Is It Downsizing Time?






Personal Expenditures - haircuts/dying/perming, makeup/manicures/tanning/hair removal/etc., massage, tobacco, new clothes/shoes/jewelry, monetary donations, expensive gifts, frequent shopping trips (to distant stores?), health & life insurance premiums, savings, investments, payment options:
Okay, you’re you, and these are personal – very personal – decisions; but we’re looking for ways to save, so…

What personal expenditures could you curtail?

You could cut your own hair, or get a friend to do it (and you do his/hers?). You could stop the dye jobs and continual root touch-ups (ask your friends if they’d still love you with grey hair – I bet they’ll say yes!). Consider an alternative to the perming (such as use of gel on wet hair and fluffing shorter hair into waves as it dries). Um… I’m not going there about makeup (your friends would still love you, though). No one needs a manicure or pedicure, do they? – unless they’re too frail to do it themselves; and though tanning can be healthy (vitamin D - and vitamin A, in some tanning beds), are you overdoing it for the look? And you can remove your own body hair at home, if that's important to you. (If the real "benefit" is someone doing it for you - a treat - why not trade services with a friend?)

More of us probably need massages than get them! – though whether or not you need a weekly massage, I couldn’t begin to know (but I do know they’re costly, if you’re paying a professional)… Trade with a friend?

Other than being bad for you, and those around you (if we’re talking smoke), tobacco is a huge money-drain – and it may be a lot cheaper to pay "through the nose" for help to quit (certainly healthier).

This may not be palatable to those who aren't used to thinking this way (or are used to thinking that "used = we're poor"), but no one actually needs much at all in the way of new clothes (underwear excepted – possibly). It’s up to you, but you can save a vast amount of money shopping in rummage stores and consignment clothing shops. Ditto for shoes, believe it or not (because all those people – women, mostly, but men’s shoes are available used too – are dumping perfectly good shoes with their suddenly-out-of-fashion wardrobes).

About jewelry, there’s not much to say – other than developing a taste for less, and/or less expensive examples of it. What about getting friends together for a jewelry-trading party?

Perhaps you are one who makes a number of donations/tithes to non-profit organizations… an undeniably worthy parting of your money. It’s possible that we are so in the habit of giving in this way, though, that we don’t notice when the size of out outlay has become a dilemma for us. Most of us would love to give much, to many; but the practicalities make it imperative that we choose from amongst a plethora of good causes. …And sometimes adjust the size of our donations, as our financial resources fluctuate. I’m certainly not going to suggest that you stop giving – it’s good for all of us to be givers! I do suggest that an overview of your donations might be a useful pursuit – if only to prove that giving is less of a factor in your overall financial picture than you were thinking. (And if you feel a need to cut back a little now, you can always re-adjust tithes at a later date, when you’re out of a pinch.)

Gifts to important others are wonderful… but you don’t have to spend a lot on them. (See my website for ideas about gift-giving – and if you’re into it, gift-making.)

I live an hour away from "major stores"; I used to live in the remote mountains, far from any shopping other than a tiny general store. …But what with online options and produce distributors, we could (and largely did) shop locally – though, yes, we paid a little more per item. But we saved a ton on gas and wear and tear (on vehicles and on us)! However, I know many people in both locales who make regular shopping trips so as to "save" pennies on the dollar – i.e., not really! Sure, if you have to go elsewhere anyway, make a shopping trip of it too; but if you have a shopping "bug", you might like to consider other ways to entertain yourself – if you want to save your money for more important things.

Of course, health insurance premiums – if you pay them (and most who work do, even if only at a mandatory level) – can’t be said to be frivolous! (though they can certainly be a hefty drain on the budget). If you’re a person of healthy habits and unlikely to need doctors to the extent of your yearly deductible (or you prefer to see alternative medical professionals not covered under your plan anyway), you could perhaps "trade this in" for a plan with a higher deductible and come out ahead on the monthly payments. In any case, your savings in other areas of your life could make the personal expenditure on health insurance premiums that you deem necessary suddenly seem more affordable.

As to life insurance, that's a very personal decision (and usually depends on the constitution of your household, among other variables). But here's an important tip about life insurance:  If you set up your policy some time ago, review it - because I've read that the rates have dropped about in half over the last ten years or so. In other words, you might be paying double what you need to for the same coverage!

And speaking of savings… most people don’t save – do you? If not, you’ll probably find listed here a number of ways to free up some money so that you can begin.

I separate savings from investments, because some investments are "iffier" than simply putting money in the bank (that habit that so many Americans have forgotten about in their passions on consuming, upgrading, and raking in dough from the stock market and other more volatile investments). Of course, money in the bank might be subject to loss if the overall economy falls dramatically; and there are many types of non-savings investments that could do well or poorly (and I’m not a financial adviser – nor do I have much trust in those who are) – but let’s just touch briefly on real estate investments in particular… 

If we anticipate the prospect of a faltering real estate market (and economy), this might suggest that now is the time to sell extraneous property investments, such as vacant lots, investment homes, vacation/second homes, and timeshares. It could well be that this is a good time to concentrate on preserving and recapturing capital rather than betting the farm on continuing prosperity in the housing market (or the stock market, for that matter). Yes, you might "lose" in relation to the value you got in at, or expected it to rise to... But if you need cash, that could take precedence (especially considering any ongoing costs associated with the property investment). It can be a hard call - but it can be more expensive not to even look at the consequences on both sides of the question.

For the rest, I do advise that some attention to study of long-term world trends can lead to better decision-making for other types of investments than simply leaving it to a financial adviser (who stands to gain from selling you anything).

I included "payment options" in a discussion on personal expenditures because there are hidden money savings or drains here... It's now reported that banks make over $10 billion a year on "so handy" debit card overdraft fees (way more than on check overdraft charges). Of course, credit cards can lead to wacko spending... but if you have self-control, and pay off your card monthly, you can make money using Discover Card or other cards that pay you a "bonus" (i.e., a dividend on purchases). 

If you have ongoing credit card debt, shopping around for a lower interest rate can save you a great deal in finance charges while you whittle away at the bill. (By the way, if you inherit credit card debt, you can probably get away with negotiating a much-reduced payment to satisfy the bill - or not have to pay at all, depending on circumstances. After all, they probably made a killing in finance charges over the years the debt accumulated!)




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Gordon Pioneering - Copyright 2007 & onward