By Andrea Woroch
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the so-called “fiscal cliff” negotiations are not going well. In anticipation of the possible plunge, consumer confidence plummeted recently to 65.1, the lowest it’s been since August according to USAToday.
Though tax rate increases should become effective Jan. 1, the IRS is advising employers to stick with 2012 tax withholding rates for January paychecks. That means consumers have a small window of opportunity to adjust their saving and spending habits. Consider the following tips for doing just that and prepare yourself for the potential impact of the fiscal cliff.
1. Create an Emergency Fund
An emergency savings account offers a little cushion in times of uncertainty. It’s not too late to start one if you haven’t already. If job growth slows as projected, the potential for being laid off is increased and that means you’ll need something to fall back on in the interim of finding a new gig. For tips on building your emergency fund, check out this article from Bankrate.
2. Trim Monthly Expenses
Tough times call for hard decisions, so take a keen look at your monthly expenses and determine areas you can cut to save money. $120 cable bill? $150 smartphone plan? These things may seem like necessities but in reality, you can get along just fine without them. Plus, there are lower cost alternatives to help reduce the sting of cutting these services.
3. Sell Your Stuff
Extra cash may seem like an oxymoron right now, but you can still earn those greenbacks by parting with stuff you don’t need. Take stock of your closets, kitchen cabinets and other storage areas for things you can get rid of, and hit up Craigslist for free postings to local buyers. Even items like unused gift cards can be exchanged for cash on sites like GiftCardGranny.com, where you can get up to 92-percent of the card’s value.
4. Be Lean with Food Purchases
The cost of food is predicted to increase by 3 to 4 percent in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You may not be the couponing type, but now’s the time to get savvier with food purchases. In addition to stocking up during sale time and finding coupons for extra savings, make sure to take full advantage of leftovers. Cookbooks like Rachael Ray’s “Just in Time” offer quick recipes for making leftovers into entirely new meals to satisfy picky palates.
5. Keep Paying Off Debt
According to recent data from the Federal Reserve, the average American household had over $7,000 in credit card debt in October. Since this doesn’t account for all those charges made during the holiday season, it’s imperative to reduce this debt as soon as possible. If you have multiple cards, pay down the card with the lowest balance first. Paying off cards will keep you motivated and free up money for even larger payments toward the biggest balance.
6. Get Creative with Clothing
If you have a family of growing grandkids, cutting shoes and clothes from your budget is unrealistic. However, you can find cheaper alternatives to store-bought clothing by hosting clothes swaps with friends and neighbors who also have grandkids. Alternatively, you can go the consignment route and sell your kids’ unused clothes for credit toward gently used garments. Websites like thredUp.com or stores like Once Upon a Child are examples of popular kids’ consigners.
7. Find a Side Gig
There’s no time like the present to turn that skill of yours into a paid gig. Photography, website design and even scrapbooking can be offered to friends and acquaintances for a price. Alternatively, sites like TaskRabbit enable you to make extra cash for rudimentary tasks like dog sitting or house cleaning. And finally, eLance connects freelancers with talent seekers looking to pay for such services as writing, marketing or programming.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.
For all media inquiries, please contact Andrea Woroch at 970-672-6085 or email [email protected].