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family debt management

9-5 Cost-Cutting for Family-Style Debt Management

In the event of economic downturn, your immediate concerns might be bills or debts: rent or mortgage payments, electricity, gas, student loans, food, and water. In previous articles, we discussed how those individuals and families on a budget or debt management plans can stretch their incomes – or even enter emergency debt mode, or declare bankruptcy if need be.

However, you still have other expenses to combat as you put together a debt management plan or discuss your financial situation with your credit counselor. You might be surprised to learn that most of these expenditures are unnecessary and that most have cheaper alternatives that are just as good. “That’s ridiculous,” you might think. “I need daycare for my daughter – I work a high-pressure healthcare job in Pittsburgh, PA six days a week.”

Or maybe your objection is something like, “I need a professional hair cut and manicure – I work in a high-profile, Brooklyn, New York bank!” However, you can change your thinking from a carefree spending mindset to a thrifty, pro- debt management plan, pro- healthy credit score, anti- bankruptcy mindset by exploring the tips and tricks outlined below. Some people like them so well that they’ve made a point to include them in their own debt management plans!

Daycare or childcare

Like many families, you might be a member of a two-working-parents household. There is literally no one available to watch the children between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. What’s a concerned parent supposed to do? After all, you don’t want to trust your children with just anyone!

There are great reasons to forgo daycare. Cost is the most obvious one. BabyCenter online states that day care costs can reach $15,000 per year. Worse, many daycare workers are underpaid themselves. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average income of non-supervisory day care workers is not much more than 10 dollars per hour. Overworked, stressed, underpaid daycare center attendees are not likely to provide your child with the care he or she needs. And, with the number of kiddie colds and permutations of rotavirus going around, daycares are germ factories, to boot!

If your child is over the age of five, check with your child’s community and school to see if low-cost programs are available. Many elementary schools offer after-school sessions for children with parents who work. Because the children are surrounded by teachers who are more likely to be invested in their learning than a day-care center would, the quality of an after-school program can be quite good.

Younger children might benefit from a church- or community-center-sponsored day care program. In one northern suburb of Pittsburgh, PA, for example, the local Presbyterian church offers daycare for children who live in that community at virtually no cost, accepting children up to kindergarten age.

Children of all ages will benefit from a neighbor or relative helping out with daycare costs. Perhaps you have a neighbor who is a stay-at-home mom, or one who works nights and needs extra cash during the day. That person might just be a great resource for childcare services. Make sure your neighbor is a trustworthy person and well versed in childcare before proceeding, of course. Grandmas and grandpas love to watch the grandkids, too: Providing your senior parents are mentally and physically fit, they might make some of the best childcare providers your children will ever see.

There are yet other options, as well: If you and your spouse work later in the day, a teenager in the community is a great bet for childcare. Teenagers enjoy babysitting to earn spending cash for clothing, snacks, and that ever-coveted set of first wheels, and they usually don’t ask for a lot of money. Make sure to request references if you select a teen to watch your child.

You can also ask your employer for a daycare benefits program or work-share or distance-working option. As technology continues to advance, and as more and more employers begin to view “work perks” as a sound solution to retaining workers, these options are becoming increasingly available.

Parent care

Your job might require you to be immaculately groomed, or wear expensive business clothing, and you might find yourself amassing huge salon and dry-cleaning bills as a result. Isn’t it funny: You’re going to work, ostensibly to avoid credit card debt or bankruptcy, and somehow, the bills you amass to get you there are contributing to a poor credit score. Fortunately, there are ways to cut back without looking like Oliver Twist when you’re presenting at a company meeting. See if you can fit some of them into your debt management plan:

First things first: There are some clothes that absolutely, positively cannot be washed at home. Suit clothes and silk blouses are two examples of such clothing. You can, however, strategically space out time between cleanings. Ehow.com recommends spot cleaning for items that are clean enough all over, save for a stain or two. Seltzer or clear soda is a great way to remove stains from dark blazers and suit jackets, including dust, dirt, and deodorant smears. This site also recommends investing in Dryel dry-cleaning bags, which can typically be purchased at your local big-box store. You can fit several articles of dry-clean only clothing into Dry bags with the special dry cleaning sheets. You toss the bags in the dryer for a bit, and wham, clean clothes at a fraction of the dry cleaners’ cost.

Some items can be washed at home, allowing you to forgo the dry cleaners altogether. These might include cotton-polyester items, non-silk dress shirts, and the like. You should always wash these items on the Delicate or Knits setting of your washer, in the coldest water. Use less detergent than you would for your jeans or towel loads to avoid wear and color fading.

When the load is done, divide it up. Items like cotton dress shirts can be placed in the dryer on the lowest setting for about a half-hour. The, you can press them by running an iron heated on low over them. Other items, such as skirts, can be placed on shaped wooden hangers, and pressed into place by hand. Allow them to air dry, and then, gently run an iron set to “low” on them. Always iron polyester or polyester-blend items on the reverse side to avoid scorch marks.

Hair and nail care can be tricky. Most of our readers probably do not know how to cut or color their own hair, and disastrous results might require you to shell out even more money than you would have, had you hired a professional to help you in the first place.

The good news: If you’re simply covering gray hairs, there exist a wide variety of hair colors on the market that get the job done nicely, and on the cheap. The Just For Men line offers colors in every shade, and a 5-10 minute dye job can take years off of your hair. Nice N’ Easy hair dye works to cover up grays on men and women. Caveat: If your hair is longer than shoulder-length, you might need to buy two boxes.

(Note: Hair color changes more than a shade lighter or darker than your natural color, or an attempt to cover up hair that is more than 50 percent gray should not be attempted at home, according to one popular Manhattan, New York salon.)

To save money on cuts, eschew the chi-chi salons in favor of Supercuts or another low-cost chain. You can also hire someone you know – say, a friend or relative – who is skilled at hairdressing to cut your hair. You may need only barter a favor as payment. The local beauty academy is yet another option. For example, a beauty school in Monroeville, PA, offers low-cost haircuts and coloring sessions because the beauty school students who are approaching graduation do the work.

As for manicures, they are an expense that should be cut out of your debt management plan completely. You or a friend or relative can trim cuticles (sterilized scissors only, please), file nails into shape, and apply two coats of color and a top coat. If you get polish on the skin around your nails, it will come off the next time you wash them. Consider the savings: two bottles of Revlon ColorStay nail polish (that’s the expensive kind), a file, and a manicure scissors purchased at Duane Reade in Queens, NY will run you about $14. Even if you use each item for only 20 manicures, your manicures wind up costing 70 cents each!

Have fun incorporating these tips into your debt management plan – talk it over with an experienced credit counselor. Loosening the reins on worry over credit scores, bankruptcy, or debt management will enable you to think about your job and your kids, instead of fretting over dollars and details.

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