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LOUISE FAIRSAVE: Beat cost of living

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

LOUISE FAIRSAVE: Beat cost of living

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Are we serious about beating the high cost of living? Here are areas for us to consider:
First, the obvious step is to spend less. Yet, this is easier said than done. A proposed routine could be: start by thinking carefully if the purchase is a need or a ‘want’. Then try to avoid the purchase, using every excuse to do without it. If all else fails, become a bargain hunter.
Most of all, avoid impulse buying. This is how a tidy sum can be frittered away thoughtlessly. One way to build motivation against senseless spending is to keep a running note of how every cent is spent for at least a three-month period. If you have never tried this before, I challenge you to begin this illuminating process. 
You’ll likely be shocked as to how you are spending your money compared to how you think you are spending it. This brings us neatly around to the many benefits of pre-planning one’s spending, and one’s earnings, by maintaining an explicit personal budget, one of the most powerful tools for managing your money.
You may be one of those organised people who already keep such a budget. If so, this is a good time for you to reconsider the luxuries and “wants” that have been included for this year. These items may be cut out completely or just postponed to another year that bears less risks related to the high cost of living.
Keeping and expanding your earnings is a critical cost of living weapon. So the first thing is to keep your job. Do it well and conscientiously so there is no likelihood of termination through your own fault. Yet, the business or industry may collapse or downsize and throw you on the breadline. Hopefully, there will be enough slack in your budgeting to allow a reasonable time to find another position.
One must also consider how to earn more – maybe a raise, another source of income from say, a second job, or by exploiting a skill or talent for pay. Is it possible to rent part of one’s home or sell unused or underused items in the home?
However, in any budget there are typically more opportunities to save money and avoid cost than to earn more. For example, if you are renting, can you move to lower-cost housing? How can you save time that can be put towards earning more or towards avoiding typical expenses? Is there land space for starting a herb or vegetable garden? 
If you must buy, attempt to acquire assets that will appreciate or sustain in value. So, avoid buying a brand new car, and it makes more sense to buy one piece of gold jewellery than three pieces of costume jewellery.
Reduce the use of high-cost utilities, for example, electricity. Turn off that flat-screen TV; open the freezer less, or better yet, empty it for now and turn it off. Do you care, repair and avoid replacing what you already own, thereby postponing replacement?
Is there opportunity for bulk purchases in your extended family, residential area, church group or other grouping? What are the opportunities for free or lower-cost recreation – picnics in the public parks, bus rides, group pot luck meals or group DVD showings? Are there opportunities for carpooling?
In summary, if we are truly committed to beating the cost of living, there are many opportunities for us to help ourselves and our ‘neighbours’ with income and expenses.
• Louise Fairsave is a personal financial management adviser, providing practical advice on money and estate matters. Her advice is general in nature; readers should seek advice about their specific circumstances.