The great recession that we are in has meant that a lot of Americans are cutting back on a lot of usually affordable items. Making ends meet with less income is a way of living that a lot of us are getting used to, until we can do better.
Experts are noting that unemployment has gone down; however, more detailed studies reveal that the numbers are illusionary because those that have run out of unemployment benefits or are not eligible for benefits are not counted as being unemployed.
As time goes on, many American’s unemployment benefits are being exhausted and they have become ineligible to reapply. However, this does not mean that these people are working—and at most they may be underemployed. Then there are those that are not eligible, like those with failing businesses that can no longer stay afloat. These people are not being counted by the general census for unemployment accuracy—this is the conundrum.
Among many other things, what we are left with is a class of people that have to pay living expenses with much less. For those that are living with one income when your household once had two, or you are underemployed, you may appreciate this information.
Being creative is a skill that can get you far in times like these. What it really comes down to is making it from day to day.
For those fortunate to still be in the workforce, plan out all of the necessary things that you need for the week. You need to be sure to get to work everyday, so be sure to have that expense covered.
Buy your transportation fare card ahead of time. Some employers have a program that allows you to purchase transportation fare cards, like a metro card, directly from the employer. The money is taken out of your paycheck before your deductions are calculated from your gross pay. This may alleviate some financial burdens for you later on in the year—ask your human resources department about it.
If you drive to work, be sure to put aside gas money. Avoid parking tickets and any other fee related offenses. The last thing you need is to spend more money or not have the use of the vehicle you need to get back and forth to work or to support your family care needs.
Pack a lunch instead of buying takeout all of the time. If you don’t like eating leftovers for lunch, then buy lunch items when they go on sale at your local market. You may be able to save 30%-60% off of lunch food costs when compared to buying lunch from vendors near your job.
Keep home expenses down, like utility costs, food, and repairs. Keeping on top of your utility usage will help to keep them low. Try to purchase foodstuffs when they are on sale, and store them well. Keep up on minor repairs so that they don’t turn into expensive home improvement projects later.
Relaxation and getting in enough down time is very important. You need to get proper rest to recharge yourself. This may call for some distraction and entertainment. You may not be able to go to the movies on a regular basis and movie tickets are very high right now—no problem. Check out you local paper for free to-do events. Go to the park, botanical garden, or museum on discount days. Go to your destination’s website to find out the discount price and free event schedule they have to offer. You may be surprised at how affordable and convenient this may be for you to do right now.
Don’t want to go out? Then stay home and log onto one of the low cost video streaming websites that you subscribe to. Netflix® video streaming is less than $10 dollars, and Hulu® is free—and a paid subscription to Huluplus® is also less than $10 dollars. I am sure that the low unlimited video streaming costs are less than haff of what others may pay for cable. Unplug the cable and go online for much less and with more flexibility and control.
Save, Save, Save.
I know that his may seem really daunting in times like these. It is truly challenging to save a significant amount of money right now—but that is ok, do the best that you can at the moment. Saving even just a few dollars from paycheck to paycheck really adds up. Perhaps you may not save enough for an all expense paid two-week vacation; however, you may have saved enough money to be sure you don’t run out of money for your basic expenses. Do your best to not have to borrow any significant amount of money. Nothing can be worse than trying to pay back money when you and your family are living on a very low income.
How can you start off the year better than the last—start managing your money better from the start of it. This is such a simple idea and easy to follow. Take the beginning of this year to chart out a way to have a better grip on your finances.
January is coming to a close, so most of the mood for procrastination should also be coming to a close. Take this time to make a basic outline of how you want the next few months to turn out—financially. Map out all of your usual financial obligations by each quarter or individual month of the year. Let’s get started.
January through March
Get all of your holiday finances in order. By now, all of the credit card charges that you made over the holiday season should be posted and ready for payment. Paying the minimum amount due may suffice; however, paying even 5%-10% more can make a tremendous difference in the long run. Paying off all of your holiday debt should be your ultimate goal.
Look at your calendar and figure out what key events will effect you finances and just jot them down accordingly—a simple title will do to get you started, you can always follow-up with details at another time. It is just important that you get that much done, for now.
Stay on track and pay down that debt.
Tax time is right around the corner. If you have not already, now is a good time to gather up all of the necessary paperwork for filing. Check in with you accountant and discuss the details on what you may need for this year as your needs can change from year to year. Be sure to check in with your accountant early to find out his or her availability.
