Live Well On Less
Just because the economy looks bleak doesn't mean you have to deprive
yourself and your family. Here's how to spend less, but have more.
You don't need us to tell you times are tight. Between the rising cost of
gas and groceries, a disheartening recession, and the shaky job and housing
markets, you've probably spent more than a few hours worrying about your
finances. But tightening your belt doesn't mean choking your spirit; you can
still enjoy the things you love.
"You don't have to deprive yourself, but you do have to become more
conscious of how you're spending your money," says Judy Lawrence, author of
The Budget Kit. "Living well is about spending in alignment with
your values, not frittering money away on things that don't matter to you."
Your first step: Become clear on what you most appreciate in life, whether it's
taking annual vacations or having a souped-up cell phone. "There are ways
to do the things you enjoy for cheap or free," says Shel Horowitz, author
of The Penny-Pinching Hedonist. "There's a thrill to getting that
beautiful thing or experience while also saving money." So you can live a
rich life without being rich — it just takes some creativity and a chutzpah, à
la these real-world ideas:
Plan a swap meet.
"I organize clothing swaps with my friends and relatives where we
exchange unused or unwanted clothes," says Kathy Ryan, 33, a recruiter in
Denville, NJ. "I invite women who have a similar sense of style, so the
clothes are appealing. It's free, and at the end of the day we donate unclaimed
items to charity, which feels great!"
Stock up on homegrown food.
"We have two plots in the community garden across the street," says
Emma Melo, 35, from Louisville, KY. "It keeps us in shape, gives our kids a
chance to play in the dirt, and allows us to have loads of vegetables and
fruits year-round for almost nothing." If you can't plant seeds in your own
backyard (or don't have time), join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
service; there are now approximately 1,000 nationwide. Members pay about $25 a
week during growing season to get fresh, seasonal produce delivered to their
door or to a neighborhood drop-off. Visit local harvest.org to get a list of
CSAs in your area.
Learn the art of the haggle.
"No matter where or when you're shopping, or for what, the day of the
fixed price is over," says Fred Brock, author of Live Well on Less Than
You Think. "If you don't ask, 'Is that the best you can do?' you're
doing yourself a disservice, especially with big-ticket items, including home
appliances and furniture." The best way to negotiate is by framing the
price reduction as a win-win proposition. Alina Preciado, 37, a designer in
Brooklyn, NY, fantasized for months about a lamp she saw in a store (price tag:
$650). Finally, she said to the manager, "This lamp's been in your store
for a year. How about you give it to me for 50 percent off and make space for
new inventory?" He agreed, and now the fixture hangs above Alina's dining