Live Large on a Small Salary: Budgeting Help in This Economy

Face facts: the economy is really crummy right now.

Whether you’re looking at reduced wages, reduced hours, a lower-paying job or no job at all, the trickle-down effect is felt in nearly every sector. Employers and consumers are forced to cut back everywhere.

This often means drastic changes. But reducing spending shouldn’t be a matter of slash-and-burning your budget— it’s about maximizing what you can get for a minimum.

Less money doesn’t lead to poor living… not necessarily. You can achieve a fulfilling lifestyle by making cuts where it hurts less:

Food. Okay, everyone needs to eat. But here’s a general principle: more preparation labor means a lower cost— consider the price differences between a restaurant pizza, a frozen pizza, and one you assemble yourself. Food made at home also tends to have less salt and fat.

Utilities. They seem like budget essentials, but there are still ways to reduce costs. Appliances can drain electricity even when turned off, so unplug them when not in use. Run the air conditioning only as much as you need. Use the dishwasher and washing machine for full loads only. And the classic: take shorter showers.

Clothing. What’s the shame in thrift store shopping? I’ve found jackets and pants worth hundreds at Goodwill for a few dollars each. Bear in mind that thrift stores in upscale neighborhoods tend to have nicer items. Also, many retailers desperate for sales are offering huge price cuts— these are worth taking note of.

Coupons. Clipping coupons may seem like the pastime of grandmothers and welfare-recipients, but the truth is that they are saving more money than the rest of us. Be on the lookout for store discounts, too.

Generic brands. What’s in a brand name? Sometimes greater quality, sometimes nothing. Check out if a generic equivalent holds up to the brand.

Extras. Do you need the newspaper? How much cable TV do you actually watch? Do you really need a new cell phone right this instant? If you really want to scare yourself, add up how much you spend on coffee, soda, alcohol, or energy drinks per week.

Alexander Carl

Alexander Carl

I find it difficult to brag about myself. Too modest? Perhaps.

Anyway: my name is Alexander Carl. I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I spent four blissful years earning a degree in Communication Studies. Now I face the real world of economic downturns, student loans, and the absence of “academic” camaraderie.

Yet I refuse to be bummed. My economic philosophy is to live simply, save, and maximize whatever I can. Consumer culture is undeniably pervasive, but you don’t have to sell your soul to co-exist with it— there is great power from using your economic resources wisely.

I started writing when I figured out how to hold a pencil. Since then I’ve written short stories, poetry, screenplays, and have blogged. In fact, three of my screenplays have been produced into short films, two of which I directed. I’m no stranger to the media, having served as a DJ at a freeform radio station and worked as a crew member for live TV.

Pastimes include traveling (I’ll visit virtually anywhere), swimming, jogging, hiking, and hunkering down with a good movie.

Overall I’m a peaceful person, though not in a creepy New Agey way. I get my energy from music, good conversation, and the outdoors (I was an active Boy Scout, earning my Eagle). I consider myself “inquisitive” and “wry”, and for the sake of autobiography I’ll assume that I am.
Alexander Carl

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