A common problem recent grads face is the building of a professional wardrobe. We all send out graduation invitations with the hope of some monetary return, but it’s not usually much if any. Don’t sweat. There are plenty of ways to get that stylin’ and profilin’ wardrobe without compromising three months rent.
The obvious option is to search for sales. You can always find the best sales in the Sunday newspapers. Usually the stores’ inserts include coupons, too. Not finding any great red ticket items? T.J. Maxx and Ross, for example, are two of the largest off-price retailers in the U.S. These stores offer name-brand apparel but with prices 20-60 percent lower than regular department stores.
Avoid eating out. Cooking at home can save you lots of money, especially if you plan your meals for the week. Going to the grocery store with a list will make you less likely to make impulse purchases. There are coupons galore both in stores, newspapers and on-line. Clip away and you’ll be shocked by just how much you can save.
Don’t worry: I would never ask you to give up coffee as I am a caffeine-addict, too. But try replacing coffee shop coffee with your own home brew. Think about it: If you’re spending more than $3 each day, every day of the year, that’s over $1,000. Need more incentive to make it yourself? You’ll also save time by avoiding the long lines at Starbuck’s, help the environment by using a reusable mug or thermos and save gas avoiding the coffee-detour on your way to work. More of a latte fan than brewed coffee? There are lots of simple recipes you can follow to make these delicious treats in your own kitchen. Try some of these recipes from ehow.com that also have instructional videos.
Paying off debt
Student loans are considered “good debt.” “Good debt,” though it may sound like an oxymoron, actually makes sense. It’s debt from an investment that will increase in value or contribute to your overall financial health. Student loans allow you to get a college degree and thus a higher-paying job.
Then, there's "bad debt." Absolutely, positively NO CREDIT CARDS! I cannot express how much debt you can get yourself into with these plastic devils. If you feel you absolutely must have one for emergencies then be sure to shop around for the lowest interest rate. Also, keep it somewhere out of reach. Having it in your wallet makes it more likely you will use it in unnecessary situations. Keep it at home under your bed or somewhere safe so you have to truly think about any purchases you put on the card.
Already in credit card debt? Write out exactly how much you owe and the interest rate of any cards you have. Whichever has the highest interest rate needs to be paid off first. If the interest rates are the same then pay off the one with the lowest balance first. DO NOT pay off a credit card with another credit card. Does that need explaining or can you see the vicious cycle yourself? Determine your discretionary income to decide how much you can afford to pay each month. Stick to your financial plan.
Government incentives to spend
Home loans can also be “good debt” especially in the current economy. First-time home buyers can receive up to an $8,000 tax credit if they purchase before Dec. 1, 2009. As part of the stimulus package, taxpayers will be able to deduct the both local and state sales tax paid on new car purchases up to $49,500. The tax break will cover the purchase of any new car, domestic or foreign, through the end of 2009. Additionally, the deduction is "above the line," which means that it reduces the amount of a filer's taxable income. Eligible taxpayers must have an annual income below $125,000 for individuals or below $250,000 for families.
Some final tips from Dr. Gary Waters:
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- By Kelly Cargill