Start thinking about what you want to do this summer. Will you be going on a vacation? Will you be staying home? If you have children, will you be sending them to summer camp? These are all serious expenses that you should start considering and planning for.
April through June
Spring is in the air and so are new expenses—new spring and summer wardrobe to consider, home repairs and improvements, more holidays and special events to plan for. Parties, graduations, and outings may dominate the latter part of the spring for you and your family. Be sure that you have planned well to meet all of the accommodations you want to offer.
Keep all of this in mind and stick to the financial outline that you have created with your calendar in January.
July through September
Summer is officially here. Your wardrobe has officially changed by now. Be sure to have a hold on any related purchasing expenses and continue to keep up your payment plans. Keep a close eye on your calendar for reference. You should be continuously plotting in details for the general goal titles you have posted on your calendar already.
Big holidays like Independence Day can be quite expensive. Be sure to have a set budget for this. If you are hosting a party, get invitees to bring something to cut down on your own expenses. If you’re traveling to a party, be sure that you have money saved for gas, lodging, and other related traveling expenses. The same goes for family reunions, get-togethers, anniversary parties, and Labor Day.
By the time Labor Day arrives, you should already have your child’s back to school expenses planned out—or perhaps your own back to school expenses to think about. There should be a lot of really good sales going on from late July through August on targeted back to school items.
October through December
The biggest holidays of the year are well on the way—Thanksgiving, Christmas and other religious holidays, and New Years.
By late October and early November, you should really think about how you will be spending your Thanksgiving. Will you be hosting or going to visit someone else? The same goes for upcoming religious holidays, and of course New Years as well.
These holidays usually require the most money effort so plan early on costs for hosting a holiday gathering, gifts, and wardrobe.
Sticking to a basic plan and plotting your way through the year will prove to be a tremendous help. Be sure to modify your calendar with more details and continue to personalize it for new events as you become aware of them.
JCPenny® has been making big waves in the newsroom lately. The conglomerate has made announcements this week to make those waves. They have new leadership, a new look, and are making dramatic changes to their “pricing strategies.” These will be distinguishable by a multi-tier “level of pricing.” The three identifiable levels will be designated by clearly laid out badges for the public to quickly and discernibly make selections from.
Everyday Value (red tags)
Monthly Long Value (white tags)
Best Prices (first and third Friday of each month)
These three levels of detectable shopping values are expected to bring in more customers and promote more return visits. Goals are set for “shopping to be an event again.” JCP has noted that they created approximately 590 promotions in 2011—with a visitation ratio of 4 visits per consumer out of 12 months means that the majority of visitors were not aware of active promotions, according to JCP strategists. The new strategy is supposed to change all of that by offering continuous sale advantages. JCP strategists believe that this will promote a higher frequency of planned shopping trips. This anticipates higher spending and return shopping visits.
The estimated value of the proposed discount is expected to be a permanent price reduction of 40%-50%, at all JCP stores throughout the country. That is a huge amount of saving and at such an opportune time, when the Americans are looking for the better deal everyday.
Some financial experts have critiqued this strategy by noting that Wal-Mart® stores attempted to do the very same thing and experienced a financial backlash because of it. However, other experts are banking on JCP making a better go at it. Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart and Target® are doing the best they can to hold the better title of all around store value. Following Wal-Mart’s successful venture into grocery offering, Target has recently expanded its full grocery section to include fresh produce.
Each store has prided themselves on having very low prices and at convenient locations. However, a recent survey conducted by Kantar Retail IQ has revealed that Target has lower prices than Wal-Mart. This is from a study started in 2009.
The survey included purchases from edible and non-edible groceries, beauty products, and store brands of various items. The study concluded that Target shoppers are saving close to 3 percent more than Wal-Mart shoppers. This is the result of a test that was conducted five times, with Target being the better place to buy three out of those five times. So Wal-Mart does have some good days—as a consumer you may have to dig a little to find them out though. Some advice offered by the experts:
- Target fared well when key items were on sale. The sale items offered a deeper discount when compared to Wal-Mart.
- Wal-Mart store brands had an overall advantage over Target store brands for pricing. If you like the Wal-Mart store brand, then you may want to stick with those.
- Wal-Mart does not want to be defeated and is also “reemphasizing” its own low pricing strategy—so that they may have more to offer, and for less than Target, in the very near future.
To the winner, go the spoils.
