Recession spending and saving
Most likely, the crapstravaganza that is today's world economy has caused you to cut back your spending, but The Consumerist, summarising suggestions from a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, says that there are still things that are worth paying for:
- Pay for expert advice.
- Pay to bring down debt.
- Pay yourself.
- Pay for little indulgences.
- Pay for some things you could do yourself.
- Comparison shop.
You can read the original WSJ article if you want to learn more on each of these. But here is a rundown on a few of life's luxuries still worth the money even in these times, and a few things that you really ought to cut out until times improve.
Worth it: Paying for some things you could do yourself. If paying someone to clean your house or apartment allows you to put in more time at work earning money, it’s worth it as long as you make more in the same amount of time than you spend on the help. Plus, cleaning the toilet when times are tough is somehow more demoralizing than when you’re, ahem, flush.
Not Worth it: Extended warranties. C’mon, £6 a month to protect your iPhone? All right, if you’re exceptionally prone to dropping things, maybe you should. But if you’re as addicted to the thing as most iPhone users are, it isn’t going to leave your side or your hand long enough to get into much danger. If you paid for your expensive gadgetry with a credit card, check out the terms of the card. Some cards double the manufacturer’s warranty, taking it from the typical one-year warranty to two years.
Worth it: Paying down debt. Keep on top of your bill payments, and throw as much as you can at your credit card debt. Even if it feels like you’re chronically skint, remember that ruining your credit standing will only make things worse.
Not Worth it: Bank overdraft fees. If you can, sign up for overdraft protection. Banks are notorious for re-ordering transactions so that the big cheques go through first and approving debit purchases that will cause you to overdraw. That way they can charge you 20 quid or so in overdraft fees before kicking a few puppies on their walk home. Some overdraft plans hook you up to a line of credit that only kicks in when you overdraw, and they’re cheap enough that even if you only bounce two or three checks in a year, you’ll save money.
Worth it: Keeping fit. Regular physical activity keeps you healthier in body and mind. There’s nothing like pumping some iron or running a mile or so on a treadmill to help you burn off excess existential dread. If you exercise, you may still be broke, but if you don’t exercise, you’ll be broke and flabby. My belly agrees.
Not Worth it: Gym memberships. Yes, yes, I know, I just warned you about how being flabby and skint is worse than the sum of its parts, but there are alternatives to expensive gym memberships. Some cities have council-run facilities that are very reasonably priced to use. And what about the YMCA? Here’s a long list of YMCAs across England that have fitness facilities. There are also 38 Ys across Scotland. They’re inexpensive and sometimes operate on a sliding fee scale, so you can work out even if you’re out of work. Building your own home gym is another option.
Worth it: Occasional small luxuries. Sometimes buying a double-tall latte with whipped cream, mocha, chili, cheese, and whatever else us coffee freaks like can be a therapy session in itself, particularly if you combine it with some other relaxing activity like reading a newspaper (but not the business section), or perhaps theta brain wave vibrations. Three or four quid and 20 minutes can make the difference between making it through the rest of the day and crawling under the eiderdown with a bottle of Xenia Black. Which is way more expensive than coffee.
Not Worth it: Bottled water. “But isn’t that a small luxury?” you’re thinking. No. No, it isn’t. It’s a big luxury. The stuff’s expensive, rarely better than filtered tap water, and there’s the issue of what’s going to happen with all those plastic bottles. Why is coffee a little luxury while bottled water is not? Because your kitchen sink doesn’t have a coffee spigot, that’s why. There: I’ve run rings round you logically!
To sum things up, spending money is worth it if it keeps you sane, allows you more time to earn money, or keeps your credit rating intact. Spending money is not worth it if there are less expensive comparable alternatives, if it amounts to a stupidity tax (overdraft fees), or if the odds are stoutly against the expense ever paying off (as with extended warranties). The recession may have taken away your money. Don’t let it take away your brain.