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Easy ways to save more

Carolyn Fries and her son, Harrison, 8, look through books at the main public library in St. Petersburg. She said her son wanted to go to a bookstore, but she suggested going to the library to save money.

Martha Rial | Times

Carolyn Fries and her son, Harrison, 8, look through books at the main public library in St. Petersburg. She said her son wanted to go to a bookstore, but she suggested going to the library to save money.

Kathleen Oller works for a Fortune 500 insurance company, makes more than $70,000 a year and owns her own home. ¶ But just because she appears to be financially stable doesn't mean she has escaped the strain of the tough economic times. ¶ Last year Oller began looking for ways to trim her budget. ¶ "It was a few things here and there, like my cable service," said Oller, 46, who is single. "But this year in particular I started identifying additional ways I could save money." ¶ As the economy continues its downward spiral, consumers like Oller are scrutinizing their spending. And products and services they once couldn't live without don't seem so essential anymore. ¶ For Oller that means giving up her membership to the Sierra Club and canceling her magazine subscriptions. ¶ She's not alone.
Ways we are cutting costs

The cup doesn't runneth over. While charities reported record fundraising in 2007, they aren't hopeful about 2008. "Any time there is an economic hard time, nonprofits can find it difficult," said Father Bob Schneider of Espiritu Santo Catholic Church in Safety Harbor. "Our regular contributions have been steady so far, but it's something we're certainly monitoring."
Leftovers anyone? People are forsaking restaurants for cheaper home-cooked fare. Publix Super Markets reported sales of $5.9-billion last quarter, a 6.1 percent increase over last year. "We have definitely seen people really looking for Publix private label products and being happy with that," said spokeswoman Shannon Patten. "People are looking for values."
Living with dark roots for a little longer. Clients aren't totally forsaking beauty regimens, but they are waiting longer or being more selective about the services they get, according to the nonprofit trade group Professional Beauty Association. "I now color my own hair, pluck my own eyebrows, and do my own nails," says Oller.
Taking advantage of free. People are entertaining themselves at home, with board games or movie rentals instead of a night on the town. People also are turning to libraries for books and movies. For instance, more than 101,000 items have been checked out of St. Petersburg libraries so far this month, compared with 83,617 items checked out last month. "It typically happens in an economic downturn," said library director Mary Gaines. "People turn to libraries. It's good news for us."
If the price isn't slashed, don't expect our cash. Dollar stores, wholesalers and discount online shopping stocks have peaked while higher end department stores have slumped. Nord­strom's stock fell 4 percent in December, while stock for discount designer apparel mecca T.J. Maxx rose. Another hot spot: thrift stores. "I find new clothes there that still have the original price on them," said Susan Muench-Arnove, 58, an employee at Bayfront Medical Center. "Like my husband says, 'I am a bargain hunter!' "

Ways we are cutting costs continued from 1A

Find — and cut — the fat in your budget

Julie Lawrence is a certified financial planner who works at Florida Financial Advisors in Tampa and is a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Lawrence also volunteers at the Spring of Tampa Bay teaching a money management class.

The first thing Lawrence has clients do is write down how much they think they spend each month. Then she has them track their actual spending.

They bring their results and she helps them come up with a spending plan. On their third monthly visit, she assesses how well they stuck to it.

The key, she says, is keeping track and not being afraid to adjust.

"If you spend $75 on groceries, either you realize that's an area you're going to cut back on or you cut back somewhere else," she said.

The biggest mistakes clients make: They don't know how much money is going out or what they're spending it on.
Tips to making a budget at home

Rule No 1: Write it down. It's extremely difficult to keep track of how much money you're spending when you have ATM slips, online banking and checks you write by hand, Lawrence said. "I encourage clients to start out with an old-fashioned checkbook and balance it every month."

Rule No. 2: Don't forget about the extras: Include vacation, car repairs, gift giving and holidays when making a budget.

Rule No. 3: Set up your budget according to your paychecks: Figure out what you'll pay out of your first check. Water and electricity, for example. Then figure out what you'll pay from your second paycheck, like groceries and car payment. Save money from both paychecks for rent or mortgage.

Five easy tips to start limiting your spending

1. Don't carry around a lot of cash.

2. When considering purchases, stop and ask yourself if it's a want or a need. If you leave the store, and you really do need it, you'll go back and get it.

3. Always use a grocery list.

4. Shop around for big-ticket items, like furniture, electronics and cars. Don't just rely on the big-box stores.

5. Always pay bills ontime to avoid late fees and negative credit ratings.

>>Fast Facts

Average yield
on 1-year CD

Jan. 2: 3.51 percent

March 19: 2.19 percent

Source: Bankrate.com

Easy ways to save more 03/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 24, 2008 4:18pm]
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