Now that Barack Obama is our president-elect, I am feeling much more optimistic about being an American, something I haven't felt in years.
Change is good, and one thing that I hope changes is our economy. I'm predicting that the election will cause Americans will feel more confident about their futures and this will result in them going out and shopping, thus giving our economy a bit of a kick.
Of course, the downside is that money is tight nowadays (for many people, including yours truly), so how do you balance between spending to invigorate the economy and avoiding putting yourself into further debt? While I feel lucky not to have a crushing mortgage payment, high medical bills or heavy credit card balances, I do have to budget carefully and walk that cash tightrope.
One thing that has really helped me has been to differentiate between "wants" and "needs." When it comes to buying things other than groceries, I try to give myself a 48-hour cooling period to think about the purchase. Sometimes, for higher-priced items, that 48-hour period extends to several months. Sometimes I end up forgetting all about it. Most of the time, I eventually realize I didn't really need or particularly want the item that badly.
I'm also trying to pay cash for most things. It's too easy for me to whip out that little plastic card so what I've been trying to do is to take out a certain amount of cash at the beginning of the week and make that cash last all week. When the cash is gone, so are the purchases. Some weeks it works better than others.
The Consumerist Web site (www.consumerist.com) offers some great tips and inspirational stories on becoming debt-free. Click here to read some of these posts. It's good to know that there are specific steps I can take and to read that these tips have actually helped people who were once deeply stuck in the hole of debt.
photo © Darren Hester for openphoto.net