Conscious spending

Tips for saving money in 2010


In the age of credit and debit, carrying cash is rare, and using it day-to-day is even less common. But financial expert Teresa Dentino, author of "What Your Mother Never Taught You About Money," believes when people use cash, it makes them more conscious of their spending. She said using credit provides an unrealistic view of what's happening with finances.

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Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 11, 2010 at 4:44 p.m.

Going back to basics could be the best way to spend less and save more money in 2010.

Set a budget for you and your family. Each day, write down everything you spend, and use as little energy as possible at home. These are just a few of the tips financial and environmental experts believe could lead to a surplus, not a shortfall, in your wallet.

In the age of credit and debit, carrying cash is rare, and using it day-to-day is even less common. But financial expert Teresa Dentino, author of "What Your Mother Never Taught You About Money," believes when people use cash, it makes them more conscious of their spending. She said using credit provides an unrealistic view of what's happening with finances.

"For a really quick and easy habit-changer and an eye-opening awareness exercise, carry only cash for a week, using cash only for your purchases," she said recently on San Francisco's "View from the Bay" Web site. "It works even better if instead of hitting the ATM every few days, you take out a fixed amount of cash at the beginning of the week. For example, if you think you spend about $200 in a week, try starting the week with $200 and see how far it takes you."

Only spending money on basic goods and essential items seems to be the common sense, practical way to reign in spending. But, instead of cutting out all the fun stuff, do them less often and for cheaper. For movie lovers, go to the matinee show or check out a DVD at the public library for free. Start a girls' night out earlier in the evening by taking advantage of happy hour food and drink specials. Check out a restaurant's Web site and advertisements, or call ahead to find out about promotions or discounts and where to find them. To really stay in the know, join a business' e-mail or mailing list.

If you don't want to totally stop dining out, learn to make the most of out the meal. Split an entree or order a big one so there can be leftovers for the next day's lunch.

Lisa Chacon teaches a women and finance course at Sante Fe College. For parents, she said, the best way to keep money in your pocket is to put children on a strict budget. She has three sons in college and they all have to make the monthly deposit they receive last the entire month.

"It is amazing how much cheaper tennis shoes and clothes can be when the kids are paying for it out of their own pockets. ... Instead of doling out cash as needed, and feeling like a walking ATM machine, teach your kids to budget," Chacon said. "It will save you and them money in the long run."

Cutting energy costs at home also will help in the overall goal of saving money.

Lowering the thermostat in the winter and setting it higher in the summer is a common tip, but Steve Mackenzie, chair of Sustainability Task Force at Central Florida Community College, said also focus on unplugging cell phone and laptop chargers, iPod docking chargers and turning off computers. Charging devices suck up the most energy in homes, second to cooling/air conditioning, he said.

"Anytime you see a light on, it means it's drawing current," said Mackenzie, also a professor of environmental sciences. "It's a little bit, but it does add up."

Using LED lights is a way to reduce home energy, too. But, if the light bulbs are too pricey for your budget, Mackenzie said choose a compact fluorescent. It's better and more efficient than an incandescent bulb, he said.

Wash clothes in cold water and instead of using a dryer, use an outdoor clothesline or drying rack. Also, Mackenzie said watch out for water leaks. A toilet leak is harder to identify than a faucet, so he suggested putting food coloring in the tank to spot the leak.

"You've got to experiment," he added. "Each house is dynamic, and the way we live is dynamic. What might work for one house may not work for the next."

Make a budget and follow it. Write down everything you spend.

Use cash instead of debit and credit cards. Withdraw a set amount at the beginning of the week, and make it last.

Find ways to have fun for less. For movie lovers, go to the matinee show, or check out a DVD at the public library for free. Start a girls' night out earlier in the evening by taking advantage of happy-hour food and drink specials.

Look for discounts and coupons. Check out a restaurant or store's Web site and advertisements, or call ahead to find out about promotions or discounts. To really stay in the know, join a business' e-mail or mailing list.

Make the most of meals out by splitting an entree or taking leftovers home for tomorrow's lunch.

Save energy and money. Set the thermostat lower in the winter and higher in the summer. Unplug cell phone, laptop and iPod docking chargers and turn off computers. Wash clothes in cold water, and use an outdoor clothesline or drying rack.

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