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Shopping dilemma? How to cope with hard times

Published:Wednesday | November 28, 2012 | 12:00 AM

The global economic downturn has been having a devastating impact on everyone. Our coping skills are being put to the test. How well we get through this trying period is dependent, to a large extent, on our resourcefulness and our ability or willingness to adjust our lifestyles. Here are some tips to help you live wisely:

1. Lower your consumption. By lowering your expenditure, you will be ensuring a lower living expense, and that should be your ultimate goal. Eating out, going shopping, going to the movies and other entertainment should be cut down to a level with which you can live comfortably. Lower energy use, petrol, use of plastics; reduce your waste, that is, recycle; and use your kitchen waste to mulch your garden. Your garden may be a couple of tyres outside your door, so do what you can with what you have today.

2. While recreation and entertainment is important, ensure that your bills are paid before you decide to indulge. This can save you much embarrassment and give you a better handle on your finances. Explore cheaper recreational activities, such as a picnic by a river, a drive to the country, etc., if you find you cannot afford the usual weekend at an all-inclusive resort or the trip overseas.

3. Try to shop smart and take up bargain hunting. You can better cope with a recession when you are spending less and saving more money.

4. Build an emergency fund - the most essential weapon in your armoury against hard times. Start saving. Placing a small amount of money each month into a savings account will mount up surprisingly quickly. Arrange with the accountant at your workplace to have the funds deducted straight from your pay each month and sent to your account. This requires less discipline and, hopefully, you will not notice the missing funds too much.

5. Budget. Get a notebook to list all the expenses for the entire month. On a separate sheet, list your steady or stable income flow. Check if your income can still support your expenses. If you find a big deficit, that means you are in for trouble. This means cutting to the bare essentials, if necessary. Live within your means.

6. Focus on your needs, not wants. Very often, we convince ourselves that we need certain items when, in fact, we don't.

7. Substitute items. Try substituting expensive items with cheaper ones. While shopping for groceries, try comparing each brand with another so you'll get to see which one is worth your money. Use the 'Consumer Alert' that the Consumer Affairs Commission publishes to determine the best prices for grocery items, agricultural produce and petrol.

8. Reduce unnecessary travel to save on your petrol. If you have to go on a short journey, walk rather than drive. Most of us lead sedentary lifestyles, so our bodies will welcome the exercise.

9. Leave your credit card. Nothing can be more tempting than swiping your card to buy something that has caught your eyes. To prevent buying things on impulse, try leaving your credit or ATM cards at home. You can also choose to leave the house only with enough money for critical situations such as accidents. Once you have got used to this practice, you'll find that unnecessary expenses will become a thing of the past.