Spending cuts you might not even notice

Spending cuts you might not even notice

These tricks could raise your income or reduce expenses without affecting your quality of life.

It’s painfully clear Americans are still hurting financially. Jobless claims are far too high if we’re actually in any kind of meaningful recovery. Penalty withdrawals from 401(k) plans have been increasing, not shrinking. Mortgage rates are hitting 40-year lows with regularity and we still can’t find a pulse in the housing industry.

If there was a magic wand that would sharply raise incomes or reduce expenses, we’d be out there waving like mad. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to cut and stretch. If you can afford it, give yourself some transition time to get used to spending cuts. Some will come at too steep a price in terms of your quality of life. But others may be painless, and you’ll never look back.

1. Know where your money goes.

This is Number One Obvious Idea that many people don’t follow. How can you possibly know how to save money if you don’t know what you spend it on? There are a growing number of online budgeting sites to help you. Use one, or do this yourself. Whatever you’ve been spending each month, try cutting it by 5 percent. Then cut it by another 5 percent the following month. Keep it up if you can, and put the savings in the bank or pay down debts.

2. Make a grocery list and don’t stray.

Once you’ve tracked household spending, you will see how much you spend at the supermarket. What’s less clear is that you also probably spend a lot of money on stuff you don’t need. In our house, we began downsizing our grocery spending by seeing what we were throwing out and the items that had freezer burn and should have been tossed. This helped sensitize us to unnecessary purchases. (My mom passed away nearly 30 years ago and I can still remember her hollering at me about wasting food.) We also save money by making fewer runs to the store. Our greatest savings come when we make a weekly meal plan, create a shopping list for that plan, and then buy nothing but what’s on that list.

3. Mothball a car.

If your household has two cars, try leaving one in the garage for a month. See how it affects your life. With a modest amount of planning, a lot of households might be able to make do with a single car. Once you’ve determined that you can do likewise, sell the second car, bank the money, and also begin enjoying lower bills for auto insurance, gasoline, and maintenance.

4. Try free phone service.

I’ve bought and used the MagicJack service, which is the most popular of its type. You order a small device — perhaps an inch and a half by three inches and about an inch thick — and it connects to your home computer. The software that launches when you connect the device provides easy-to-follow instructions. MagicJack also links from the computer to your existing phone set. So, you are making your phone calls over the Internet but using a regular telephone to do so.

I’ve found the audio quality higher than with products that require separate headphones and microphones. And picking up the phone is such a long-ingrained habit that there didn’t seem to be much to learn. You do need to get a new local phone number, which Magic Jack will provide at no extra charge. After the initial fee, there is no charge for domestic phone calls. This switch can easily save you hundreds of dollars a year. Think about keeping your existing phone line for a transition period in case MagicJack or a similar device doesn’t meet your needs. If you like the MagicJack and also have a cell phone, if could make sense to cancel your home land line and switch your home phone number to your cell. You’d lose your existing cell number but you’d at least be able to keep your old home number.

5. Trim television services.

Hey, I love my cable, and millions others love their satellite dishes. But if the times demanded, I would wave goodbye to a bundle of monthly cable charges. I’d also be in mourning during football season but I’d survive. I would install a digital antenna. And I’d begin making much heavier use of free online video sites that the networks and other providers offer.

6. Recheck insurance rates.

A year ago, I went out shopping to explore replacing all my insurance coverages. I wound up saving a bundle. When you’ve had your auto, home, life, and other insurance policies in place for several years, it’s easy to forget what I call “creepage” — those annual bump-ups in premiums. They really add up after a while. And while constantly rising health insurance rates may make it seem like premiums can only move in an upward direction, that’s not true. When you do shop around, you also may discover that your coverage needs have changed. If your cars are the same ones you had five years ago, for example, you probably don’t need as much collision insurance as you once did.

