Can You Claim A 4 Month Old On Your Taxes Times Are Tough, Get Free Help Here!

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Times Are Tough, Get Free Help Here!

We all know the saying, hard times don’t last, but hard people do. Well, I keep hearing (and occasionally saying) that times are hard, and I figured it was time to ‘tighten the belt a little’. Due to a confluence of events, I find myself looking for ways to save a little more and spend a little less (just like the good old days), so I’m writing this article as much for me as I am for you!

First, in full disclosure, the confluence of events… My wife and I were blessed with our second son on May 10, 2007; while definitely a blessing, it also adds to the cost of our lives. I quit my JOB in December 2007. Just before that, times were good, so I bought a big new house and a big new truck. Despite a large down payment, the home still carries a large monthly mortgage. The real estate market is doing worse than the overall economy, and the combined value of my real estate has dropped quite a bit (meaning smaller paydays if/when I sell any of my existing properties in the real estate market this estate). Last, but not least, I recently bought two single family homes with fixed upstairs, and we are trying to finish one while doing the first stage repairs on the other…so my ‘cash cushion’ held in the tied hand. in the purchase and repair of these houses.

Second, with that out of the way, some painless ways to save more and spend less… If you haven’t shopped around for your automobile insurance in the past 1-2 years, now is a good time. I’m not saying settle for a low quality insurance company, or for less than adequate insurance, but I am saying keep your insurance company honest by making sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Many people are surprised by the fact that even two insurance companies, offering the same insurance coverage, two years apart, can completely switch rates… I have experienced it personally. Also, if applicable, you can purchase other insurance, such as life, health, disability, etc. You can save money without any sacrifice! Do you have a cell phone plan that makes the most sense for your usage (I know someone personally who should be on an unlimited plan, who still spends a fortune on excess minutes – WHY?)?

If your electric bill is high, Lakeland Electric does a FREE energy audit. Maybe you know some things you don’t want to do right now, like upgrading to more energy-efficient appliances, but maybe there are also some cheap, easy ways to cut your electric bill significantly that you haven’t thought of. If you have a sprinkler system, does it shut off during periods of heavy rain? Do you heat and cool your home sensibly (for example, I heat to about 73 degrees in the winter, and cool to about 77 degrees in the summer; a 4-5 degree swing shouldn’t cause any real discomfort, and if a bigger? spread does not disturb your family, even better)? How about giving yourself a financial check? Are all your investments, evaluated individually, performing well and making sense? Do you know what you are investing in, and how and why it should make you profit? Likewise, if you borrow, does your loan make sense?

Could they be structured better, have better rates, etc.? Especially if you carry a balance on a high interest rate credit card, can you get it reduced somehow? I know I’m constantly bombarded with zero interest rate for X number of months credit cards that could help. As an example, when I have a loan that I plan to pay in full in the next year or two, I get a zero interest credit card for eighteen months, pay off the loan with it, and now all my payments pay off the principal instead. in part goes to interest. Are you one of those people who pay bills late for whatever reason, incurring late fees, penalties, higher interest rates, etc.? Find out what it takes to get and stay current, and the savings alone will help keep you there. If you tend to spend more when you use a credit card instead of cash (which most people do), ditch the credit cards. If, on the other hand, you have a high level of self-discipline, then use no-fee, high-reward credit cards, charge all your normal expenses, pay the bill in full every month, and collect rewards (I do this with my business to earn my wife and I good food out).

In fact, since I’ve been rehabbing two houses, I’ve bought over $200 in Discover cash back bonus rewards this month. If applicable, improve your credit score so that any future borrowing will become cheaper and cheaper (better rates, lower fees). When it comes to tax time, are you getting all the deductions you’re entitled to? Many people intentionally do not take the income tax deduction they are entitled to because they think it might result in an audit; low side here – as long as you don’t do anything ‘wrong’, the audit will probably hurt less than the money you throw away (in the rare event you get audited)! Here’s one I found saving me a lot of money recently… When I see something in a store I ‘have to have’, I wait and search online later. Two benefits – first the incentive to spend often goes away, thus cutting costs completely, and secondly, I find almost everything I research I can buy cheaper online than I would pay in the store (yes, even including shipping. and touching).

