Tales From the Hilltop
An intelligent, yet Devil's Advocate view of the world

Episode Fourty-One: Surviving America’s Financial Implosion

Ok, by now, you all should know the score with what has now happened to the ongoing punchline that is the American economy.  Thanks to a political pissing contest, America’s pretty much has been pretty much labeled to be untrustworthy, spendthrift, and fiscally irresponsible. Unfortunately, all of us that are not super-wealthy are the ones that have to deal with this quandary head-on in the next coming months and maybe even years as the daily grind just got that much harder.

No, this episode isn’t to place blame on any ONE entity, because quite honestly, all  of Congress – from President Obama on down to every member of the House – needs to be beaten with paddles and sent to corners with dunce caps on to think about what they’ve done to America. So, this will shy away from that notion.

What this episode will serve as is a “how to survive” type of guide in this very slippery slope this economic downturn has led us. Following the following tips from a true penny-pincher such as myself (with a degree in Finance) will help you save, save, and save some more.

1)     Keeping up with the Joneses’ normally is the main vice of middle-class folk that eventually breaks them financially. Honestly, do you really need that 60-inch TV with the HD just to outdo your next door neighbor’s 57-inch? Anything after 45” really doesn’t matter when watching either the Super Bowl or The Dark Knight. It’s all pretty visually stunning, and you don’t have to go on crazy-interest laced payment plans from marked-up department stores to enjoy it. This also goes for those $200 pairs of Jordans your kids simply have to have to be ‘accepted’ at school. Speaking of which….

2)     Leave the store-promoted cards ALONE. That 30% your first purchase at Sears or Champs seems nice, but wait till the payments come in on 10% interest for $1,200 worth of stuff you broke three months after you got it.

3)     It’s still very possible to have a very enjoyable social life without breaking your wallet to do so. Museums, outdoor concerts, various shows are often shown for free…or pretty close. And they also let your mate know you can broaden your horizons instead of the usual club/movies/Dinner at TGIFriday’s.

4)      Don’t be afraid of the “4 for $5” deals at the supermarket. The stores are selling stuff like this for a REASON. They simply have too much of it, and need to get it out. Besides, most of the stuff is “name brand” goods that go on sale. Be a very cautious shopper. Investigate. The money you’ll save on grocery is worth putting in a few minutes of market research.

5)     I’m sure this has been mentioned a million times by every “financial expert” on the planet, but I’ll repeat it again….PAY YOURSELF FIRST. Every check, put aside a small portion, possibly in a separate account, for a emergency/rainy day fund. You’d be surprised how much you’d have over a period of a few months.

6)     Minimize your bills, as best you can. If you have a premium cable package, but don’t watch none of the premium channels except HBO, then you’re just throwing money out the window. Shrink it down. If you hardly talk on the cell phone, a 3000-minute per month plan seems unnecessary and foolish. Give yourself some leeway, but be reasonable.

7)     For you college students, I’m going to be as blunt as I can: refund checks are NOT winning lottery tickets. There’s no way a student should receive a check of $1500 after one semester, but be totally broke by the next, cause they spent the whole thing on a shopping binge over Christmas break. Put aside that money to help pay for next semester. The less you pay out of your pocket (or with scholarships/grants), they less you’ll ultimately have to borrow, which will save thousands on interest after you graduate and begin to pay these things back.

8)     Have some willpower in controlling your money. All those fast food lunches at work add up over a month, running that AC all day will crush your electric bill. It’s no shame to seek alternatives for things. Pack a lunch, get some fans, ride the bus to work, be creative.

9)     I guess the biggest point I can make. Kids = $$$$ spent. LOTS of it. Look, everyone (for the most part) wants a family, and I dig that. But raising children is TOUGH; tough mentally, tough spiritually, and ultra-tough financially, especially when they come at a time you aren’t ready for them. Regardless of what people may think, pregnancy is 100% preventable. Be smart. Use birth control if you’re not ready for the joys – and potential burden – that a child can bring to your life.

8/11/2011

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