Iowa State University
INDEX A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

07-16-08

Contacts:

Tahira Hira, Human Development and Family Studies, (515) 294-2042, tkhira@iastate.edu

Mike Ferlazzo, News Service, (515) 294-8986, ferlazzo@iastate.edu

Iowa State's Hira offers money saving survival tips in a tight economy

AMES, Iowa -- A weak economy and a tight job market is a killer combination for anyone who has to scrape by on a shoestring budget. And record prices at the pump and in the grocery store aren't helping.

Tahira Hira understands their situation. A professor of personal finance and consumer economics in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University, Hira says there are some practical steps everyone can take to learn how to survive through tough economic times a little while longer -- and they don't involve eating Ramen Noodles for every meal.

She says the best way to save money is to first have a good understanding of where it is being spent.

"Do not take any drastic steps, but take time to first review your current spending habits to find areas where expenses can be reduced or eliminated," said Hira, who serves on President Bush's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. "Impulse buying is the main source of discretionary spending and can be reduced to enhance the financial situation if we are purposeful and thoughtful in handling our money."

To get a handle on reducing impulse buying, Hira recommends that for four weeks, record everything you spend money on daily -- cash, check and credit card. Then review your records at the end of every week.

"When you review this record weekly you will start to see your money profile and will notice what you are actually doing is somewhat different than what you thought you were doing," Hira said. "You will be able to see clearly the areas where you can make an adjustment or eliminate spending entirely as you develop a plan that will fit your resources and serve your needs better."

She offered the following general money management principles:

  • Have a spending plan. "It could be as simple as 'spend less than what you earn,'" she said.
  • Get rid of most credit cards. "Keep one or two," she said. "Research has shown there is a strong relationship between the number of cards one has and the amount of debt."
  • Charge only what you have money to pay for.
  • Always pay credit card balances in full.
  • When you need to borrow money (for large expenses such as home, car, education, etc.), figure out how much you need and the best way and place to do it. "Comparison shop," she said. "And remember that just because money is available to you, it does not mean you should borrow all you can."
  • Take full responsibility for your financial decisions. "Don't let others tell you what you should be doing, or spending," she said.

Hira notes that reducing spending by just $5 a day can save $150 a month -- or $1,825 a year.

She says almost everyone can find at least $5 daily by altering buying habits on these items:

  • Snacks, candy, soda. "Buy them in bulk and bring them from home," said Hira.
  • Coffee, latte, fast food/cafeteria lunch, drinks. "Once again, you can bring these items from home, or reduce the number of days you buy this stuff," she said. "Pack your own lunch. This adds up fast."
  • Movie tickets. "Rent movies, or borrow them from the library," Hira said.
  • Pizza/take out, restaurant dinners.
  • Magazines. "Reduce the number you subscribe to, or use the library to read them," she said.

"Do you think you can save $200 a month? In one year, you can save about $2,500 -- in five years it will be $12,782," she said.

Hira offered these ideas on more big money savings:

  • Save $100 a year on gas by keeping your car tuned and tires inflated at their proper pressure. "Driving under the speed limit can also save them money in terms of gas mileage, which adds up quickly with today's prices," she said.
  • Save $100 by enrolling in a "load management" plan for your electricity.
  • Save $40 to $50 by dropping some options you may have on your phone, caller ID, call waiting, etc.
  • Save $500/year by having a $500 deductible on auto collision insurance. "If the car is old -- eight years or more -- drop collision insurance altogether," Hira said.
  • Save $100/year by switching to no-fee checking or an ATM account.
  • Save hundreds of dollars in interest and fees by paying your credit card bill in full.
  • Save hundreds by avoiding late payment fees on your bills.

"A major way to save money is to learn what it costs to borrow -- the total amount, source, interest rate, and time period," she said. "All of these factors play an important role in what your cost will be."

-30-

Click on picture below for print quality version.

Tahira Hira

Tahira Hira

Quick look

Tahira Hira, a professor of personal finance and consumer economics in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at ISU, says there are some practical steps everyone can take to learn how to survive through tough economic times a little while longer. She says the best way to save money is to first have a good understanding of where it is being spent.

Quote

"Do not take any drastic steps, but take time to first review your current spending habits to find areas where expenses can be reduced or eliminated. Impulse buying is the main source of discretionary spending and can be reduced to enhance the financial situation if we are purposeful and thoughtful in handling our money."

Tahira Hira