What Are We Doing to Lower Our Cost of Living?

By Kevin M

The cost of living has been rising relentlessly for decades, and while we tend to notice it less during the good times, it all hits home hard in times like these. Forget the official numbers that deny the existence of inflation, if you?re middle class, working class, a struggling business owner, and especially if you?re retired, you know the real story from the trenches on the front lines.

Sure food costs have been bouncing up and down in a range, and gas prices are about 40% lower than they were a year ago at this time, but what about everything else? What about property taxes, utilities, health insurance and all things education related? What about movie tickets, theme parks, medical co-pays and car repairs? Our auto insurance just increased by more than 20% because of state mandated add-ons to cover uninsured motorists. 20%–in 2009?how?s that for timing?

With incomes flat and jobs disappearing, the logical course is to trim or eliminate expenses across the board. Some expenses are easier to reduce than others, but the best strategies overall tend to involve cost cutting on numerous fronts. Here are a couple of the things we?re doing in my house.

Using a wireless router to add an additional internet line. This one is recommended for home or office computers, and can save substantial money if you need additional computer lines but can?t afford the higher monthly cost.

We had one internet connection, but we have two teenagers, and you know what that means. Facebook, computer games, Facebook, email, Facebook, school research projects, and more Facebook. A new internet line would have cost over $200 to install, plus a monthly fee in excess of $45?that wasn?t happening!

On recommendation by several techie friends, we bought a Linksys Wireless-G Broadband Router at Best Buy for $50. The device attaches to your main computer, then to a second computer by cable, giving the second computer full internet access. Though I don?t completely understand how it works, the second computer has different email accounts and a separate identify from the first, with no decrease in service to either unit?a certified miracle of modern technology!

There is NO monthly fee for this arrangement, and it?s totally legitimate with your ISP.

It?s somewhat more complicated to install than the unit instructions tell you it will be; think along the lines of ?some assembly required? and how simple that never really seems to be. But once installed, you?ll have two fully functioning internet connections for the price of one.

Buying our clothes at thrift stores. We?re not recreational shoppers when it comes to buying clothing, but in a family of four somebody always needs something for some event somewhere, especially at this time of the year when the start of the upcoming school year is fast approaching. Even with store sales and statewide sales tax holidays, buying a ?few pairs of pants, a few shirts, and a couple of pairs of shoes? can easily cost hundreds of dollars. But there is a way to cut this cost considerably.

We?ve become regular thrift store shoppers (See A Thriftier Way to Dress). You can buy gently used clothing, most of it for under $5 per article. A brand name shirt, in near new condition, that might cost $50 in a mall store, can be purchased at a thrift store for $3 (that?s not a misprint!). From time to time, you will come across items that are brand new, labels attached, for similar prices.

Unlike the power charged trips to the mall, you don?t go out to thrift stores with the idea of replacing your wardrobe, as it is a hit or miss venture. We like to go once or twice a month, covering several stores (Goodwill Stores is highly recommended), browsing for items we like and that fit. Price is never an issue! If you buy a few articles on each trip over the course of the year, you won?t need to fight with the herd at the mall at peak shopping seasons. Not only will you save money on the clothing itself, but the concept of buying in small doses over the course of the year is much easier on your budget, especially if you have children.

What are some changes you?ve made or plans you?ve implemented to lower living or business expenses? What expenses have you been able to reduce? Are there any you?ve been able to eliminate entirely? Big ideas, small ideas, they?re all worth exploring.

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