24/7 MOMS

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Frugal is Not Just “Saving”, It’s Being “Smarter”

Amy Hannold,

247Moms Frugal Living Editor

“Frugal Living” means using your resources thoughtfully. How do we do this?

Evaluate, Then Focus and Prioritize: Discover where your money goes. Lots of “small” expenses add up, creating a gap between goal and success. Begin by trading a daily coffee for a more significant step forward (or savings deposit) at the end of the week.

When you have established long term, “big purchase” buying goals (appliances, vacation, retirement, or debt-reduction) paste a picture of your goal(s) inside your checkbook. Before you spend, weigh the worth of smaller, “habit” purchases against what you’re saving for.

Make the Calls: Look over your monthly bills – closely. Consider if you can do without extra features or conveniences. Of the services you’re going to keep, call and ask for their promotional or “new subscriber” rate. If you don’t get what you want on the first call, call back and perhaps get a better answer. Politely ask for someone who can make charge deductions.

If you’re eligible for Auto Association, Military, Entertainment Book, AARP, government, student or other discounts, ask for those too. Note on your family calendar two weeks before your new discount will expire and call back to ask for the same rate. If no discounts are available, ask them to match competitor promotions. Consider a credit union for your banking – and enjoy their benefits: consumer education opportunities, lower rates and other services.

Comparison Shop Instead of Impulse Buy: There is always a way to spend less. Taking the time to find the best price can sometimes also change your mind on the purchase. When dealing with salespeople, ask them, “Is this the best you can do, price wise?” Familiarize yourself with price matching policies. Don’t be pressured into buying, instead ask questions and get a second opinion. Pursue consumer ratings, so you know how the product has fared in use. Bizrate.com and ShopLocal.com are good places to start.

Valuable Reading – Be Aware and Share!:

Connect yourself to what I consider to be, the “Go-To Yellow Pages” of buying, selling and being a wiser consumer. The Consumer Action Handbook (http://www.consumeraction.gov/) is available on line or you can order a print version. If you have a consumer question, a need in your life for signing contracts, filing a complaint or recovering from identity theft, etc., you must have a copy of this FREE and valuable resource. It is enlightening reading.

What sort of information can be found in the Consumer Action Handbook?

*A step-by-step process for filing a consumer complaint

*Identity theft prevention and recovery

*Contact information to major corporations, including retail and manufacturer

*Buying a car, home or looking to invest? - You can find tips and references here

*Your local consumer protection agency and Better Business Bureau

*Military Specific Better Business Bureaus (for military-related consumer news) and Military Support Agencies

*Subject information for Internet, Travel, Television, Health Care, Insurance and More

*Tips for shopping from home, junk mail and telemarketers – how to be aware of your rights.

How Can Consumeraction.gov be of help to me?

*It acts as a guide when you encounter a consumer crisis. It begins with “be calm”, and continues as it provides a sample letter for you to use as you resolve your circumstances.

*If you want to learn about the importance of your credit score and how to improve it, or you want to know how to correct negative information on your credit report. (Links to all major credit-related organization and governing agencies are listed.)

*When you have issue to report a fraud, product defect or safety hazard, or you want to be informed of current product recalls and safety guidelines.

“Look Out for You!” To protect and achieve our best, financial life, we must be smarter than the average slogan or sales promise. We must have the tools, (and use them), so that we can be an effective and efficient consumers. Instead of impulse buying and buying in “blind faith”, it is important to have a working knowledge of our options and rights.

Wiser consumers have tools available to help them in nearly every situation – it just takes knowing where to look. Being aware of these tools before you need them is arming yourself (and those close to you), with priceless information.



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