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Vera Wang will save me money

I opened my mail and saw the Kohls 15% off coupon at the bottom of the stack. That’s when I knew. It was time to buy some pajamas.

I needed winter pajamas, not my flimsy summer pajamas that keep me cool in the summer months. The pink hearts and polka dots are cute, but I needed pajamas that would keep me warm enough under the covers that I could turn the heat down to 60 degrees for the night. That’s because I am becoming my mother, a woman who kept the house at 64 degrees during the winter to save on heating bills so we could afford to pay the mortgage. (Hi, Mom!)

At the time, I was not happy that I had to pile on comforters when I watched TV and that I had to wear layers of sweaters to keep warm. I would beg to turn up the heat a degree or two, and she would usually oblige. But now that my electric bill is creeping up and the stock market has crashed down, I’ve decided my mother was a smart lady and that the cost of a thick pair of pajamas will save me money on electricity in the long run.

Pajamas

These are the pajamas I got, Simply Vera Wang microfleece, except they have polka dots instead of a checkered pattern. They also don’t float in midair on their own, so I obviously got a defective pair. They are comfy and warm and will probably pay for themselves in a month or two.

I’ve been trying to think of other ways to cut costs. My job is safe for now, but I don’t know what 2009 will bring. There are always unexpected bills. I try to use coupons, but frequently I get coupon anxiety coupled with coupon guilt. I got my oil changed last weekend, but felt stupid that I’d forgotten to bring my dollar off coupon. The worry I felt was not worth the $1.00 I would have saved. I go through my coupons in my billfold occasionally and feel guilty for every expired coupon I forgot to use because I have not saved as much money as I could have. It is like life is a game and I’m not scoring as many points as I could. I will never get my initials on the high-score list this way.

Has anyone else been doing things to save money? I hear Goodwill is doing good business. I’ve cut back on buying new clothes unless it’s necessary. I’m not buying the new TV I was going to get before the recession. These are not drastic choices and aren’t anywhere near the sacrifices other people are making, but I wonder how everyone else is managing.

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85 Comments

Cheryl • December 10, 2008 at 10:51 am

A lot of the things I used to do for portion control are now helping me with money control. I used to buy those 100 calorie packs of pretzels, which is my go to salty/crunchy snack. Now I buy a regular bag of pretzels, and yes, I weigh out 1 oz. servings, put them in little baggies, and put them all back in the original bag. I get 16 servings for what it would have cost to buy 8 of the single serving bags. It’s a hassle, but it helps me with budget and mindless eating.

This summer I shopped with a friend who lives on a disability income, and it drove me nearly insane as he stopped to consider the unit price (as opposed to the price of the item). Oh, how times have changed. I am no longer of the category of person who can afford “skinless boneless” now that I’ve realized just how much I am paying for that privilege. Same with the pre-washed lettuce, etc. It’s really NOT that hard to cut the bottom and top off of celery, but I’ve been buying the “ready to eat” for years. Now I’m back to the least processed produced, and yes, it takes more time and makes more mess.

Finally, I am trying to use my dryer as little as possible. It’s the single largest energy suck in the house.

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Emily • December 10, 2008 at 10:55 am

I feel you on the coupon anxiety. I’m the same way. I now bring my lunch to work most days. I used to be one of those people that went out to eat most days, so that is saving a lot of money.

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Quix • December 10, 2008 at 10:57 am

I should be doing more, but what I am doing is always drinking water instead of soft drinks/tea when I’m at a restaurant and got my fiance to do the same. That’s 4 dollars saved every weekday. I know I could just bring lunch and save more, but it’s just not feasible for us to eat together and not go out because of office situations (rival game companies and home is too far). We try to eat at home more on the weekends, and have stopped the home improvements were were working on. I was triple paying my car payment, now I’m just paying on time.

I’d like to say I cut back on clothes, but I haven’t. Nothing makes me feel more fabulous than an assortment of seasonal things to wear that actually fit me, since last winter I was about 50 lbs heavier, and that’s priceless to me. However, after this initial shopping trip, all subsequent ones are going to be at thrift stores!

