It was almost the end of the month, and once again Jeff and I were feeling the squeeze of a paycheck that wouldn't stretch far enough. The big Thanksgiving get-together would be at our house this year—and the grocery list was a yard long. Plus, Christmas was looming, and our kids had high hopes. Although we were both making more money than we ever had, it never seemed to go far enough. The temptation to fall back on the credit card was strong. "Where is our money going, anyway?" I wailed.
Ten Easy Ways to Save
Mary Hunt, founder and publisher of the Cheapskate Monthly newsletter, lists her top ten money tips:
- Only run your dishwasher when it's full—and skip the energy-gobbling speed-dry option.
- Unplug instant-on appliances such as coffee makers, stereos and remote-control TVs. They draw electricity even when turned off.
- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs. They fit standard fixtures, require only a quarter of the energy of incandescent lights and last up to 14 years. They can save you up to 40 percent annually on your electricity bill.
- Consider dimmers, timers and motion detectors for your lights. They all can mean big savings on your electricity bill.
- Use lay-away instead of putting a big purchase on a credit card.
- Pay less by pumping your own gas.
- Use "800 Assistance." Before calling a company long distance, dial 800-555-1212 to see if a toll-free number is available.
- Do the laundry with less detergent. Depending on the hardness of your water, you may be able to use as much as 50 percent less than recommended.
- Wash all but the dirtiest clothes in cold water.
- Every load you air dry saves you $1. Invest in a clothes line, put out just two loads per week, and you can save more than $100 per year.
Second only to sex, money is a topic that can raise the most turbulent waves of emotions from married couples. In a time when the expected American norm is two cars, a split-level ranch and designer clothes, Americans are more in debt than ever before. The Time Almanac reported that consumer credit in 1998 exceeded $1,241.4 billion—more than double the figure from 1975. While recent news reports indicate that Americans are starting to pay down our consumer debt, we have more—and owe more—than ever before.
The toll of debt is measured in more than just credit card bills. According to syndicated radio's financial talk-show guru Dave Ramsey, finances are the number-one point of dispute among married couples.
"The biggest problem for married couples is they don't control their money," Ramsey says. "The subject of money is overwhelming to them. They throw up their hands and surrender."