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On my way home from work last week Friday, I stopped at the IGA (Whitchurch) supermarket to pick up some grocery and I couldn’t believe how packed the place was. It made me question if there really was a recession going on in the Caribbean.

Now, you can say everyone needs to eat but even among luxury stuff, I still see a lot of consumption happening. For example, people are still buying items like huge flat screen TV’s on hire-purchase, and Japanese re-condition vehicles are coming in by the boat loads.

All the economic reports indicate that we are spending a lot less because of the recession. But I want to know, are YOU spending less? I asked the same question to many middle income workers and the answers were enlightening to say the least.

As for me, I’ve reduced my spending just a little. If anything I will be increasing it. However, how I’m spending has changed considerably. Because the recession creates an open window of opportunities, the majority of my spending this year will be going to towards long-term investments. As Warren Buffet said, “Be fearful when everyone else is greedy and greedy when everyone else is fearful.” It’s time to get greedy! With home prices dropping slowly, I figure this would be a good opportunity to buy a home or add more real estate portfolio.

Back to the question at hand – Has the recession reduced your spending? Tell us in the comments below.

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The best place to invest your money is in yourself. I know a few people might not agree with me; but rate of return from investing in your own knowledge and skills will be much higher that anything you’ll see from real estate, stocks or other investments.

In some instances you can even measure the rate of return. For example you buy a book. Even add-in the cost of your average hourly rate multiplied by the time it took to read it. Many books will be lousy. But every now and then you’ll get one good idea that gives you a huge rate of return on your initial investment. Like 5x the cost in a matter of weeks. This is especially true with business on a whole. But often it isn’t an original idea but rather the continuous exposure to the same ideas presented in different ways that produces a steady return on investment over time. If investing in your own knowledge finally gives you the idea you need to quit drinking, you can measure the lifetime financial savings in the cost of alcohol. The question is – what is the increased level of health worth to you? What is the idea that allows you to meet and connect with your future worth?

A trick I learned is to invest 3% of your income on your own personal development. So if you earn $2500 per month, you’d invest just $75 per month on your own personal development. That mean very month you can invest in a self-help or personal development book; in Dominica these books are usually around $60-70 each. Or can use that $75 towards an afternoon class or a one day seminar on topic that you’re interested in or need development in. Most afternoon classes I’m familiar with are around $40-50 per month.

You don’t have to like me and spend that exact percentage every month. It’s fine to under-spend one month and overspend another. But aim for about 3% for the year on average. If that amount makes you uncomfortable, start with 1% the first month and build up gradually. Or just start with a fixed amount like $35 until you get the hang of it.

You can use this budget to invest in improving yourself any way you like. So that includes not just knowledge, but also equipment and services — anything that helps you grow and improve. For example, I used this budget towards going back to the gym; and that helped me remember how good I felt about myself when I was going to the gym on a regular basis. Once you beginning feel good about yourself, at feeling shines on other aspects of your life.

It’s a pretty easy habit to develop too. Just write on your calendar on the 1st of each month: “Invest 3% in myself.” Then when that date comes up, figure out how much money you made the previous month, and then decide how you’ll spend it. If you can, spend it right away — easy when you order online. Remember that this is an investment; the money you spend here will be repaid in the long run based on how you invest it.

Give it a try – Happy spending! 😆

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