4 Ways To Pinch Pennies In A Tough Recession

By Amy Bell | September 14, 2009 AAA

The U.S. is facing its worst recession in a generation. So, what does that mean for you? It means it's time for some serious penny-pinching.

Thriftiness is the name of the game in tough economic times like these. If you want to survive this sagging economy, you'll have to play the role of the miserly money micro-manager and keep track of every red cent.

Here are four ways to stay tightfisted and pennywise during this recession:

#1: Save Without A Budget
You read that right: without a budget. While it's an extremely effective way for some people to manage their money, budgets don't work for everyone. For many, budgeting isn't merely unpleasant – it's downright futile. That's because some folks set up budgets only to break them time and again. (You don't need a degree to understand your money, begin saving and pay down debt. Check out Top 5 Budgeting Questions Answered.)

If the mere thought of a budget sends you running for the hills, just say no. Instead, as soon as you receive your paycheck, deposit a set portion into a savings account. Use the remainder to pay for your monthly living expenses. If you don't have that extra money burning a hole in your pocket or in an easily accessible checking account, you'll be much less likely to spend it. In the meantime, your savings will continue to grow each month.

#2: Put A HALT To Shopping
Let's say as you stroll up to the front door of your favorite store, you're feeling a little angry. Perhaps your mother-in-law left an obnoxious message on your cell phone that was enough to make your blood boil or maybe you're just annoyed by the irritating music blasting from the strip mall speakers. (Find out how to avoid six of the worst vender ploys this holiday shopping season. Read Sneaky Strategies That Fuel Overspending.)

HALT! Remove your hand from that revolving door handle, turn around and walk back to your car. Experts say if you're feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired you should avoid the shopping center like a swine flu-ridden farmhouse.

The acronym HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired) is commonly used in substance abuse programs. Addicts are taught to be extremely cautious when they are feeling any of these four emotions because they run the risk of a relapse. The same rule applies to every day shoppers. If you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired, you're more likely to slip into a spending binge that would make Britney Spears blush.

When you find yourself in one of these states, put the shopping spree on hold and try to deal directly with the cause of your emotions - even if it means returning your mother-in-law's call. (Discover more ways to keep your shopping urges in check by reading Five Money-Saving Shopping Tips.)

#3: Discontinue Buyer's Remorse
Every time you catch a glimpse of that expensive treadmill you used once before turning it into a clothes-drying line, you probably feel a pang of guilt. What about that fancy carrot chopper you just had to have - the one that's still in the box collecting dust in the basement? And let's not forget the full-body "snuggle" blanket you ordered on a whim only to decide it's just too ridiculous-looking to wear around the house.

Everyone is guilty of it. We've all convinced ourselves in a weak moment that we absolutely had to have an item only to suffer from severe buyer's remorse later. (Shopping from the comfort of your couch has major benefits - and some unpleasant side effects. Don't miss Shopping Online: Convenience, Bargains And A Few Scams.)

Instead of agonizing over your silly, spontaneous purchases, try to learn from your mistakes. Sit down with your family and do an "audit" of all the harebrained purchases you've made over the past year. Dig out your receipts, bank statements and credit card bills and point out all the things you've bought that you wish you hadn't.

You may start to notice some patterns like every time you stay up past your bedtime watching late-night TV, you end up ordering some absurd item that's "not available in stores!" This process can help you and your family avoid poor purchase choices in the future, putting an end to buyer's remorse once and for all.

#4: Take A Spending Break
When was the last time you went an entire day without spending a dime? If you can't recall, it may be time for a fiscal fast. As painful as it may seem, it's financially healthy to take a few days off from spending money every so often.

Although it may be difficult to keep your wallet on lock-down for two or three days, it could be well worth the effort. (For more tips to curb your spending, be sure to check out A Day Without Spending, A Lifetime's Worth Of Lessons.)

Not only will you save a bundle with these tips, but you may start to realize just how much money you spend on things you simply don't need. For example, you may discover the water from the office water fountain is just as thirst-quenching as your fancy bottled water. Plus, you'll find more creative ways to have fun that don't involve spending bundles of money like gazing at the stars with your spouse or dressing in your snuggle blanket and chopping carrots in your fancy food processor.

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