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jkd • December 10, 2008 at 11:05 am

Isn’t it weird how the recession/depression makes you cut back even if you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t have to? My job seems pretty secure, I’m making good freelance money on the side, I have no debt, yet I’ve found myself tightening the belt just in case. A lot less shopping, mutual promises among friends and family for a more austere Christmas, fewer nights on the town, turning the thermostat down, etc. Everyone’s doing it.

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PastaQueen • December 10, 2008 at 11:06 am

@Quix – That reminds me, I used to double pay my student loan payment, but now I’ve stopped because I’m a year ahead. Once my car is paid off in March, I’ll go back to paying the student loan monthly, but only at the required rate.

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Jen • December 10, 2008 at 11:06 am

It’s a nice side effect that the things people are doing to save money also are environmentally smart. I’d still rather have everyone at work, though, and hope that they’d conserve energy anyway.

I have down comforters on the bed so that it’s warmer and more comfortable with the heat lower. I have cut back on clothes purchases and don’t buy things on impulse as much (again, things I should have been doing anyway). We have cut back on going out to the movies and doing other things like that. My family is cutting way back on Christmas gifts this year too.

Maybe this will all teach us to be happier with less stuff? Still, I have things I’d love to do if I had more money. Those of us who were trying to work our way out of debt already had our personal recessions going before the real one hit, so I feel ahead of the curve.

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lindz • December 10, 2008 at 11:20 am

First thing we did this holiday season was put a cap on how much we spend for presents: $20-$25 a person.

I’ve also dropped a lot of the excessive cable channels we were getting (and never watching).

I usually double pay my mortgage payment & put it towards the principal but I’m cutting a lot of that back as well starting in January. The same with my insurance payments.

I’m a stickler with the thermostat in my house so I make sure to drop it during the day and have settled on a much lower temperature than last year.

Bringing lunches, cooking more at home, eating out less, refilling water bottles, not buying name brand EVERYYHING.

Every little bit helps. Good luck!

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emi • December 10, 2008 at 11:39 am

I think they key w/ coupons is NEVER to use them if you wouldn’t have bought the item anyway. And usually, even with the coupon, the no-name is cheaper.

Growing up, we always bought name brands. it’s been an adjustment to buy thinks like “scooters” in 30oz bags instead of cheerios in 11oz boxes, but it saves SO MUCH money.

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Dawn • December 10, 2008 at 11:40 am

The utilities (electric, propane, fuel oil) is a biggie at my house too. Just lowering the temp 2 degrees from last year we are saving close to $100 a month. I’m sure a big part of this is having a programmable thermastat and setting it way low during the day when no one is home too. Getting a new water heater I’m sure helped us too instead of the old 20-25 yr old one we did have.

Cutting back on all the little extras when you stop for gas really helps too. The family use to go in and each get a drink and snack now I always pack all that for trips. Packing lunches for hubby and I is a big savings too.

For clothes, people have been giving me a lot so haven’t had to buy many.

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Lynn Kent • December 10, 2008 at 11:43 am

Speaking of coupons…I am using a system I found on the Simple Dollar website – you put your coupons in pages that are used to display baseball cards. That way you can see what you have coupons for easily….and I sit and clip my coupons while I snuggle under a blanket and watch TV. When I find really good deals on shampoo etc (like .39 per bottle) I buy it (I find these deals with the sunday flyers and coupons) anyway I buy the stuff and put it in the box for the food pantry in town. Sometimes things are free…I think it helps others without killing my budget – especially in RI where you can’t use food stamps to buy shampoo, toilet paper, etc….

Lynn

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Lori • December 10, 2008 at 11:45 am

I shop consignment stores. Really great clothes for a fraction of the cost.

As you know very well – replacing a wardrobe is pretty costly when losing a lot of weight.

We also clip online coupons, and buy bulk items that freeze when on sale. There are only 2 of us, so a family pack of chicken lasts forever!

2 things that have saved us a lot of money.

1. We switched our christmas lights to LEDs.

2. We put a timer switch on our entertainment area. It completely shuts the power off to all that equipment from midnight until the morning (we can over ride it). Anything with a remote will draw bits of power even when the appliance isn’t on, since the remote is always seeking out the signal. We saw a drop in our electric usage by using this thing – by a noticeable amount.

