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Stretching your dollar in uncertain times

Spend as little as possible in times like now, when the economy is uncertain

As we enter yet another week of life at home, our hearts go out to those around the world who are suffering. In a sense, here in Bermuda, we are blessed to be so far removed from the outside world and yet isolation brings with it a unique set of challenges.Whether you have been laid off or are fortunate to still have some level of employment, now is the time to “go to the mattresses” and conserve resources like never before. I will leave the real financial planning advice to my colleagues, Martha Harris Myron and Bill Storie, and instead offer the following suggestions to help you make it through this difficult time: • Resist urges to “panic buy” and particularly avoid overbuying items that are not necessities in the short-term. Remember that paper goods attract insects and do not keep well for long periods of time in high humidity• Avoid buying packaged sweets, snacks and bottled beverages that are high in price and low in nutritional value• Learn how to make bread. You have the time and it is significantly cheaper, more nutritious and more satisfying than store-bought bread• If you have a baby, find out whether anyone in your family still has a set of cloth diapers. I know what you are thinking, but you can save a small fortune by using cloth instead of disposable diapers• Avoid turning on the lights unless you really need to. Keep the curtains open during the daytime and use a rechargeable LED camping lantern at night if you can• Unplug every light and electronic device that is not used regularly• Activate the “sleep” feature on your laptop so that it will shut itself down if you forget to do it• Turn off your electric stove at the circuit breaker whenever it is not in use• Avoid using the stove whenever you can. A microwave uses only a fraction of the amount of energy required by an oven to cook the same meal• Avoid using a toaster oven whenever you can; use a microwave• It takes half the time, and therefore less energy, to cook a meal in a slow cooker (crock pot) on the “high” setting than it does on the “low” setting• String up a clothesline outside your dwelling and avoid using the dryer as much as you can• Hang towels outside to dry after bathing, they will stay fresh twice as long between laundering• Be sure to wear all your clothes at least twice before laundering them• Attach a timer to the water heater so that it only comes on for a couple of hours each morning at the time of day that you need to shower and a couple of hours in the evening when you are cooking dinner — or, alternatively, turn off the water heater at the circuit breaker when not in use• If you have more than one water heater, turn one of them off and get everyone to shower in the same bathroom• Conserve water as if the island was having a severe drought and your water tank was nearly empty (this saves on both water and electricity because you will be running the pump less)• Only run the water in the shower long enough to get wet, and then turn it off and then leave it off until you are ready to rinse off the soap• Avoid leaving home unless you need supplies and then plan to do all your errands in one trip if you can. If you must go out, walking, bicycling or riding a motorbike uses less gas than driving the car• Find out if you can reduce your cable TV, mobile phone, or internet package• Consider giving up data on all but one of your digital devices• Review your credit card and bank statement for any recurring fees or memberships that can be suspended or cancelled• Before you buy anything really take the time to consider whether you can make do with something that you already have around the house• Put your credit cards in a ziplock bag in the back of the freezer and leave them there until your financial situation stabilises. There is no sense in charging things now that you have no idea how you will pay for laterIn addition to looking through this list, I suggest that everyone also consult the oldest member of their family regarding how things were done before the invention of all our modern fancy gadgets. And if you are doing all of these things and still finding it hard to make ends meet remember, for much of our history Bermudians have thrived by living by their wits. So hang in there, together we will get through this.Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at www.olderhoodgroup.com, 538-8937 or robin@olderhood.com