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Tips: Tightening the Belt: Tips for Adjusting
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, June 2008

This summer may find you with a different plan than you had anticipated. Your house which has been on the market may not be selling. Your vacation, which you desperately need, had you behind the wheel driving all over the country and may now be canceled (or certainly down shifted) because of the rising gas costs. Your soon to be adult children are moving in with you because living on their own is just too costly (see Sanity Saver article in this issue). Those same young people, while living with you, are using part of their pay check to help contribute to the family household expenses. You may be working past your retirement just to make ends meet.

None of this may be what you had planned or expected. So how can you keep your sanity when you are financially strapped or concerned about your own or your family expenses?

Here are some tips:

Be Aware of Who You Owe Money to and How Much You Owe - Pay down your debt as best you can. Pay the debts with the highest interest rates first, or consolidate your debt. Seek the aid of a financial counselor in your area if necessary to help you come up with a reasonable budget.

Cut Back on Auto Use - Walk or bike or carpool with friends to do errands. Avoid using your car as much as you used to so you can save gas and get in better shape yourself.

Expand Your Dining Options - Spend time cooking and then pack lunches to bring to work for you and your co-workers. Explore new places and ask friends (or another family) to join you as you do something a bit out of the ordinary for you, like riding your bikes to a park for a sunset picnic. Instead of going to a restaurant with friends, have an old fashioned pot luck and play great music. And if you do go out to a restaurant, order sensibly by sharing entrees and considering an appetizer as a main course.

Be Creative with Your Kids - Swap (instead of buying new) toys with other families. When your kids tire of their toys, clean them up and put them into the "friendship toy exchange pool" and find something your kids would like (or exchange with one particular family). Organize local outings and get-togethers with other families to share activities. Offer older children babysitting opportunities among you and your friends so adults can share expenses.

Stick to Your Budget - Avoid compulsive purchases and stick to your shopping list (prepared ahead of time, of course).

Although you may feel deprived with these adjustments, be careful NOT to cut back on all of your pleasures. Discover the simple pleasures and indulge yourself and your family.

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