Here are some money-saving tips from readers offered in 2010 that are worth considering for 2011:
Rules of thumb: Finance can be hard. Rules of thumb are easy. So financial rules of thumb are useful. A rapid-fire sampling: Your mortgage, including taxes and insurance, should not exceed 29 per
cent of your gross monthly income. All vehicle payments should not exceed 15 percent of your take-home pay. If an auto repair costs less than half of the vehicle’s trade-in value, repair it. Otherwise, consider selling it and buying another. Spend no more than 1.5 percent of your gross income on the holidays, including gifts and travel. Save 10 percent of your take-home pay. For kids’ allowance, give $1 weekly per grade in school. A fourth-grader gets $4. For life insurance, buy a policy worth 6 to 10 times your gross annual income. With mutual funds, be wary of funds with an expense ratio of more than 1 percent. Don’t borrow more money for college than you’ll make in your first year working after graduation. In a choice between spending on things or experiences with other people, choose the latter. Research shows it makes us happier.
Spending hiatus: Nothing brilliant about suggesting a four-week spending detox, but the idea resonated with readers. The concept is to cut all discretionary spending for one month, as tight a lockdown on your wallet as you can afford to do — no dining out, no paid entertainment, no new clothes. Whenever you skip a purchase and feel deprived, write it down. At the end of four weeks, examine the list. You might be surprised at how the burning desire for those things has been extinguished. The value of the exercise is not the money you save, but the lessons you learn about your spending habits and what’s truly important to you.
Time shares: Just the mention of “time shares” always draws notes from readers pleading for suggestions on how to get out of their time-share vacation commitments. It’s difficult. They will be lucky to sell them for pennies on the dollar. But for just that reason, it’s a fabulous idea to rent a time share from those same people desperate to be compensated for time shares they no longer use and can’t sell. You can end up with accommodations that are bigger, more luxurious and cheaper than a hotel room. Browse listings at such sites as MyResortNetwork.com, The Timeshare User’s Group (tug2.com) and RedWeek.com. You can also find time-share rentals at Expedia and Travelocity, as well as Craigslist.com and eBay.
Consumer myths: A sampling of some common consumer myths: Rinsing your dishes before placing them in the dishwasher gets them cleaner. False. In fact, the detergent doesn’t have any grease or grime to stick to, so detergents attack dishes, making them appear cloudy, scratched or etched, according to the Whirlpool Institute of Kitchen Science. And it’s a myth that ceiling fans help cool a room. Ceiling fans don’t cool the air; they create a wind chill that keeps skin cool. They cool humans, not air. So don’t bother using a fan in an empty room. And don’t bother storing alkaline batteries in the refrigerator or freezer to prolong their life. Humidity from cold-temperature storage can harm batteries.