A trip to Michael's Fresh Market in Aurora doesn't happen without a list for Maria Tiongco Ramos. As her family grew to six, she honed her skills as a savvy shopper.
"It does take a shift in mindset when you're used to going into a store and buying whatever it is that you want," said Ramos.
Ramos is now contestant for 2010 Deal Pro of the Year, a contest with Savings.com. Part of her smart shopping means buying bulk, things that they will truly need, buying off season and paying for car maintenance is money well spent.
"Trying to maintain it better so we don't have to necessarily get a new one," said Ramos.
Julie Murphy Casserly is a certified financial planner and author. She says an easy way to make smart decisions about discretionary spending is using cash.
"I very rarely find somebody who paid cash for something and had a non-smart spending," said Casserly.
Casserly says what's smart is to decide what to buy before you get to the store.
"The question is do you really truly value it. So I think smart spending is, is it a real true value," said Casserly.
In the Pilsen neighborhood, the Kennedys started evaluated priorities when Sherry was furloughed from her airlines job and Mat's business slowed down. The family cut costs by home schooling their sons, selling a second car and growing some of their own produce. Any purchase now needs to have long term value - like Sherry's hair trimmers.
"I've been doing that for years that's a great way to save money buy yourself a pair of buzzers and cut the kids' hair," said Sherry Kennedy.
Mat bought and installed $300 worth of insulation for their attic.
"A couple of days of my life being itchy and uncomfortable is a lot more comfortable being able to afford to heat the house," said Mat.
What helped the Kennedys was doing a budget with the help of author Matt Bell.
"It's very helpful now they know where the money's going because now they have the tools and ability to put the money someplace more productive," said Bell.
Bell says not so smart purchases include those that add to debt, items that can be bought less expensively another time on sale or a different time of year
Smart spending is expenditures to save money in the future - like making a home more efficient -and spending that goes toward financial goals - like retirement or a family trip.
"Its about saying something else that really matters to me like being able to send my kids to college or like taking that great vacation...now it makes the day to day behavior a lot more palatable," said Bell.
Bell says involving the household in the family's financial goals can not only help reach those goals more quickly, but can be a life lesson about fiscal responsibility for the next generation.
Experts suggest tracking your expenses. They say understanding your budget is freeing, although it's a chore initially. Then discuss your financial hopes and decide what's most important.
Julie Murphy Casserly
Certified Financial Planner & Author
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