If you eat a lot on the JOB, can you save money by packing lunch more often? Something I find my family guilty of often – we throw away perfectly good leftovers when we eat out or prepare something more appetizing. Three solutions quickly come to mind – one, eat the leftovers; two, freeze the leftovers for later; three, prepare less food. If you have the time and inclination (I don’t), plant a garden. Are you sure you shop bargains, and take advantage of sales on things you know you’ll use anyway? And, on the opposite side of the coin, avoid buying junk you don’t need at all just because it was on sale!

Do you clip coupons, actively look for sale prices, etc.? While I think that exercise is great, and I actively exercise myself, if you are one of those people who have an expensive gym membership, and only go to the gym twice a year, get rid of it. Here’s a fun, easy way to save a little money – my wife takes my kids to the library almost every week, and they not only get all the books they can read for free, they even get a bunch of kids’ movies on DVD! With the popularity of cell phones these days, I know many people who ended up with land lines because it was a waste of money. Last and definitely not least, the old adage, Pay yourself first! ‘If you pay yourself last, you’ll never make it. If you pay yourself first, you’ll never miss it.’ These are all things that, with just a little work on the end, can help you save more and spend less without any sacrifice in your lifestyle. And about things that might hurt a little…

Third, ways to save more and spend less where the terminology ‘no pain, no gain’ applies… These you will feel a little more. Depending on how bad you want to reach your goal, how bad your financial situation is, your time constraints, etc., let’s start with the extreme – can you work more hours, get a second job, start a business on time partial (even if temporarily to get over the hump)? Maybe a stay-at-home spouse can pick up some housework? In this economy, many stay-at-home parents babysit extras for friends or relatives, allowing one family to make extra money (watching) and allowing the other to save extra money (cheaper than daycare). Perhaps private schools or home schools need to be replaced by public schools, even if only temporarily during hard times? It’s not for everyone, but I know a couple who happily rent an extra room in their house for a long time.

Consider a smaller, cheaper, more efficient car, now or the next time you buy a car (yes, as previously mentioned, I failed miserably in this category). While on the subject of cars, most of you are probably already combining many errands in fewer trips and avoid unnecessary driving these days. Are you making the most of free entertainment at home? Have a brainstorming session with your family about all the fun, free, or cheap things you can think of to do at home, then apply your favorites and save on travel and entertainment costs.

Most Americans can save some money by eating out less, and I personally know that when I cut back on soda and drink more water my body and wallet both appreciate it. If you drink coffee at Starbucks, or drink alcohol at bars/restaurants, besides the moral issues, let me kill you now for what you spend per drink! Ouch! And I won’t even get started on cigarettes/tobacco. Finally, here’s the thing everyone hates to do – create a budget! First and foremost, spend as you normally do, and track every penny for at least a couple of months… and find out where your money is really going. If you can bring yourself to do it, keep track of expenses for a full year, so you make sure you include once or twice a year expenses such as holidays, birthdays, insurance, taxes, etc. Nine times on ten, there will be some shockingly high costs, and you will know where to look to stop the bleeding.

This article is just for your appetite, but if you found some useful suggestions from it, and or you want more of the same, search the Internet for some sights on saving money … I know I stumbled on some when i was looking for personal finance information not too long ago, and I saw some good advice, as well as some that I would never recommend … I will share some because it might be good for a laugh … Reduce showering once per week (save on hot water, shampoo, soap, and probably dating, for those of you who are single!). Potty train your pets. Go early on garbage day and pick up what you need from what other people throw away (I guess they say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – LOL). Become a vegetarian – it’s a cheaper lifestyle (I know meat can be expensive, but that seems extreme to a meat and potatoes guy like me!). Anyway, enough of the extreme!!! Best wishes to everyone, and hopefully I’ll see you…on the other side of the rainbow (you know, where the pot of gold is)!

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