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Christy • December 10, 2008 at 11:49 am

Oh my gosh — I bought those SAME pj’s (the polka dot pair) last weekend w/ a coupon too!! HA I love love love them and now want another pair, like the pictured one’s, but can’t justify the cost…sigh…..

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Merry • December 10, 2008 at 11:56 am

I re-read The Tightwad’s Gazette.

Amy Dacyzyn, a.k.a. the Frugal Zealot, may seem a bit (okay a lot) extreme to some people, but I find her book (collection of newsletter articles) helpful for getting the cheapo mindset. Through being extremely frugal, she and her husband managed to buy a house they loved and raise 6 children — all on his not-overlarge paycheck.

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PastaQueen • December 10, 2008 at 12:01 pm

@Christy – Yeah, there is a red pair that I would love to get too, but that would go against the whole “save money” philosophy that inspired the buy. Damn you, practicality!

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JudithNYC • December 10, 2008 at 12:17 pm

I have stopped buying books, cds, magazines, etc. Now I go to the public library once or twice a month and borrow that stuff.

Stopped my Netflix subscription, although I might get it back when my Mac dies and I get a PC so I can get all those free online movies. (Plus most of the ebooks and audio stuff in the library are only available on PC.)

I keep my apartment locker room cold (60 degrees) which is North Pole cold for a Puerto Rican like me. I wear lots of woolens, sometimes even a cap inside!

Eating less meat and more vegetables, which is good for me anyway. Hardly ever eating out.

No new anything unless it’s absolutely necessary.

My cat, on the other hand, is making no sacrifices (except having to live with me.)

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Sarah • December 10, 2008 at 12:36 pm

My biggest weaknesses are lunches out with coworkers, and picking up drive thru snacks/coffee on the weekend. So, I’ve limited myself to $20 CASH for the week, and once it’s gone, I’m done buying my treats. As a bonus, this should help me eat less!

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Nina • December 10, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Heh, you know what sucks? Saving up for a wedding during a recession. We went from my dream wedding at a big cathedral, to my “settle” wedding at a tiny church. We’re also making all of the centerpieces, bouqets, invitations, favors, and just about everything that can be hand-made, ourselves.

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tutugirl1345 • December 10, 2008 at 12:57 pm

I do the same thing with the temperature. Its always freezing in my apartment.

As for discretionary spending, I’ve actually been making an effort to fully spend what I have available in my budget, after I set aside my normal amount for savings. The economy is declining in part because people who are secure in their jobs aren’t spending money any more. I feel some responsibility in doing my part to keep things going.

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Maggie • December 10, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Ha… my parents kept the heat at 59, all the time, not just night. They are crazies.

I’m just always trying to save money in general – shopping sales, not eating out, packing lunches (I actually prefer this anyway).

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Zoey • December 10, 2008 at 1:22 pm

I haven’t bought new clothes in a long time, and I’m dying. BUT, I need to wait for the after X Mas sales, to get good deals. And I’ve decided I can wait on pants, as my old ones fit and are in ok shape; I’m losing a bit of weight and I may be in a different size so I don’t want to waste money. I’m also tracking this month’s grocery expenses…and the plan is that next month I will take out a set amount for groceries, and use only that. I’m trying to get an idea how much I’ve been spending, and set a lower amount. I’d been hitting Whole Foods way too much and it really impacts my savings!

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Sheila • December 10, 2008 at 1:32 pm

I discovered Taco Bell’s 99 cent menu, which saves me nearly $4 per lunch.

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Tiffany • December 10, 2008 at 1:49 pm

We have our heat set at 60 all the time, not just at night. We turn our gas logs on if we are both home and cold in the evenings.

Last month, I did a no-eating-out challenge and saved about $200–and that is with making Thanksgiving dinner for 5 adults. Cooking from scratch versus convenience foods can be a real money-saver. Also, we eat a vegetarian dinner once or twice a week.

