Monday, Nov. 16, 2009

Desperate Times, Thrifty Measures

Since the recession began two years ago thrift has resurfaced as something of a national obsession. That's good. As a nation we had gone off the deep end in terms of debt-fueled consumption and low savings. Now, tough times are spurring a reversal. The U.S. savings rate, once around zero, has pushed upward to about 4% this year. We could do better, and plenty has been written about how to go about pinching more pennies.

You've probably seen a lot of this advice and found it either predictable, too painful to actually act on or insufficient to make much of a difference — things like shopping with coupons, buying energy-efficient windows and appliances, cutting back on your Starbucks habit, dropping the premium cable package (and maybe joining Netflix), having the house cleaner come half as often (and maybe picking up a broom), getting familiar with so you can buy more stuff used, going to the library, vacationing at home, quitting the health club (and jogging), turning down the thermostat (and putting on a sweater).

It's all fine advice, and if you want more ideas of this sort go to and click on Learning Center and then Investments for a list of 101 nifty cost-cutting ideas. It would also pay for you to examine a year's worth of spending by looking at your automatic bill-pay system and credit-card records. Some line items will jump at you and practically scream for attention. Did you really spend $5,000 at restaurants last year? Yes — if you ate out once a week and spent about $100 each time.

Yet eating out is part of what makes life fun. Sure, you can cut back. But what you'd really like to do is take a restaurant-sized bite out of your expense structure, not just nibble at it, and do so without curbing your lifestyle — right? Well, you can. Here are five nearly painless ways to cut at least $1,000 from your annual budget:

See how you can cut your family's expenses:
Minimize Investing Costs
Rightsize Your Cell-Phone Plan
Rethink Your Insurance
Give Time, Not Money
Avoid Fee Creep ...