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How to weather the recession

Posted: August 29, 2008 9:14 p.m.
Updated: October 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 
As your supermarket receipts sadly show, the price of many food items keeps escalating. Dairy products have jumped nearly 11 percent over the past year, coffee costs almost 9 percent more, and a dozen eggs are up 43 cents.

This is definitely the time to look at our budget and spending habits.

To start, carry a small note pad with you and keep track for one week just everything you buy in a normal day. Don’t change your habits; just track them for one week. You’ll probably be surprised to notice the cost of that morning bagel and coffee.

At the end of the week, add it all up and notice what you spent on what, and start thinking where you can cut back.

Here are 10 relatively painless tips for saving money:
n Do your meal planning for the week and don’t go to the supermarket without your list.
n Cut out the “premium movie channels” from your cable bill. You could save $20 month on the cable bill.
n Vet your debt. Owing money can be dangerous in these uncertain times. Lose your job and you can suddenly find yourself unable to make your loan or monthly credit card payments. Rates on plastic are now topping 20 percent, and unlike mortgages and home-equity loans, the interest isn’t tax deductible. Try to find a way to consolidate your credit debts and pay them off as quickly as possible. Only use your credit card for things you can pay off in total the following month.
n Get ready for an emergency and be prepared for a rainy day. Start putting $100 a month into a high-rate, federally insured online savings account such as ones at the Web sites emigrantdirect.com or ingdirect.com. These savings accounts yielded 2.75 to 3 percent earlier this year. Your goal is to get enough in your account to cover at least three months bare-bones living expenses.
n Hang onto your home. The median house price fell 7.7 percent in the first quarter of 2008, and economists predict further drops.
n Make your job safer by networking. The economy lost 247,000 jobs in the first three months of 2008, so keep in touch with those contacts and watch the newspaper ads. Even if your job seems pretty solid at your company, it’s not a bad idea to update your resume so you’ll be ready to job hunt quickly if necessary.
n Use the Web to save money. Gasbuddy.com and gaspricewatch.com can be used to track the cheapest gas stations by area. Plug in your destination to find the best places for filling up.
n Thegrocerygame.com, which costs $10 for two months, provides a weekly list of the lowest-priced products at your favorite supermarket, matched up with manufacturer coupons and specials to save even more.
n Pricespider.com and wishradar.com hunt online for the items you want at the most you’re willing to pay. Create a wish list and how much you’d spend for each item. The sites search for them and will e-mail you when they turn up your desired price or less.
n Goodhousekeepingrewards.com lets you earn cash-back rewards of up to 20 percent at over 200 participating online merchants including Wal-Mart, Gap, and Best Buy Membership is free to subscribers.

That’s just a few of the things you can do to ease the pinch right now. Of course, something we don’t like to think about right now as summer winds down is holiday gift shopping. This is the time to start saving money on gifts by visiting the clearance sections of online clothing retailers, or watching the ads from stores like Linens ‘n Things for mail-in rebates on appliances and bakeware.

Here’s to shopping and saving smart!

Maureen Stephenson is a local author and owner of REMS Publishing & Publicity, which is based in Santa Clarita. Her column represents her own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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