When we do go out and spend, we focus on local businesses and restaurants as much as possible. Most of the things we are doing are not because of the economy, though, they are what we do (or want to do) anyway.

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asithi • December 10, 2008 at 1:56 pm

I hate to say this, but we are actually planning to spend more money. We are looking at purchasing our first home.

For years, we lived on 40% of our combined income. We never had cable, movies maybe 1-2 times a year, eat at home 90% of the time, purchased clothing as needed, temperature no more than 67 degrees in winter, 78 degrees in winter, use coupons, etc. Even with my husband’s 2 years unemployment, we are still able to save enough money for a down payment and take 1-2 vacations each year (traveling like we did when we were in college).

So while we see a lot of our friends “tighten their belt” our lifestyle have not changed much. But unlike a lot of my friends, I do not have the latest gizmos. Our digital camera is 8 years old, our cellphones are free ($25/mon/line), computer is 6 years old, box TV that needs a digital converter.

When you have hobbies that cost very little money (exercising and reading for me, furniture and picture frame building for my husband), it is easy to save money on entertainment. I think entertainment is the biggest money leak for most people.

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Amy • December 10, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I have been pretty cheap for a long time. I have a good memory and know what the prices of my staples are at the grocery so I know when a sale is worth it. We already eat vegetarian so that’s pretty cheap. We grab the most-used items at Costco and that helps, but you really have to weigh the membership cost to know if it would be right for you (and know if you can resist impulse buys of 40-packs of mini cheesecakes!).

I’ve been keeping a detailed spreadsheet of my income and spending for several years, which helps me see where money goes and to plan for the future. I put almost everything on credit cards (pay off EVERY TIME) so it’s easy to track where I spend on a daily basis. Then I “budget” my credit card spending in my spreadsheet for the next year and it helps me stick to only spending that amount, which is “normal” spending plus fun stuff. If it gets too high, I have to cut back on fun stuff.

I have been watching slickdeals.net this season to help me shop for gifts at great prices. I saved 30% on a laptop and 25% on several other items just because of the info there. Be careful of wanting to buy things just because they are a good deal! I also learned about cashback programs for credit cards I already have if I use them at stores where I already shop–I just didn’t usually use THAT card at THAT store.

The place I feel we ‘waste’ money is on wine (we drink it most nights) and eating out. I’ve switched to boxed wine for a lot of it–there are several good brands at Meijer now, not just that Franzia crap–which is also better for the environment to have one recyclable box instead of four glass bottles that were heavier to transport anyway, and we are cooking at home more.

I use coupons but only for things I’d buy anyway. I also stopped getting a newspaper subscription because most of the coupons don’t fit my plant-based-whole-foods diet anyway, so it didn’t make financial sense to get it and not have time to read it.

I vote for a small step or two. It’s hard to do too many things at once. There are some good blogs about being frugal that can give great ideas!

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Miz Robyn • December 10, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Theoretically, we’re saving money by growing more of our food. In reality, we actually eat a lot less chicken than we used to, now that someone’s got to ‘process’ the chicken a few days before we want to eat it.

My sister and her son are flying to visit me over Christmas. She’s so irate over the fact that the airlines are charging $15 a bag for checked luggage that she’s going to wear one outfit, carry another in her carryon bag, and do laundry a few times while she’s here.

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Connie • December 10, 2008 at 2:44 pm

My better half just lost their job this month, so we’re in TOTAL budget mode.

1) Cook EVERY SINGLE MEAL at home

2) Make our own coffee (no starbucks)

3) Books from the Library instead of the store

4) No new clothes

5) Turned down the thermostat AND turned down the temp on the water heaters

6) Cancelled premium cable channels

And lots of other stuff. But, you know what? We’re totally happy and doing just fine – we have everything we need, and that’s a blessing we took for granted before! Pray my better half finds a good job in this stinky economy! Thanks.

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Sarah • December 10, 2008 at 3:13 pm

We’re in a lucky place with two very stable jobs, we have no debt aside from mortgage, and are quite frugal already from upbringing and inclination. All that said, we’re making some lifestyle changes. We’re not on anything like austerity measures, but dining out has gone down from a weekly to a monthly affair, and I’ve restarted brown-bagging lunch. When I need something I shop sales. We just bought our first house, and I stripped the local linens & things bare during their going out of business clearance to stretch our decorating budget.

