Personal expenses are usually classified as discretionary because they are generally quite flexible. And as such, we tend to overlook their importance when it comes to budgeting and saving money. This is the category that people keep the least track of because they really don't want to know how much money they are wasting.
Here are some tips for lowering personal expenses in three areas: clothing/appearance, communications/cell phones, and funeral arrangements.
Buy used clothing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average consumer spends about $1,850 a year on clothing and its upkeep. You can potentially cut that in half by shopping at consignment shops, auctions, and thrift stores.
If you must buy new, buy in the off season. This is especially great for kids' clothes because you know they generally go up one size each year. Plan ahead and budget for this. You can also buy clothing at name-brand outlets, factory outlets, or secondary department stores (where department stores send their overstocks).
Buy less cost-related clothing; choose fabrics and designs that are easy both to wear and maintain. Watch out for "Dry Clean Only" and instead choose garments that you can care for at home.
Cut back on makeup and perfumes. Or look for sales and buy generic brands. Most people won't notice the difference.
Donate old clothes to charitable organizations and keep track of their values to use as a charitable donation tax write-off. Go to http://www.itsdeductible2.com for a guide on the value of donated items.
Instead of calling, use email. It's free (if you already have an Internet connection) and you will save money on your long distance phone bill. Also, comparison shop long distance plans and find one that works well with your calling style.
Write a letter. It only costs a bit more than a quarter to send and it will help you improve your writing and communication skills.
Keep track of your calling minutes to make sure you don't go over your allotted time. Most long distance and cell phone companies have high charges for extra minutes. If you consistently exceed your plan's minutes, upgrade your plan. The extra monthly cost for the next step up is usually much less than the extra charges for more minutes.
Shop around for cell phone plans. Cell phone companies and plans vary widely, so compare carefully. Now you can even take your cell number with you if you switch providers. Before switching from your current company, call them and tell them you are about to switch and see if they will match or beat their competitor's offer.
Make your wishes known about your funeral, memorial, or burial arrangements in writing. Don't leave this decision to the ones you leave behind.
Before selecting a funeral home, call several and ask for prices of specific goods and services, or visit them to obtain an itemized price list. You are entitled to this information by law and, by using it to comparison shop, you can save hundreds of dollars.
Many funeral homes offer prepaid plans, but be cautious about prepaying because there may be risks involved. For information about the least costly options, which could save you several thousand dollars, contact a local memorial society, which is usually listed in the Yellow Pages under funeral services.
Keep your discretionary spending in check by modifying your spending habits. Evaluate your apparel and communications spending and see how you can improve. Jot down your wishes concerning your future memorial service and put them with your will and trust. Downsize or even eliminate those extra dollars that just disappear each month and put them to good use, such as paying off debt or investing. Soon you'll be on your way to a healthier financial you.
Chemain Evans is a quality control specialist for Simple Joe, Inc., makers of the popular Simple Joe's Expense Tracker PC software. Expense Tracker is a quick and simple way to keep track of your expenses and stay within your budget. Expense Tracker is ideal for tracking personal, business, home, and club expenses. Visit Simple Joe at www.simplejoe.com for more information.© 2005 Simple Joe
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