As is the case in many parts of the world, large numbers of people in the UK are experiencing a drop in income. Expenses certainly do not seem to be going down but incomes are stagnant or dropping, and sometimes it looks as if there is no relief in sight. Having to make do on less is especially difficult if one has young children and the Christmas holidays are approaching, but financial challenges can be very stressful at any time of year, children or not.
This is particularly so if one has grown accustomed purchasing every necessity and even the occasional luxury without blinking an eye. It’s quite a comedown when someone formerly in that position now has to decide between paying the heating bill on time and buying groceries. We are not going to sugarcoat things and say it’s all splendid, because obviously there are many real people going through real struggles. Even so, there are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind that could make the hard times a little easier.
Remember that you are in good company.
We’re not just talking about the fact that many people are in the same economic boat, struggling to make ends meet. We are also referring to the fact that a surprising number of very wealthy people – yes, millionaires and billionaires – are actually quite frugal, relatively speaking, and many of them live beneath their means. They don’t all have the big showy mansions and opulent lifestyles. They don’t all buy the most expensive or even the newest model cars. Many more than you know of could do these things, but they don’t. In fact many people who are successful became that way – and stay that way – for the very reason that they know how to ecnomise in both their business and their personal affairs.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a Scrooge or a miser, not at all. It doesn’t mean you have to live a life of deprivation either. Just find creative ways to cut corners in some areas and you will find that you have more money to play around with, and that you even have a little bit of a safety net to give you added peace of mind.
It’s easy to find ways to cut corners, and you can even make a game of it. Often it involves something as simple as trying store brands or generics instead of name brands. Or it might involve deciding that some of those “necessities” are really luxuries that you can do without for a while until things get better.
What to do
- DO comparison shop. Are you shopping at the cheapest stores? Going online to compare prices can help avoid a lot of leg work and can save both time and money.
- DO consider whether you are wasting a lot of money on luxury items. Are you spending money on gym memberships, weekly manicures, expensive cigars? Are you scrambling to upgrade to the latest smart-phone model when last year’s model or…gasp…even a more basic mobile phone would do the trick just fine?
- DO give careful thought to switching to generics and store brands as much as possible. Many food and non-food items bearing a store’s own name are just as good as the fancy brand names that cost more because of marketing and packaging.
- DO buy whole, fresh foods as much as possible instead of processed foods and ready meals. The latter are more expensive and often not as healthy – e.g., they have many added salts, sugars, unhealthy fats, and all sorts of unpronounceable additives that you’re probably better off not having in your body. (On the other hand, don’t buy too much fresh produce that will rot in your bin and that you’ll ultimately just throw away.)
What NOT to do
- DON’T economise on your family’s diet to the extent that it compromises your health.
- DON’T skimp on essential items such as medications, or heat in the wintertime. The Internet could also be considered essential, particularly if you use it in your work. It can also be a great source of advice, information, and support.
- DON’T miss payments on your home or on taxes – you don’t want to end up homeless or in jail.
- DON’T waste money on lottery tickets, alcohol (okay, a nice bottle of wine for dinner is all right once in a while), cigarettes (now’s a great time to stop smoking!), or expensive goodies for your pets (yes, they’re family members but as such they need to economise too).
Even though it’s nice to be able to buy whatever you want whenever you want it without watching every pound, not being able to do that any more doesn’t render life not worth living. Learning to be more resourceful can improve your overall quality of life, and learning that “economise” is not a dirty word can be the most valuable lesson you will ever learn.