EMERGENCY FINANCIAL FIRST AID
Lori Z. Bahnmueller
Michigan Credit Union League - Your Money Matters
If you are faced with a financial crisis and the holidays are approaching, don't panic. There are many things you and your family can do to reduce expenses. The following emergency financial first aid suggestions can help you in making the necessary reductions in your budget.
Lower your food pressure by planning meals ahead of time in order to prepare meals at home. Avoid buying prepackaged dinners and individual servings, the packaging increases the cost of the food. Use coupons but only for food that you would purchase regularly. Try generic brands instead of name brands. Shop only when necessary and not more than once a week. Eliminate quick trips to the convenience store. Try local alternative economical sources for food; farmers market, food cooperatives, or warehouse clubs.
Get transportation therapy by car pooling or using public transportation if available. Shop around to compare insurance costs and make sure you're not overpaying for the same coverage. Increase your insurance deductible to $500.
Cut down on household expenses by using one cleaner with ammonia instead of specialty products advertised for cleaning. Shop at garage sales for household needs. Check out "how to" books from the library to help in fixing minor repairs. If you're unable to repair it yourself, see if you can do part of the labor to help lessen the cost.
Health care costs can be reduced by eating right, getting plenty of rest and exercise to prevent illness. Request generic brand drugs when filling a prescription. Obtain medical care at public clinics or teaching hospitals. The wait may be longer but the cost is less.
Household utilities can be cut by lowering the thermostat in the winter and adding layers of clothing. Turn down the heat whenever you leave the house and shut off any unused rooms. Have a free energy audit done. Also, check with the light and gas company to see if you qualify for any special programs.
Trim your phone expenses by using a timer to limit long distance and out of zone calls. Take advantage of lower phone rates during the evening and weekend hours. Eliminate any extra services such as call waiting. Purchase a phone instead of leasing one.
Clothing costs can be taken in by shopping resale stores for a good source of clean, low priced clothing. Watch garage sales for children's clothes. Ask the dry cleaners if clothing can be hand washed with delicate laundry soap. Wash full loads of laundry instead of partial loads to reduce costs and hang clothes up to dry to reduce dryer time. Many men's shirts that are fine except for a frayed collar can be taken to a tailor who can turn the collar for around $10. It's cheaper than buying a new shirt.
Gift treatments are especially helpful with the holiday season approaching. Give baked goods or IOUs for services like babysitting or house cleaning. Handcrafted items can often hold more meaning than those purchased at a store. Wrap gifts in comic strips instead of expensive wrapping paper. Check with others to see if they would like to share the expense of a gift.
Get free rest and relaxation by exchanging magazines with friends and checking out books from your local library instead of buying them. Many libraries now have video tapes, cassettes, and computers for loan. Read community papers for the listings of free or inexpensive activities.