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Saturday, March 26, 2011 - Carpe ver! Seize the spring and clean up your budget!


Happy spring! The sun is out, the birds are singing, and here in Canada, we
probably only have one or two more surprise snowfalls before summer.
While you are busy freshening up your home and garden, you might want to
consider pulling out your wallet, blowing off the dust and giving it a good
seasonal purge as well. Your finances are like anything else in life: after
a while, you start to forget your good habits, and things tend to get
sloppy, neglected and disorganized. So seize the spring, darling. Carpe ver!
Here are ten tips to organize your finances and clean up your budget:
1.       Clean out the wallet! Lord knows what is lurking in there. Stuffed
full of receipts and bank slips, expired discount cards, phone numbers with
no names attached, business cards from your last three jobs. As our feng
shui sisters might say, you must make space in the wallet for the money to
flow to you.
2.       Be an A-Lister. Dedicate space for lists in your BlackBerry or a
notepad that you carry at all times. Lists are critical for clearing trivia
out of your head and keeping you focused when it's time to spend. Mark down
items you need as you think of them; that way, when you get to the grocery
or department store, you won't get that overwhelmed, "why am I here?"
feeling and end up with a cart full of cocoa puffs and tea lights.
3.       Reality check. Fitness memberships are an essential expense to many
of us. However, if your gym is $90 a month and you only show up three times
a month, that's $30 a visit. Be honest with yourself and your schedule. You
might be better off paying as you go, or finding a gym where you can buy 10
sessions at a time.
4.       Subscribe to this. What is with that messy stack of unread
newspapers and magazines on your coffee table? Don't you have enough to
dust? Subscriptions are no bargain if you're not reading the products.
Consider weekend-only newspaper delivery and buy magazines at the newsstands
when you have time to read them.
5.       Stay on season. Now that it's spring, we can look forward to fresh
fruit and vegetables from local farmers. Check labels and choose food
products from close to home - not only will they be fresher, but they won't
be packed with big fuel and shipping costs.
6.       Be a contrarian. On the other hand, when it comes to big-ticket
items, it helps to be delightfully off-season. The end of February is the
time to nab a Prada ski jacket in the clearance sales, saving you money to
buy Swarovski Christmas tree ornaments in July and Pottery Barn patio
furniture in September.
7.       Friend and follow. Before you shop, check the website of your
favourite store or mall for online-only specials and coupons. Sign up for
the Facebook or Twitter accounts of your favourite retailers, restaurants or
hotels, which often use their online profiles for giveaways, contests and
special deals to their friends and followers.
8.       Spring THAW. Remember that trip to Costco where you got 40 chicken
breasts for four dollars? Take an inventory of your deep freeze and start
planning meals around what you already have on hand. Or throw a dinner party
and use up everything you bought more than three months ago. Buying on sale
is a waste if you end up throwing out freezer-burnt food.
9.       Get your Groupon. Clipping coupons gets stylish with
deal-of-the-day sites such as Groupon. The site offers limited-time
discounts on everything from $25 off at The Gap (NYSE:GPS
GPS%26ql=0> ) to half price scuba diving lessons. Going on vacation? Check
the site for deals at your destination. When you're going out a lot, who
wouldn't want to score a free plate of appetizers or two-for-one tickets to
a show?
10.   Cheap and cheerful. Fun doesn't need to cost nearly as much as you
think. A morning with the whole family at the playground is just as
rewarding as a day at a theme park and much cheaper than driving, parking
and paying for family passes. A night in with the girls and a bottle of wine
is every bit as fun and boisterous as going out to the newest hotspot.
Bonus: by making it OK to have fun on the down-low, everyone feels better
about hosting or getting together more often.
posted in General at Sat, 26 Mar 2011 15:27:26 +0000

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