Shop smart to keep money in your wallet

Published 2:41 pm Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Are you looking for ways to keep more money in your wallet and bank account?

Housing and housing expenses such as utilities, maintenance, insurance, and taxes can eat up 85% of your budget. Make your place as energy efficient as possible. Take a home energy audit from Duke Energys website. Buy a programable thermostat then program it warmer in summer and cooler in winter. Drop some of those monthly fees off your phone bill. Compare insurance packages and rates.

In North Carolina, you can cut your property taxes if youre 65 or older with a limited income, disabled with a limited income, or a disabled veteran.

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Now learn to control the remaining 15% of your budget! Buy only what you need not everything you want. Rethink what is a must-have and learn to recognize impulse buys.

On major purchases, do your research. You can find ratings and reviews on-line or in magazines such as Consumer Reports. Use all the internet and library resources available to you to help you purchase quality products that will last longer with fewer repairs.

Once youve decided on any major purchase, compare options. When a local price is in range, buy it. Also, inquire if a nearby business will match a nationally advertised price (for example, on an appliance). Only when local alternatives are out-of-range, buy through the internet or a big box store in a neighboring town if multiple errands warrant the gasoline expense.

Watch your dollars! Refrain from recreational shopping. (Try not looking at television ads or circulars.) Pay bills promptly to avoid interest charges. Brew your own coffee and carry a travel mug. Take your lunch to work. When youre too tired to cook, consider using the microwave instead of the drive-thru at a fast-food chain.

Know prices of products especially those on your Pantry List. When going grocery shopping, make a list. Buy fresh, in-season foods. Shop farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, and U-Pick sites.

When frequently used items are on sale, stockpile if they store well. Use coupons and rebates. Often you can find these in groceries, newspaper circulars, or websites such as Also, realize savings in generic brands.

Buy used articles at thrift stores and garage sales. Childrens clothes that are outgrown before worn out are especially good buys. In adult sizes, classics are always in style. In home accessories, its true that someones trash can be someone elses treasure. For exercise equipment, buy only what you know you will use.

For recreation, check out the library for books, magazines, CDs, DVDs. Enjoy games such as cards as well as board games like chess, checkers, or Clue. If you want to eat out, remember lunch will be cheaper than dinner. Throw your own parties. When planning a vacation, think close to home and consider camping.

For gifts, listen to what people say they want. Imagine something outside the giftbox for example, fill a mug with teas. Around the holidays, devise a plan and stay focused.

Run errands efficiently. First, determine if you can walk there. If driving, implement a three-destination rule and good gas mileage techniques: reduce weight in the vehicle, increase tire pressure, keep rpms low, and buy regular gasoline at best available price.

Avoid scams. Recognize these by high pressure tactics, sob stories, vague descriptions, and names similar to other people or organization names.

Enroll in the Do Not Call Registry. Not receiving unwanted calls will save your time, frustration, and, perhaps, money.

These are a few ideas to help you find additional funds in your budget. Enjoy the process of learning how to live more simply and with more style!

Editors Note: On Mara & Ford Smiths website,, click on the Entertain button to check out dinner party menus and recipes.