It’s Your Money Column – Sharpskates

I know it seems wacky, but change often brings out the best in us – and for those who have lost a job, the change is big. When times are good and money is plentiful, it is easy to lose track of opportunities to get more from our paychecks. When money is tight, we are challenged to become more resourceful.

The Bankrate Web site ( quotes Mary Hunt, founding editor of Hunt says that "there are many ways to cut corners and pinch pennies and not be destined to live a reduced-price life. Being cheap is a state of mind and a great way to turn your economics around without denying yourself the simple pleasures of living. Hey, it’s even cool.

"A cheapskate has a balanced, honest and dignified approach to money management. It’s someone who doesn’t spend more than they earn or let money and material possessions rule their thoughts and desires. A cheapskate does not buy on impulse. Penny-pinchers use products and services resourcefully. This can range from timing a shower to having leftovers for lunch to washing and reusing disposable plastic bags."

Maybe we should actually rename this resourceful behavior as "sharpskate" tactics.

For the next few columns, I’m going to share consumer tips that anyone can use to spend less money. Please let me know what you do so I can share with others.

Here are a number of excellent suggestions from a co-worker to help sharpen our consumer skills.

  • Find out about programs in your state, town or county for grants to cover heating bills or for low-cost weatherization loans for energy improvements such as storm windows, window replacement, energy loss analysis and water heater replacement.
  • Use budget billing for gas and electricity bills to distribute costs evenly and to make monthly budgeting easier.
  • If you know you need to buy something, wait until the month the item usually goes on sale. Clerks often will tell you when merchandise will be on sale. If you know a competitor’s price is lower, ask if the store can beat it or match it.
  • Major chains may consolidate most of their discount items and sell them at one store. Ask where most of their sale items are sold.