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One-size-fits-all tips that don't really fit everyone

If you're responsible with your money, there's no reason to give up credit cards or the occasional latte.

By Karen Datko Feb 2, 2011 11:30AM

This post comes from Linsey Knerl at partner blog Wise Bread.


It's a new year, and you're prepared for the onslaught of financial tips aimed at helping you turn over a new leaf, stick to a resolution, and help your finances enter a period of recovery. But what if you're doing OK? Is the advice necessary, relevant, or even useful?

The five tips below seem to be popping up EVERYWHERE, but before you drop your current successful personal-finance habits in lieu of these common suggestions, make sure they will meet your personal budget needs.


Common tip No. 1: Shred those credit cards.

This is one that is really starting to bug me. I know that for those with spending problems or who can't pay off their debts in a responsible way, a credit card is the ultimate in temptation. (I've been there. I understand.) For those who have managed to keep their credit cards as a part of a healthy financial plan, however, there is no need to slice and dice your plastic.

Small-business owners and the self-employed especially will find the liquidity of a line of credit not only necessary at times, but it can actually be profitable. By putting my groceries, gas and small-business costs on my credit cards, I earn enough points each month to easily keep my printer ink and Post-it notes fully stocked. (And I never pay interest.)


Common tip No. 2: Shop less.

Impulse buys can kill a budget, so it makes sense that the more shopping trips you make, the more likely you are to spend unnecessarily. Add in the cost of fuel for your vehicle (and time away from home and family) and multiple shopping trips a week can be a bad idea. But they can also be an awesome way to realize some personal-finance dreams.


My family is hoping to store up three months of nonperishables as part of an emergency planning goal, and this can only be done by faithfully hitting our local stores to purchase their loss leaders each and every time they offer them. With limits set for the 99-cent bags of flour and 25-cent canned veggies, it's necessary to visit the store at least once a week in order to be sure that our family of seven has enough for the next power outage, pandemic flu, tornado, or period of ridiculous inflation. Post continues after video.

If we stay on target, buying only what we came for, it can work in our favor, and by combining trips with outings we already have scheduled, we aren't spending more than a few pennies for the extra fuel to drive around the parking lot.


Common tip No. 3: Skip the latte.

I will never follow the "latte factor" -- not in a million years. This mom of five rarely indulges in anything. (In fact, I've never even had a manicure.) With my simple lifestyle that includes a single pair of designer shoes and less than two dinners out per year, you can't possibly deny me the right to make my own Starbucks lattes at home (via my Tassimo brewer) or to drive through the Scooter's Java lane on my way home from grocery shopping. We all have our little indulgences, and as long as my bills are paid, I'll continue to drink my coffee.


Common tip No. 4: Cut the land line.

This is another cliché money-saving tip that drives me to insanity. Living 10 miles from the nearest anything leaves me feeling a bit vulnerable out in the middle of rural Nebraska. My cell phone works sometimes, and my Internet works less often. By asking me to cut my land line, you're suggesting that I'm OK with having my access to an ambulance or police officer limited by the weather or my Internet provider's whims. At $19 a month for a line, it's well worth the cost to keep it (and possibly save someone's life, if needed).


Common tip No. 5: Take a staycation.

It think it's great that some people have found a way to enjoy their summer or winter break in the comfort and privacy of their own homes, without the cost of travel and with their loved ones surrounding them. When it comes to my vacation, however, I'm getting the heck out of town.


I work from home with my husband and homeschool my five kids. There is no way I am going to fool myself into thinking that camping in the backyard or playing board games is the same as going somewhere warm and letting the kids swim while I sit down for longer than 10 minutes. I know that I'll pay a premium for this privilege, but I feel like it's worth it. For less than $1,500, I can rent a van, drive across the country, and stay in a nice family hotel with an indoor water park and buffet meals. I'm definitely budgeting this in!


I love that people are individuals, uniquely made to have their own gifts, passions and personalities. I think our personal-finance choices will (and should) reflect that.


We've covered some of the pet-peevey financial advice that you're tired of hearing. Do you have any others?


More from Wise Bread and MSN Money:

Feb 9, 2011 5:08PM
Good article!  Savings in some area makes it possible to splurge on what we really want.  I will go to great lengths to reuse aluminum foil, shop for loss leaders, use it up/wear it out, etc, but  once in awhile I do splurge (shoes? specialty food item? something for the kids?) and it's OK because I make it up with frugal-ness in the other places.  It's really just priorities-if you don't waste money on the things that don't matter to you, then you will have money for the things that do matter to you.
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