Some new reports say segments of the economy are springing back. Others aren’t so positive.
Depending where you read:
• Consumer attitudes are better than they’ve been in the past five years.
• Fewer people say that jobs are hard to get.
• Home prices are going up because there are more people trying to buy.
• People are now feeling the results of the increased payroll tax and the bigger bite out of paychecks, and retail sales have fallen.
• Consumer confidence is falling.
• More people expect the unemployment rate to stay high.
How are things at your house? If things are better for you, that’s great, but don’t let down your guard. Take our collective experiences of the past few years, and don’t make assumptions that the economy is going to continue to get better, if indeed it is.
Here are some suggestions:
• Watch the small expenditures, because they add up. If you’ve gone back to buying morning coffee out, calculate what you spend in a year. Use the public library instead of buying books on Amazon. Decide whether you need all those cable channels. Put a filter on your faucet instead of buying bottled water.
• Pay down your credit cards. Once one is paid off, either put that money on another payment or put it in savings every month. After your cards are paid off, save, save, save every dollar you can. Don’t cancel the cards, however, because that will lower your credit score.
• Don’t make credit-card purchases unless you know you can pay off the balance in three months. Consider whether you can instead save the money in three months and pay cash instead.
• Consider whether service work on your vehicle will keep it running a bit longer, instead of buying a new one.
• Review your tax deductions to make sure you don’t get a big refund at the end of the year. Getting a refund means you’ve given an interest-free loan to the government.
Do you hear a note of caution in all this? No matter what “consumer confidence” poll you read, you can find one that says the opposite.
Yes, it might give the economy as a whole a boost if millions of people run out and spend, spend, spend. But you’re not responsible for the economy. You’re only responsible for your home and family.
And being cautious about spending still is the way to go.
Uffington does not personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.