Daily Finance: http://www.dailyfinance.com
MSN Money: http://money.msn.com
There are lots of ways to save money. One of the unavoidable money grabbers is your home. Reducing the costs for home related items, services, and upkeep could keep more money in you pocket this year.
Energy efficient means cost efficient—there is a natural correlation. The purchase of an energy efficient refrigerator, washing machine, and other large electronic appliances can prove to be quite a money saver in the long run. Consumers can have hundreds of dollars a year by replacing vintage appliances with new energy efficient appliances.
Appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers, that are high efficiency, may also use much less detergent than regular washing machines and dishwashers—another money saving attribute.
Look for appliances that have the ENERGY STAR label on them. This is a program that has a “set criteria” for energy efficiency developed by the US Department of Energy.
Other Electric Use
This is definitely an energy and money zapper. Turning off the lights in a room or space that nobody is occupying at the moment is a very good start. However, turning off electronics not being used at the time is also a very good and money saving idea. Turn off your power plugs too your computer, television, game stations, cable box, stereo, and the rest.
When on vacation or away from home for a long time, you should pretty much turn off everything except for your refrigerator, and main heating sources. You will end up saving hundreds of dollars per year.
It may be a bit inconvenient to have to reprogram certain items; however, a set schedule or routine may be helpful.
Change all of your light bulbs and any other sources for artificial light to energy efficient bulbs, etc. A ten-watt energy efficient bulb can last about ten times as long as a regular bulb at a much higher wattage.
Also give thought to the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling systems. Be sure that they have an energy saver switch or button option. During extreme weather, hot summers or frigid winters, these appliances may be heavily used. A spike in electricity usage can make for a surprisingly large spike in your utility bills.
Did you know that the TSA finds approximately $400,000 dollars of loose change each year? That is a lot of money. Can you imagine how much money you may have lingering around in your home? Even if you do not happen to come across loose change, your spare change can make a big difference to your wallet.
If you don’t have one already get a bottle or two or more to keep all of your spare change in. Those bits of leftover change that you have at the bottom of your couch, bag, pocket, or car cup holder can amount to a lot. Gather all of your spare change for about a month or more. Take your change to be exchanged for money at a cash for coins dispensary. You may be surprised at how much you can make from just a bit of spare change.
Department of Energy: http://www.energysavers.gov
Financially Fit: http://www.finance.yahoo.com
Credit cards have been a staple in American homes for quite some time. The current great recession has forced many to utilize credit cards to make ends meet. This is completely understandable and necessary for those that have adopted this practice. However, there are pitfalls that should be avoided at all cost. Activity that can affect your credit score can be detrimental to your ability to access much needed cash later on. Here are a few tips on how to stay on top of what matters most.
Some credit card users may believe that having a lower monetary limit on his or her credit cards is a good thing. This is certainly not so. Having a lower limit will probably result in you maxing out that credit card much sooner that a credit card with a much higher limit attached to it. This can be interpreted as an undesirable quality in the way you handle your financial responsibilities. Having a balance of $500 dollars on a card with a $500 dollar limit is far worse than having that same balance amount on a credit card with a $1,500 dollar limit.
This issue is compounded if credit card users with very low limits have several low monetary limit credit cards. Having several cards that are maxed to the limit can be quite damaging to a credit rating.
These types of cards are more typical of store credit cards than bank credit cards.
Credit card users should look to use only about 30 percent of his or her total monetary credit card limit. The more you have to use, the better—this will likely result in a much more favorable credit rating score.
Credit card interest rates can be quite daunting. Typical rates are currently at 18%-25%. That is extremely higher than most people can afford. What a lot of credit card users don’t know is that it is possible for these rates to be lowered—or switch to another card that does not have such a high rate. Some consumers have been able to reduce rates to 7%-8%. Contact your credit card company to find out how you may be able to get a lower rate.
Making payments to your credit card company is very important. However, most modern people are continuously multitasking and completely busy—this may leave very little time for managing payments, even when you do have the money to pay.
Most credit card companies have some sort of payment reminder alert system that you can utilize to make sure that you make your payments on time. Go to your credit card company’s website and sign into your account. Within your account you should find options that allow you to set up a payment reminder alert that will be sent to you on a timely basis. This can be sent to your email address or directly to your mobile phone. The choice is yours.
Keeping these few tips in mind while handling your credit card management can be quite helpful and save you a lot of money and headaches in the long run.
