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Monday, April 26, 2004

Saving Money
by April Borbon
Lessons from new immigrants

After working for many years with refugees and new immigrants
to our country, I have found that there are numerous
interesting and creative ways to save, stretch and carefully
spend money.

- Repair things that break instead of throwing them out. One
young woman brought me two pieces of vacuum cleaner belt that
had broke and asked how she could sew them back together.
Needless to say, I was speechless, but that did reinforce the
idea that people from poor countries rarely throw something
away if there is any possibility of life left in it. Take a
second look at the things you throw away to see if there are
any ways you can repair them.

- Shop often for food. In countries where electricity,
refrigeration and bulk shopping are unavailable or unknown,
people shop daily for their food and buy just the amount they
need. We've all found mystery meat tucked away in the back of
the refrigerator or had a bin of forgotten vegetables turn
green and fuzzy on us; that's a waste of money. Shopping
frequently and eating everything while it is fresh is not only
good for your health, but it is also good for your wallet.

- Mom stays home with the kids. That idea may fly in the face
of women's lib, but it makes a whole lot of sense. Not only do
families save an arm and a leg on babysitting fees, but mom
also acts as cook, maid, gardener, laundry, nurse, driver and
teacher. All of which are things the average American family
pays for because no one is at home to perform these services.

- Families work together. If mom must work, grandma baby
sits. If Uncle's car breaks down, everyone in the neighborhood
pitches in to get it working again. If the prom is coming up,
all of the young women in the extended family pitch in to
find, alter or make a dress for the attendee.

- Share information. The (name your country) grapevine works
better than ATT. Any time someone learns of a great deal,
whether it be a farmer selling cows for a really great price
or a government program that will pay your phone bill if your
income is low enough, the news spreads like wildfire through
the community. Everyone passes the word along and everyone is
able to benefit.

- Education is a top priority. Most refugees and immigrants
head for school as soon as they hit our shores. Whether it is
a class to learn our language, college, or trade school,
people from poor countries know that education is the
difference between poverty and a lifetime of earning success.

- Start a side business. Capitalism is alive and well in the
refugee and immigrant populations of our country. An elderly
lady I know makes traditional desserts from her country and
sells them to members of her community. Everyone loves the
desserts, and the lady gets to earn some extra money. Two
sisters went to nail school, started doing manicures out of
their house, and now own seven nail spas. A man I know sells
phone cards in addition to his regular job; he found a need
(people always need to call "back home") and filled it.

- Save money. Often called "mattress money" because people
from many third world countries don't trust banks. Saving
money for a rainy day is not

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