Salted Carmel ice cream. Cocoa Beware truffles. African Nectar tea. And, oh yeah, a budget you can live with.
Let’s be honest – the economic downturn is getting old. It’s been more than three years of low interest rates, high unemployment, and general penny-pinching.
The worst time for my family was in 2008 when our income was half of what it had been the previous year, but things are still tighter than they were in the “good old days” of the early 2000’s so we are watching what we spend and cutting corners where we can.
If you are experiencing your own economic downturn, here are some ways I have found to make the dollars go just a little bit further:
- 1) Make a budget – even if you have never had one before. Be realistic about what you spend while looking closely at disposable income and expenses you can cut. Verity has a great budgeting tool on our website.
- Keep a record of everything you spend. Start with your disposable income for the week and subtract as you go. Or get your spending money in cash and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I find this works really well because there is something about paying with cash that makes it more real and easier to avoid impulse purchases.
- When you can, build up an emergency fund. A good rule of thumb is three times your monthly salary. As soon as things start to look up, start saving. Even if it’s only five or ten dollars a week – every little bit counts! To make this easier, set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account monthly, weekly or bi-weekly. You can do this through Verity’s Bill Payer or have someone at one of our branches set it up for you.
- Make small cuts that can really add up. Read the newspaper online. Use the internet at the library or local cafe instead of paying to have it at home. Check out movies from the library instead of using Netflix. Every little bit counts, especially when you multiply it by twelve. For example, using Bill Payer to pay your bills instead of paying them by mail can save you more than $50 per year if you pay an average of two and a half bills per week.
- Take advantage of all the free entertainment available in the Seattle area. Libraries, museums, community centers and various neighborhood organizations offer tons of free or low cost events, including downtown Seattle’s “Out to Lunch” concert series, especially in the summer. Take up a hobby that doesn’t cost anything like running, hiking, or meditating. (All of these are also good for calming the anxiety that comes with financial difficulties.)
- Make it a game with yourself to see how little you can spend each week. Do you really need those new shoes? Can you wait until next week to buy more groceries? What can you make for dinner with two eggs, a can of beans and some rice? Wean yourself off of coffee and save up to $35 per week in lattes!
- Because life is short and complete deprivation can make a budget hard to stick to, allow yourself one small treat each week. A scoop of Salted Caramel ice cream at Molly Moon’s (less than $4), a Cocoa Beware truffle at Chocolati Café (less than $2) or a cup of African Nectar Tea at Caffe Appassionato, conveniently located next door to the Wallingford Branch (less than $3). Or try my absolute favorite a Coconutty smoothie from THRIVE, a raw food café in Ravenna (less than $10).
- Finally, remind yourself that this time won’t last forever. Do the best you can and make every penny count!
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