Dear prudence

Got clutter? Maybe those possessions are telling you something …

It doesn’t take the proverbial rocket scientist to figure out that if money is tight, you need to find ways to spend less. The trick is determining what you really need and what you just think you need. Part of the cause of the current financial meltdown has been excess—can you say “corporate bonus” and “I’ll just charge it”?—so let’s look at some ways individuals can downsize (in a good way).

• Get rid of that rented storage space—and everything in it. Do you really need all that stuff that you probably haven’t seen for months, if not years? You’ll save about $360 per year on rental fees, at a minimum. While you’re at it, have a yard sale and sell the contents.

• Go down to one phone, instead of having a land line and a cell phone.

• Scale back your cable or satellite TV subscription, or cancel it altogether if you’re not getting much use out of it. (Alternative: walk or bike to a friend’s house for entertainment.)

• Don’t eat out as often. Cooking at home is much cheaper, and can be a lot more fun.

• Buy used—books, clothing, tires, furniture, cars, etc. (For instance, buy a used cookbook to learn how to cook for yourself.)

• Buy in bulk.

• Clip coupons.

• Check out the dollar stores for things like envelopes, wrapping paper, packing tape, toilet cleaner, dog toys, greeting cards and toothpaste—perfectly good quality for much cheaper.

• Save energy: Turn off lights when not in use. Don’t turn on that A/C this summer. Make one trip to do errands instead of three or four. Ride a bike. Walk.