Half a Notion

by Midge Houghtaling

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the debt crisis in this country and I find it all insanely overwhelming. I remember when I first heard about the problem— my 5th grade Civics teacher told the class that our country was billions and billions of dollars in debt and that it would be impossible for us to ever get out of it… and then she told us “not to worry about it.” Apparently someone somewhere, at some point, should have worried (maybe the folks in Washington all had the same 5th grade teacher). Anyway, I think we have all learned that ignoring the problem does not mean it will go away. Come election time I hope and pray that we will VOTE and pray some men and women into office that have the integrity and the “know-how” to make a difference.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to share a few of my own personal favorite tips for people who are looking for ways to survive their own debt crisis and come up with a household budget that works:

  • #1 – Learn to use at least some generic products. Now, I realize that some products have been with us since childhood and that every family has some name brands that they simply cannot live without but, please… try some less expensive generic products and see if they work for you. Just this past month, I discovered that my dishes get just as clean with “Great Value Dishwasher Gel” as they do when I use the more expensive name brand products. And you know what? I really like the orange scent so I think I will continue to buy this product even if/when I ever do have money. So, be adventurous—learn to love some “no-name” products and you will spend less at the grocery store.
  • #2 – Drive less or drive a vehicle that uses less gasoline. I know this might sound like an over-simplification but, let me just explain with a personal example: My husband drives a gas-guzzling truck while I drive a more economical SUV. When I lost my job last year, we (being creatures of habit) continue to drive our own vehicles for a month or more before the great epiphany: I don’t have to go anywhere and he could be driving my car to work! We saved approximately $150.00 per month by making this one simple change. So, try to think of ways to do less driving… maybe you could walk to work… carpool…or ride a bicycle. A simple lifestyle change could make a big difference in what you spend at the pumps.
  • #3 – Change your employment status at your local Tax Assessment Office. If you or your spouse has had a change in your employment status (e.g., if you have gone from a full-time wage earner to a part-time worker or from a full or part-time job to unemployed) you can call the Tax Assessment Office and ask for an occupation change form. Return the completed form and you will pay less tax in the fall of the following year. I, seriously, cannot believe that no one tells you these things. I have been unemployed on four different occasions in the past ten years and only last December did I realized that I was being taxed the entire time as a full-time wage earner. Of course, if you do find gainful employment you will have to notify the assessment office and possibly sign another form but its well worth the two minutes it takes to complete a 1-page statement and let’s face it: You really do not know how long you will be out of work.

Of course, there are many, many more ways to save money and, these days, many of us have been forced to become extremely resourceful. Please feel free to share some of your own innovative money saving ideas in the “Comments” section below.

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One Comment

  1. Nicki Hafer says:

    Good Advice Midge! My favorite book is called Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey. I don’t usualy read books, but I finished this book in a matter of days! He quotes “If you WILL live like no one else, later you can LIVE like no one else.” I highly recommend to EVERYONE that they read this book. Not just people who are in debt either. It’s a great read for everyone. Very easy to follow with excellant advice!

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