Financially Fit: http://www.finance.yahoo.com
Main St.: http://www.finance.yahoo.com
The recovery of the American economic system is on the minds of all financial experts. With Europe being deep within a financial maelstrom, onlookers are very concerned if the US economy will be able to recover with better gains and in a shorter time than Europe will. The feeling is that this is very possible and highly likely. America still has a lot of strengths left. There is a lot to consider, for sure.
Middle class Americans are experiencing a very slow and low paying recovery. So while most may be able to put dinner on the table, there may not be much else left to fulfill the American Dream experience. Things are just different now and a lot of people will have to settle for a lot less in order to survive. However, Americans are still positively motivated—noting that they do feel more fortunate than the generation that raised them in a recent Gallop poll survey. This sort of morale will be able to go a long way in building towards a clearer and stronger future. This is the first and probably most important step towards recovery. The backbone of America, the average American, must feel that solutions are possible just to get up in the morning and give it a go. As unemployment is slowly going down, this may be a sign of better things ahead.
America has been dubbed the creation nation for a good reason. Some of the best inventions, technological wonders, and super gadgets, have all been created by American inventors and scientists—including computers, software, mobile phones, tablets, and social media hubs. Americans are still winning the race on new inventions that everyone wants. This will maintain the high profile visibility of American technology. Other nations simply do not have same status and demand for their inventions as Americans do.
America can supply all of the essentials to her own country. With rich soil and livestock resources, America can grow all of the nourishing foods that are needed to be supplied. Of course foreign imports are a desirable addition—however, the US can survive on what is already there.
With all that being said, experts are on the lookout for new trends in the European economic (currency) system. There has been a buzz recently about Europe finally coming up with solutions for deeper solidarity amongst her many nations. This has led to rumors of the possibility of an increasingly stronger Euro that may appear. Some are speculating that a strong possibility of the Euro becoming the most valued currency in the world one day soon. The European Central Bank’s policy maker Christian Noyer seems to think so. He recently reported this positive news to Reuters.
America can certainly gain some much-needed steam in the New Year. It is not about competing with Europe—however, all global nations need to make significant progress for their citizens and neighbors. Hopefully all of these nations will learn from the mistakes made, leaving them in the past for future generations to learn from—not to repeat.
FOX Business: http://www.foxbusiness.com
The American dream has been getting foggier and foggier. The notion of getting good grades in school to advance on to a scholarly institution and graduate college to land a great job has become fleeting. Adding on a family, a home, car, and opportunity for enjoyment of these liberties are becoming a goal that has been cast at an even farther distance. Personal income has decreased sharply over the past 30 years—almost 10 percent. The standard of living for the American middle class has gone down with it. Jobs that were held by the middle class have turned into “low income” jobs. These jobs now make up almost half of all American jobs. This is huge.
Some experts are noting that “globalization” is a factor in creating this trend, and may contribute to a creating a two-tiered society in this country. Some experts are even mentioning that America may be on the way to becoming less that a first world country.
Technology is also a huge contributor to this trend. New technology has been the cause of the reduction of particular jobs and increased other jobs. Jobs that are now in demand are healthcare and hospitality. Jobs where there is an impact on direct care of basic human needs and relaxation will thrive in this society. All humans need healthcare, and others will still spend money on home wellness when regular health insurance is not affordable—this will not just be left for the increasingly wealthy, although the wealthy can afford to feed the more extravagant hospitality sector.
The private sector job market is steadily increasing; however, for low-income jobs. Private sector jobs for the middle class are steadily decreasing, and government jobs are about the same.
With this entire going on, some experts are noting that today’s American generation is doing better than the previous generation. So far, the greatest increase is being seen for seniors in their social security checks. However, this comes at a great cost to the government.
Surveys conducted by Gallop polls, reveal that older Americans feel better off than their parents were at the same age in comparison to younger Americans. The wealthy Americans surveyed feel much better than those that are not as wealthy. Overall, this connotation is down by 5 percent from similar surveys taken near the turn of the century. Surveys from Pew Research Center have also revealed equivalent results.
This all seems to be quite good for much needed morale. Perhaps, this may be enough to combat the reality of this situation.
The recent economic turmoil that most Americans have been feeling has been overwhelming for most. With the right amount of motivation, there is hope present for a better future. The thing is, how long will it take for this better future to be realized. Most experts have noted that although there will be steady increases, the real turn around of what has been deemed “The Great Recession” won’t be for a few years. In the meantime, we can still have hope.
ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com
Yahoo! Finance – The Daily Ticker: http://finance.yahoo.com