The Federal Reserve's latest survey of businesses around the country shows the US recession might be over. The recovery is projected to be a slow one and the economy is still fragile, but we can file this piece of news in the hopeful column. Recession or not, we should continue to follow the many lessons from these times of economic uncertainty to keep our financial houses in order - in good times and bad.
- Cheaper Can Taste Just as Good - Sales for store brands have skyrocketed right along with the recession. People have branched out from buying only their typical name brands and have noticed that the often less expensive store brands can taste just as good. Ditching the idea of brand loyalty can be a big money saver.
- Forget About the Joneses - With millions of homes foreclosed and underwater, it's safe to say many Americans bit off more mortgage than they could chew. Banks are partially to blame for signing off on loans that home-buyers couldn't afford, but the home-buyers are responsible for wanting homes that were too big for their budgets. When it comes to shopping for a house, don't skip the down payment and understand how much home you're able to afford.
- Waste Less - A simple way to cut down on grocery expenses is to only buy what you need. Discarding expired goods because you never found time to use them is just as irresponsible as throwing away cash. Give grocery shopping the same amount of consideration whether you're pinching pennies or flush with cash.
- You Can't Go Wrong With Classic - Keep your clothing expenses under control by adhering to this rule: stick to classic pieces that never go out of style when you need to freshen your wardrobe, and update those looks with trendy items that are inexpensive. Don't waste a lot of money on something you're only going to wear for one season; it's a sensible way to shop no matter the economy.
- There's No Shame in Coupons - There was a time when people felt embarrassed to use coupons; now, shoppers are offering their extra coupons to others while in the supermarket. Only clip the coupons for products on your list and watch the savings easily roll in. Getting the most for your money should always be encouraged, not only when times are tough.
- Plan For Emergencies by Saving - Credit card debt can often be avoided by ensuring you have enough money saved for emergencies. So many Americans found themselves unemployed without any savings to get them through months without paychecks, making their financial situations darker by the day. Be prepared for anything by getting smart about your cash and saving for a rainy day.
- Live Within Your Means -When I say live within your means, I really mean live under your means because this includes setting aside money for savings. Spending recklessly is threatening to your quality of life. Set up a loose budget complete with savings and splurges so that you never feel guilty and, more importantly, you don't end up living paycheck to paycheck.
- Needs First, Wants Second - It's easy to accumulate heavy consumer debt when you buy whatever you want. Because so many Americans spent years relying on credit to make ends meet, credit card companies have been cracking down by lowering limits and even cutting off customers they've deemed as too risky. Find a happy medium by figuring out your fixed expenses (bills, rent, etc.) and allocating the remainder of your income from there.
- A Deal Isn't Always a Deal - Several big companies (Linens N' Things and Circuit City to name a couple) went bankrupt and then out of business during this great recession. Going out of business sales seem like they present one-of-a-kind deals, but look closer and you'll see that's not necessarily the case. Always understand the prices staring back at you by doing your research first, whether it's shopping an apparent sale or booking a vacation.
- Pay Attention - Be in control of your money, no matter what's going on in the greater economy, by paying attention to where your money is going. Track your spending to paint a picture of your money habits, make the necessary changes, and then use websites like Mint that track your expenses by category to keep you in check.
- It Pays to Ask - Whether it's requesting a lower rate on your credit card or a reduced price on a hotel room, the worst thing that can happen if you ask is hearing no as the answer. Make a habit of asking for price reductions and you may just find more money lining your pockets. A rough economy makes it more likely that you'll receive a yes answer, but you never know unless you ask.
- Save Now, Buy Later - For years, instant gratification ruled the consumer mindset. We've seen the destruction that way of thinking can have on individuals and families. The recession has made us more mindful of our money, and we're more understanding of the ways financial habits can impact quality of life. Saving for the things you want will keep you in the black and out of a vicious debt cycle.
I'm Asking: How Has the Recession Affected You?
Stores See More Shoppers Ditching Goods at Checkout
Victoria's Secret Has Your September Budget In Mind