While I keep hearing that we're in a "recovery", I'm finding it harder and harder to believe that this is the case. According to CNBC, "The Commerce Department said on Friday consumer spending ticked up 0.1 percent as outlays on services were flat and purchases of durable goods such as automobiles fell. Spending was also held back by weak incomes."
Other than our vacation, much of our consumer spending this summer was forced. We weren't out blowing money on frivolity. Rather, we were trying to save it. But we found that while we did spend in certain areas, much of it wasn't by choice, but rather by need, correlating with the weak consumer purchases in July.
I'll admit, we just don't have much faith in the economy right now. Sure, it seems like many of the economists and analysts are saying there is weak or even mild growth, but we're just not seeing it. Therefore, we're hunkering down and trying to make only purchases when we have to rather than when we'd like to. Yes, we'd like a new car, but instead we're fixing our old one. Yes, it'd be nice to get a new laptop or even a tablet, but I'm making due with my aging laptop from five years ago.
And our big splurge for the summer was a new over-the-oven microwave for $140 (including tax) that we found on sale at Best Buy but that we only bought because our old model died.
When it came to service spending, which the Commerce Department said only ticked up 0.1 percent -- besides an oil change for the clunker-mobile -- we had to pay the final hospital bill ($1,150) from the birth of our second child. Otherwise, service costs were pretty much nil for our family this summer.
Instead, we're taking on as much of the service side of things as we can ourselves. From childcare to home repairs, we're tackling a variety of services, and in the process, saving ourselves some decent money. For example, we recently removed a kitchen full of wallpaper. Didn't know how and we'd never done it before, but a few minutes spent reading up online had us looking like pros within a day. This is where the Internet can really earn it's keep in helping us cut costs and reduce spending on services that we can handle ourselves.
Back to school
We don't have much of an option anymore when it comes to back-to-school costs. We're given a list of supplies and told to have them with our child on the first day of school. This year though, we stuck to the bare minimum required and only spent about $25 on the supply list items. Any back-to-school clothing needs were picked up at the local resale shop, minus a pair of new shoes we purchased at Walmart for under $10.
Add to this another $260 in school-related fees (PTA, book, calculator, and lunch supervision fees), and our back-to-school spending topped out at about $300, almost all of which was forced rather than chosen.
Sticking to the game plan when out for summer shopping can keep those impulse buys to a minimum. Also, starting out at resale stores or the area Goodwill Store could provide a variety of back-to-school needs for pennies on the dollar before venturing out to those pricier retailers.
So while in some ways we were pushed to make certain purchases, by sticking to our guns, practicing a little delayed-gratification, and shopping resale before retail, we were able to keep overall costs down and minimize the impact of forced costs upon our personal finances.
More From This Contributor:
The author is not a licensed financial professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.
- Personal Finance - Career & Education
- Commerce Department