We have also given up the upscale grocery in favor of the local chain, are eating vegetarian 1-2 times a week, and I’ve gotten back into clipping coupons and building menus around the week’s circular. I even plan to start a small vegetable garden in the spring–mostly tomatoes, peppers, and such at first, but the long-term goal is to grow most of our own veggies if it’s feasable. The thermostat is already at 68, but after seeing our first winter gas bill I’m gonna try to eke it down a few more degrees when DH isn’t looking.

We’re keeping up our long-standing habit of saving a substantial portion of our income, and keep mandatory expenses to less than my take-home–just in case. Christmas is also going to be small in our extended family by mutual consent (there are no kids right now, which helps)–We plan to get most of our relatives one small item from their Amazon lists, plus a donation in their name to Heifer International. All in all, I’m slightly embarrassed to say this recession hasn’t really effected us negatively that much yet, but a big part of that is because we never really stopped living the way we did in the last one, which hit us a lot worse because of our careers and ages at that time.

Oh yeah–in response to the checked bag discussion upthread, last weekend we flew out to florida to visit friends–normally we just pack everything in our large suitcase and check that, but in the wake of the bag fee nonsense we were able to cram everything we needed for a 3 day trip into our 2 carryons and 2 “small bags”, with room left over for souveniers. Not that hard…

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Sarah • December 10, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Have you ever heard of the grocery game? Google it. It looks interesting, and money saving, but maybe more so for huge families. I’ve never tried it, but I’ve talked to a lot of people online who have. One thing you might consider though is making meals that you can freeze. It’s cheaper to make bigger portions usually, so maybe whip up a big batch of soup and freeze it in small containers for later use?

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Ginny • December 10, 2008 at 3:17 pm

@Merry – Me too! I checked it out at the library last week. Lots of good ideas within.

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Stacie • December 10, 2008 at 3:17 pm

@JudithNYC – Not tha tit helps the situation — but you can now watch movies on your mac instantly!! Started last week. Woohoo! I replaced TV with netflix… saves me a ton a month.. and I watch all my shows online the day after they air — so I get the best of both worlds!

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Ginny • December 10, 2008 at 3:22 pm

@Tiffany – I’ve been pondering this question for awhile. Do you realize actual savings if you turn down the thermostat, but then run the gas log as well? It seems to me that running the gas log would be the same as running the furnace. I haven’t been able to find this information and I’m dying to know. We haven’t been using our gas log because we figured it would cost too much. Have you seen a difference in your gas bill?

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Ashley • December 10, 2008 at 3:49 pm

@Nina – I feel your pain, I’m planning a wedding as well and my fiance is still looking for a job. Eeek! We’re saving by having his father marry us, and we’re going to use seasonal flowers and put the bouquets together ourselves. It’s a vegan wedding so we’re spending the bulk of our budget on food, but I think it will be worth it.:)

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Wendy • December 10, 2008 at 3:57 pm

No more bookstore purchases. The nearly weekly Borders coupons were so tempting! Our library (Ann Arbor) allowed you to request titles online, and will send me an email when it’s available, set aside with my name on it on a shelf near the checkout area.

Also keeping the temp low at home: 64 when home in the evening, 60 overnite, and I’ll wear a scarf and/or hat if needed (a cat on the lap helps too!)

I’m trying to cook at home more, but that has been a tough challenge for me, living alone.

I only go to Target with a specific list because it is so easy to pick up cute stuff that I don’t need there, but I do browse the clearance displays because sometimes they have some really good deals…as long as I’m sure I will use it. Right now I’m using a moisturizing shower soap that I bought on clearance and really love, and now I’m sorry I didn’t run right back and buy a few more to use all winter.

For Christmas I’m not buying the little add-ons that I have in the past that tended to add $5-$10 to every gift. I’m making an iMovie for my niece and nephew of photos/video from the past year to songs they like.

