Thursday, January 22, 2009

The rumors were true: I AM cheap

Yes, I’ve complained long and hard to anyone that will listen about our down-spiraling economy. (You guys are my favorite captive audience.)
But I do more than just toil in gloom and doom every time I see a depressing news report. Like a lot of the rest of us, I’ve had to trim the fat a bit and find some ways to squeeze a few extra dollars out of the household budget. And since I share my “glum” outlook with you, I wanted to share some of my miserly tips as well.

Bring your lunch to work. I never realized how much money I spent eating on the run, or ordering out until I finally sat down to crunch the numbers: Around $10 per day, four days per week. That’s $160 per month, or $1,920 per year. Compare that to planning ahead and bringing leftovers and some snacks. Savings around $900 yearly.

Have your shoes repaired. This one I stole from Bay News 9 (thank you, Ferdinand Zogbaum!). Instead of shelling out $180 for new EMS boots for work, I had a local shoe cobbler put new soles on my old ones. Cost me under $20. Saved $160.

Carpool. Even though gas prices have gone WAY down, I see them creeping back up again. Hopefully we won’t see $4 per gallon anymore, but just in case, I still carpool whenever possible. So instead of spending almost $40 per week on gas, I now spend that about every two weeks. Savings: $960 yearly.

Coupons. Don’t laugh. Here’s the secret to not getting overwhelmed with it: Only cut the coupons for the things you buy, instead of buying something just because you have a coupon. It really is like free money. And if you can time it just right and hit the supermarket sales, well, you’re golden. I save nearly $15 weekly with coupons. That means about $720 yearly shaved off my expenses.

Stay in. Instead of going out with friends, have them over for dinner and drinks. Cooking at home is always cheaper (especially when it comes to the bar tab), and I think, more intimate. Candles and Dollar Store party favors and such.

Hopefully we all won’t have to keep tightening up the belts another notch for very long! I hate to utter this, but this financial crisis we’re in has made me cheap. There. I said it. And now that it’s out there, if anyone has any other tips for me I’d really welcome them. Happy hunting, everyone!

Monday, January 19, 2009

The tumbling giants: Curse or boon?

I knew Albertson's supermarkets closing was a bad sign. Add to that the various Linens' n Things and Bed, Bath and Beyond stores that have disappeared. Bennigans also pulled out of our area, taking with it their fantastic baked potato soup. GAP spin-off Old Navy is downsizing.
KB Toys is already closed - its stock sold off after filing for bankruptcy protection. And Sweetbay supermarkets just announced they are closing seven of their Tampa Bay area stores.
But now a long-time electronics retail giant, Circuit City, is going out of business. They have been the nation's second biggest consumer electronics dealer (Best Buy holds the crown), but that wasn't enough to save them in bankruptcy court. Friday, they failed to find a buyer and will simply liquidate their 567 stores in the U.S. This could mean another 30,000 people will be unemployed. Joining them will be laid off workers from Pfizer and Blue Cross.
Industry experts that circled their wagons when gas prices dropped are now warning of more lean times to come, as spending will likely decrease further. Bad, bad, bad.
But what does this mean to our local independent retailers? Surely they will see some business from some Circuit City customers. Bay News 9 interviewed one electronics place that could not believe they were still in business while the giants around them tumble. They're counting their lucky stars, and hoping to cash in on some displaced consumer dollars.
One independent retailer in a Tyrone shopping center that houses the defunct Circuit City is cringing at the thought of another giant chain closing, though. The store's owners believe that living in the shadow of the big guys has brought business into their doors that wouldn't normally be there. They count on the foot traffic from these places, and fear that no more store means no more people.
Whether good or bad, we can count on this: Everyone is going to be affected. From the butterfly effect to a tidal wave. Time to cautiously tighten the belt again.