7. Forget about green; go brown!

The summer has been brutal where I live. But with dollars at stake, I am becoming very environmentally responsible. So what if even the goats pass by my yard?

Rising food prices you’ll feel the most

Rising food prices you'll feel the most

Expect to pay more for groceries these popular because of shortages in the world.

Prices are up in grocery stores across the country. You may not notice changes right away, that bread can be only one cent more expensive than last year. Soda that you buy may be the same price but it is now 1.5 liters instead of two. Many major cereal manufacturers such as General Mills, warned of impending price increases.

Why Grocery Prices Going Up ?

While nearly all grocery aisles is affected by rising prices, a large part of the reason all comes down to two commodities: wheat and corn. The two staples have been hit hard over the last two years – a combination of climate change, natural disasters and crop diseases. Russia experienced a severe drought for two years and had stopped completely wheat exports to ensure sufficient domestic supply. They resumed limited exports of July 2011, but supplies are still far away. A disease called Ug99 wheat rust destroyed crops across Africa and spread to other wheat producing countries at a rapid pace.

There was a lot of bad harvests corn in North America as well, but the real culprit for corn is that it is used to make ethanol, a fuel probably sustainable. Hundreds of thousands of acres that once grew corn for the people now grow it to fuel our cars.

At first glance it may seem that these increases does not mean you will pay more for a few grocery items such as bread and popcorn, but wheat and corn are included in the vast majority of food you can eat every day. Here are four areas where you will see higher prices.

Rising food prices you'll feel the most

1. Cereals, breads and pasta products

Most cereals are made from corn and they will be hit hard by price increases in the coming year. The commodity price of corn has nearly doubled since 2010 and is rising again due to the massive drought in Texas is facing. Bread, rolls, cakes and biscuits will all rise in prices of steep jump in the price of wheat. According to food manufacturers, the industry has been holding the increase in retail prices, but can not absorb the costs any longer.

2. Sweets

Most treaties “candy” soda biscuits with jam, are made with corn syrup, high fructose. The lack of corn supply is causing prices to increase in these areas regularly. Beware of packages decreases, as well. Many companies will keep the same price but lower the amount you get.

3. Beef, pork and chicken

Almost all industrialized meat fed with corn, mainly because it was the cheapest food available. As the price of corn increases, there is still no cheaper alternative, so the price of meat increases due to the rising price of entry.

4. Cat and Dog Food

Pet food contains grains in one of two ways: treatment of dry foods often contain corn as one of its primary ingredients and canned food contains pieces of meat or wheat-based thickeners. It’s not just the cost of food will rise.

Related Link: View more smart shopping advices

How to find best glasses to your face

How to find best glasses to your face

The right specs can be your best beauty asset. See how to pick the best glasses for your face shape.

Widen an Oval Face

Skinny rims can make a narrow mug seem stern. To soften things up, choose glasses with extra deep rims, so they cover more real estate. “Opt for frames that go just beyond temples. The added width will help fill out a sharp face,” says Larry Leight, founder and creative director of Oliver Peoples in Los Angeles.

Downplay a High Forehead

An elongated upper deck can look stark, especially if you want to wear a slicked-back ‘do. Rather than resigning yourself to a lifetime of bangs, try frames that sit high up on your face and cover your eyebrows, Leight suggests. They will help close the distance between the top of the frames and your hairline.

Soften a Strong Jaw

If a prominent chin is drawing focus away from your brilliant baby blues, browns or greens, pick up frames with rounded curves or embellished rims, preferably accented with a bright color or detail along the brow line. Steer clear of spectacles with hard 90-degree angles; they’ll emphasize the pointiness of a chiseled jawbone.

Beef Up Disappearing Brows

Fake fuller brows and direct all eyes to your face by getting brow-line-style frames. The specs feature a thick plastic top line or have gradient shading. (The color of the rims fades from dark at the top to light on the bottom.) Choose frames that mimic the contours of your brow bone to bring even more attention to your peepers.