From the Editor’s Desk

Gary Foreman

 

Getting Our Finances in Tip Top Shape

Hello to all my Frugal Friends!

For the last year or so, we’ve been worried about viruses and infections. Rightfully so. We wanted to stay healthy.

As a financial writer I’ve always thought that we should be concerned with the health of our finances. They, too, can catch a virus. And some can be fatal to your financial future. So let’s look at some things that we can do to get our finances in tip top shape.

We’ll begin by doing a routine check-up. Let’s step on the scale and see how much we weigh. Your credit card statement will tell. So many of us have our cards on automatic payment and don’t even give the statement a look. We could be missing charges that we didn’t make or automatic charges to our card that we’ve forgotten about. Take a look at The High Cost of Phantom Bills to see if there’s any fat in your credit card bill.

We probably should do some bloodwork, too. There could be something lurking that we don’t even know about. If there is something, it’ll show up in your credit report. Disputing and Correcting Credit Report Errors will help you correct any problems.

It’s possible that your finances are dealing with a chronic condition. The most likely place would be in your housing costs (typically about 35% of your take home pay). And the biggest contributor to that cost is your mortgage. With interest rates changing and the possibility of inflation on the horizon, you need to manage your mortgage. It’s not uncommon to save thousands of dollars or reduce your monthly payments by hundreds with a simple change.

The next place to look for a chronic condition is in your insurance. How to Save Money on Your Homeowners and Auto Insurance could identify potential savings.

And look at your property taxes, too. With house prices changing, it’s possible that your home is appraised for more than it’s worth.

Some things are not chronic but come on suddenly. One such financial surprise is purchasing a new car or SUV. 4 Ways to Extend the Life of Your Car will help you delay that expense.

We also need to be careful not to gain weight. The average family spends between 10 and 20% of their budget on food and groceries. About half of that is prepared and eaten at home. About half is prepared at a dine-in or fast food restaurant. You make purchasing decisions almost every day. And it’s easy to add to your grocery spending just a few dollars at a time. Guidelines for Reducing the Grocery Budget will keep your food spending from adding to your financial waistline.

OK, so I may have stretched the health analogy a bit. But there were over 600,000 bankruptcies in 2020. That’s a lot of financial deaths or near-death experiences. Let’s do what we can to avoid them.

Keep on Stretching those Dollars!
Gary

It’s a Good Time to Stock Up on Essentials

Hello to all my Frugal Friends!

According to a recent Forbes headline, Cyberattacks Against U.S. Infrastructure Are ‘Here To Stay’. In just the last few weeks we’ve seen a petroleum pipeline shutdown cause gas lines and a shutdown of one of the few meat processing plants. It appears that it’s not over yet.

While I never like panic responses, I do think that it’s wise to be prepared. Especially when we’re likely to see more of the same. One way to be prepared is to have an inventory of needed items.

For instance, who doesn’t remember last year when we had the brief toilet paper shortage. It was no big deal in my house. We always try to have extra essentials on hand. We stock up when the item is on sale so we don’t end up making special trips to the store because we ran out. I didn’t anticipate the shortage, but the inventory made it a non-event.

Given the possibility (probability?) of more hacks on essential services, it’s a good idea to stock up on some essentials. To make sure you could ride out a week or two without buying whatever is in short supply.

Of course, we’ve always been a fan of stocking up when prices are cheap. How a Full Pantry Saves You Money explains.

Once you have a pantry, you’ll need to know what you have so that it doesn’t go to waste. Ideally you’ll rotate inventory. Keeping Track of Pantry Inventory Can Reduce Food Costs will show you how.

Naturally you’ll want to make sure that you don’t lose food due to spoilage. You’ll want to know the Food Storage Practices that Reduce Food Waste.

It’s especially important to store meats properly. After all, they’re the most expensive thing in your grocery inventory. You’ll want to know how to Frugally Freeze Meats and Protect Your Savings from Freezer Burn.

I can’t predict whether there will be further hacks. But I can tell you that whether there are or not, you’ll save money with a proper inventory of consumables.

Keep on Stretching those Dollars!
Gary

Spend More Time Outdoors without Breaking the Bank

Hello to all my Frugal Friends!

What’s the line from that old song? “Summertime and the living is easy…” For many of us that means spending more time outdoors. I like to think that here at TDS we can help you do that without breaking the bank.

One popular trend is to create an outdoor room. Especially since we’ve been mostly cooped up for a year. How to Create an Outdoor Room on a Budget is the first step to adding living space without construction!

One way to reduce the costs of your outdoor living space is to use the things that you already have. Especially things that aren’t getting much use now. Repurposing Items for Your Garden and Outdoor Living Space is often just a matter of letting your imagination run wild.

Perhaps you’re having a hard time envisioning that backyard space. We can help that, too. 4 Ideas for an Affordable Backyard Oasis could get your creative juices flowing.

And backyard living doesn’t have to end at sunset. Why not continue to enjoy the day with a Budget Backyard Fire Pit?

Of course, we can’t enjoy summer outdoor living without acknowledging our sworn enemy the mosquito! We’ve got you covered there, too. Eliminate them with Natural Backyard Mosquito Control on the Cheap.

Finally, I’d like to ask a favor. While you’re enjoying that outdoor lifestyle, I’ve no doubt that you’ll probably spend some time with your tablet or phone. Why not tell your friends about what we do?

The last year or so has been hard for many financially. Please share our Facebook posts. Send the link to a friend.

You might also encourage them to subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher newsletter or After 50 Finances. Who knows? You might help them get through some challenging times.

Keep on Stretching those Dollars!
Gary

About the Author

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, Credit.com and CreditCards.com. You can read Gary's full bio here. Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews.

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