technology. You can buy a good computer or TV for half the price you used to pay. Another is clothes. Back in the 1990s, I paid $25 or $30 for a pair of pants, and maybe $15 for a nice shirt. Today, I buy clothes on sale at Macy's. It's a nice store, but I rarely pay more than $25 or $30 for a pair of pants, or $15 for a shirt. And given the modern-day casual look -- as well as being semi-retired -- I haven't had to buy a suit in over a decade. My clothes budget is just not very high anymore, even when I splurge.

      Another thing I did, since my kids are grown up and on their own -- I canceled my life insurance. Not a big deal, but it saves me $30-some per month.

     One thing I will never do, unless we do get another Great Depression, is give up restaurants. I like going out for a nice meal, and then no one has to cook (B's job) or do the dishes (my job). And I will not stoop to eating dinner at 5 o'clock just to grab a senior citizen discount. We instead to go out for breakfast or lunch. We get the same benefits at half the cost -- without feeling like we're some poor, ragged pensioners who can only afford to eat dinner in the middle of the afternoon.
     Another easy saving for me. Cancel the health club membership. I didn't use it as much as I should have anyway, and it's just as much fun to take a walk around the neighborhood, meet the neighbors, enjoy a few pleasant conversations.

     The key is not to feel like you're cutting back, but to save money where it doesn't hurt. Of course, what hurts one person may not hurt another. Maybe you don't mind eating dinner at 5 p.m., but you'd never give up your gym membership. The point is, if you have plenty of choices, you can find places to save where you'll barely notice the difference. So I'd love some more ideas for expenses to avoid -- 'cause, you know, we ain't getting any younger, or richer.

* As for betting, I've been to Foxwoods; I've been to Atlantic City; and I know who goes there -- a lot of people on Social Security. If you have to gamble, play cards with your friends or get a pool going on March Madness, and cut the house out of the action.

4 comments: said...

I don't spend much on clothes anymore either. Time was I a made a trip fall and spring to NYC to buy clothes, today is is LandsEnd. I clip coupons for groceries or drug items, buy generic where possible, and one week saved $8.95 on our food. Not a lot of $$ but every bit adds up. We too have learned the joys of eating lunch out, if we eat out at all. We make it a game to see how much less electricity we can use each month. We got the buget plan for the electric bill where the months are averaged but it is nice to note we used fewer killowatts this March than last. We installed five rain barrels to capture rain water in spring for those dry summer months. We could cut back in other areas too, if we had too. Dianne

Kay Dennison said...

I live on a very low income from Social Security and I've made living well on it a sport. Bargain hunting gives me a rush -- I love going to Macy's at the end of the season and buying some 60-dollar shoes for $15-20! My motto is that if it isn't on sale, I don't need it. The money I save allows me to do things I love -- like my symphony season ticket and my summer road trips! and oh yeah, eBay is awesome.

Sightings said...

I've been thinking about getting a rain barrel, not because it would save me money particularly, but b/c it would save me time and trouble. But I'm afraid the things don't work that well -- do the hoses leak or get clogged up, and what abt. mosquitoes? Anyway, if it works, sounds like a nifty idea.

I like the notion of making living well on less a sport. If they only had discount theater and symphony tickets! (But I proudly take my senior citizen discount at the multiplex.)

Laura Lee Carter said...

Nice blog you have going here! Loved the one about dancing! Wish I could talk my husband into dancing.

I think being frugal or thrifty has gotten a bad name and I don't even know why. It makes me feel really good about myself when I manage my money well. Just be sure you agree with your significant other on these important issues.