If you read the Dollar Stretcher religiously, wash out your used sandwich bags and never throw anything away because there may be some future use for it, it's a good bet you are, to put it politely, thrifty. While many people equate thrift with spending the bare minimum on necessities and spending next to nothing on everything else, the following ten items are things you don't want to scrimp on. In fact, spending money now on these items will actually save you money (and health and happiness) in the long run.
In this issue, we will discuss five ways in which spending money can be not only beneficial but also practically painless.
A safe home. Safety is an item that shouldn't be compromised in order to save money. After all, what good is saving money if you are risking the safety of you and your family? Locks and deadbolts, a peephole in the door and working fire extinguishers are necessary. It is absolutely worth spending a little extra money to fix wobbly steps or child-proof your poison's cabinet.
To save money, check with your local fire department; they often provide free or low-cost smoke detectors. Discount chains sell locks and deadbolts, which can be purchased for under $20 and are simple to install yourself. Organizations like Christmas in April provide assistance to fix homes that are in need of repair. Books from the library can teach you simple, cost-effective ways to increase the safety of your home.
Education. There is a reason you will find few immigrant children from third world countries working after-school jobs. Their parents know that the secret to a secure job and lifelong earning power is higher education so they will work two or three jobs just to make sure that their children can focus all of their effort on their high school and college education. Whether for yourself or your children, higher education is a must.
Your library or local college has many books on education funding from grants and scholarships to loans and work-study programs. If you are laid off or otherwise unemployed, look into job training projects through your local college or unemployment office. Be creative! I heard of one man who paid his daughter minimum wage to find college scholarships. She wanted to work in a fast food restaurant after school, but he made a deal that if she applied for two scholarships a week he would pay her for her time. Although there was some financial outlay at the beginning, the girl was able to find enough scholarships to pay her way through college, thus saving her parents tens of thousands of dollars.
Preventive medical and dental care. It is easy to put off small medical or dental problems until "later" in order to save money. Unfortunately, when "later" comes, the problem often has gotten so big that the expense in money, time, and quality of life is much greater than if the problem had been taken care of when it was small.
For low or no-cost medical and dental services, check with teaching hospitals or dental schools at colleges and universities in your area. There are also community health centers in many communities that offer care based on a sliding fee schedule depending on your income. Preventive health programs are offered through local hospitals, and drug companies often give big discounts on critical drugs if you contact their assistance programs directly.
Insurance. Insurance is like a seatbelt. You never know when you are going to need it, but in the split second when you do need it, it is invaluable. Health, automobile and life insurance can take a pretty big chunk out of your budget, but running the risk of canceling your insurance then having a major medical catastrophe, a serious automobile accident, or having the family wage earner die, can spell financial ruin.
To save money, consider driving a car that is cheaper to insure. Raise you deductible and then keep that amount in savings in case you need it. Look into COBRA laws, which will allow you to keep your insurance in affect if you are laid off. State welfare programs offer basic health plans; see if you and your family qualify. Consider term life insurance, which is cheaper than whole life. Also, see if you can get group insurance rates through any organization you are affiliated with such as AAA, AARP, small business associations, etc.
Preventive home/car/appliance maintenance. Like preventive health care, money spent on preventive maintenance for your home, car, appliances and clothes can save you big-time in the future. It's just common sense to fix the rattle under your hood as soon as you hear it instead of putting it off until your transmission drops off at 70 miles per hour on the freeway. Is the paint chipping off on your home? Repainting as soon as possible will save you the cost of repairing water and bug damage in the future.
Check out car repair training programs at the local college; you will save money on repairs and help a student gain valuable work skills. Trade services with your local mechanic, handyman or tinkerer; bartering is the low-cost way to get things done. Do-it-yourself books and videos are available at the library or home maintenance seminars on a variety of topics at your local hardware store can save you money while giving you life-long skills.
As you can see, spending money on the things that matter will not only improve your health and safety, but there are a myriad of ways in which to leave your finances more or less intact. It is quite possible to get the things you need without blowing your bankroll. In the next issue, you will find five more ways in which to spend your hard-earned money.
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