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Smart ways to save and still have fun!

Last updated on: December 3, 2010 15:14 IST

Smart ways to save and still have fun!

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Abitha Deepak, BankBazaar.com

Recession is an ugly word. And one of the fallouts of globalisation is the ripple effect that the state of one economy has on multiple others, whether they are directly or indirectly connected.

With the economy of the US currently in a tailspin, the effects are far-reaching, so it's especially wise, at this point, to take a good look at how you spend, and where your hard-earned money is going.

We will discuss here how to tighten your belt, in a number of small-yet-effective ways, so that you can maintain your lifestyle, discover new and better habits, as well as save along the way.

Where do you actually spend your money?

Typically, if you are an earning member of the family, and assuming that basics have been taken care of, then your outlay will range over expenses to do with food, entertainment, and shopping.

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Smart ways to save and still have fun!

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Eating Out

Eating out - whether an outcome of necessity, laziness, a sense of adventure or habit - has become a trend that has resulted in a booming restaurant industry.

When you eat out, you expect high standards in terms of quality, ambience and service. So how best do you continue to eat out in these difficult times, and make the most of it?

Try eating out at lunch instead of dinner. There are some great deals and great value to be had at lunch time set menus and buffets.

Ask your friends and relatives if they've eaten anywhere good recently. The best bargains are usually discovered by word of mouth.

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Enjoy a drink at home before you head out to the restaurant. This is a good option if you want to cut your bill by half. Or, you could get there in time for Happy Hours, which most restaurants offer these days.

Cash in your vouchers. Many places offer deals on meals scope local magazines for the latest on what's hot, when.

Eat out in a group. At first glance, this may seem a little underhanded, but think of the great company, and the amount you will save when the bill arrives.

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Avoid the weekends. This is when there's an entrance and/or cover charge if the restaurant has a bar attached, or is newly opened. And the service is also likely to suffer when things get hectic.

Don't delete those irritating text messages. Many restaurants offer discounts to prospective customers via SMS. Read your message carefully before discarding it.

Order an appetizer as a main, or split a main course with a friend. Ditch dessert.

Skip the fancy places and check out the neighbourhood dhaba. You will be surprised at the quality and quantity, as well as how reasonable the food is.

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Photographs: Uttam Ghosh
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Consider leftovers. Be sure to ask for a doggy bag for anything you can't finish. Leftover restaurant meals make great lunches for the following day.

Fill up on the extras. Snacking on the complimentary peanut masala or bread sticks means more of your meal will go home with you.

And to complete the experience, drop by earlier to identify the best table, reserve in advance and don't forget to tip well, so they remember you the next time. Or you could just forget dining out and order in!

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Entertainment

The recession is the right time to get creative with your entertainment options.

Splurging at a night club or multiplex may not be the best thing to do right now, so let's consider the alternatives.

Check your paper and local magazines for events in the city. You will be surprised at the number of cultural, literary and spiritual happenings that occur on a weekly basis, and a lot of them for free, or a fraction of the price of your movie ticket.

Indulge in a hobby. Not only will you learn something new, or revive a past craft, but you will also derive satisfaction from it and meet new people at the same time.

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Rediscover your city. Whether it's the local park or library, or a visit to a museum or an architectural site, revisit places you'd taken for granted until now.

If you can, catch a movie on a weekday. Ticket prices are much cheaper for morning shows, Monday to Thursday.

Entertain at home. But be smart about it. Suggest a pot-luck and BYOB, throw in a good movie and you have the makings of an excellent evening with friends.

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Shopping

Whether it's to indulge your retail therapy fix, or the weekly list of grocery essentials, shopping is something you just can't get away from, and therefore all the more important to guard against, especially if you're looking to save.

Go generic. Don't always opt for branded products. There are savings to be had when you choose the in house store brand, to a national one.

Buy in bulk. This saves you money if you shop smart and buy those items that have a longer shelf life, such as soaps, shampoos and cleaning agents. Find someone to share it with you, and you actually divide up the cost.

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Don't shop when you're hungry. This could lead to unnecessary expenditure. Better yet, reinforce your shopping expedition with a list, to restrict your purchasing to exactly what you need.

Avoid the ready-to-eat trap. Not only are they the most expensive items in the shop, but they also might not be healthy for you.

Don't shop with the family. If you have young children, all those extra goodies will add to your bill without your even realising it.

Try discount and seconds shops, and the factory outlets. Many of these stores are filled with hundreds of top quality items.

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When shopping for clothes mix and match. Buying separates means you get more out of your wardrobe, and getting a suit is that much more expensive.

Buy wash-and-wear. Dry cleaning is expensive and not eco-friendly because they use petroleum as a cleaning agent.

Shop at My Dollar Stores where everything is Rs 99. Just remember to check the expiry date on the product, and compare prices with those outside.

For example, a bottle of Tabasco is about Rs 150 outside, which makes this a good saving. However, a box of pasta that costs Rs 65 outside is obviously not a good option.

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Shop online for bargains. You save on the cost of the product, as well as on petrol, by shopping through the Internet.

Steer clear of the bait-and-switch. During sales, many shops lure customers with huge discounts on the cheaper, lower quality items that no one wants, and lead you to spend full price on items that aren't actually on sale.

So there really are many ways in which you can save. You just need to do a little homework, and think smart!

 



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