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Ashley • December 10, 2008 at 4:00 pm

We’ve been eating out a lot less, and while we LOVE Whole Foods (we’re vegan, and they’re so veggie friendly!) we’ve been doing most of our shopping at Kroger to save money. We also eat out a lot less than we used to, and our entertainment consists of our evening runs, watching old movies we already have, and playing WoW. Sorry folks, can’t give up my Warcrack subscription! We’ve also been making big batches of soup and freezing them, but my fiance eats a lot at dinner, so it usually doesn’t last very long. (Of course he doesn’t gain an ounce, bastard:P)

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anji • December 10, 2008 at 4:12 pm

@Ginny – It does save because you’re not heating the whole house, you’re just heating the immediate area you are in at the time… some of the heat still goes to other parts of the house but instead of using the furnace to heat, say all 10 rooms in your house, you are just heating one main room and a few rooms near-by. Keeping it at 60 keeps the other parts of the house livable… hope that helps!

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anji • December 10, 2008 at 4:15 pm

@Ginny – I forgot to add… if your gas fireplace is in the basement (as ours is), when we use it the heat rises and we notice a notable difference. This really helped when we lost our power last year for two days (at -30c!!!) so we couldn’t use our furnace. We turned on our gas fireplace and our whole house was comfortably warm. Good to have back up heating system like that!

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laura • December 10, 2008 at 4:27 pm

I love being cold, so the electric bill is no big thang for me. I actually leave my bathroom window open so the apt’s cold when I get home (I’m a freak)…then I shut it and snuggle under my down comforter with some tea. Or make out with my boyfriend. Plus I live in a twee studio, so when others around me use their heat, I reap the benefits. My electric bill? Around $15/month.

I’m gonna ramble some more about heating costs, sorry! I used to live in a 2 bedroom in a drafty brownstone that was heated by gas. I REFUSED to pay the gas people hundreds/month just to keep the place at 65. So I never turned on the heat, shut the door to my bedroom and stayed in there with a baby electric space heater. It got me through until I moved. It’s much more cost-effective to live small. Koi effect, I guess.

But my cost saving efforts? I eat lots of frozen portion-controlled meals for lunch, so I only buy the ones that are on sale. It gives me variety. I cut up my own carrots and celery, divide my own 100 cal packs. I eat lots of beans. I shop 2 for 1 deals with most protein, like pork tenderloin. I pretty much check out the grocery store circulars online before I step foot in the store, then I decide to go to the store that has the most stuff I need on sale.

I don’t cut coupons for things I would never buy.

I shop in my closet for clothes that could come back in circulation.

Sorry for the long one!

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Deb • December 10, 2008 at 4:28 pm

I cut out buying things at the gas station when I fill up. I drive a lot so a drink and pack of gum was adding up to $30-40 per month. I am using the crockpot a lot more so that we can avoid the “oo it is so late what do we do for dinner” days that were happening more often than we wanted to admit. I have also been starting to use coupons again though I find others seem to get annoyed. I try to make out the list from the flyers and then match the coupons so that it is all good but it never fails that I miss something or there is an instore special. I have seen more than one person roll their eyes while I am searching for a coupon or sigh when we are at the register. I have also started shopping at one of the warehouse stores for more staples than before. We found the bread that we buy is the same price at warehouse store but for two loaves that are larger. So I break it into packages and freeze.

Now if I could just figure out how to reduce the cable bill and still have all the channels we want it would be nice.

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Allison • December 10, 2008 at 4:52 pm

My husband and I use coupons for everything. We bought a coupon organizer at Wal-Mart, and we carry it with is most everywhere we go. We use coupons for everything from groceries to eating out. In fact, we’ve almost gotten to the point where if we don’t have a coupon for a restaurant, then we simply don’t eat at the restaurant.

Our thermostat is set at 61 degrees right now. We shop at Goodwill, thrift stores and consignment stores. We’re real big on garage saling for stuff for ourselves as well as gifts for others. We consign much of our old clothing so we can get some kind of return.

Check out slickdeals.net. That site has lots of links for things on sale, freebies, etc. Also, if we really like a product or are displeased with a product, we let the company know. Oftentimes that will end in some coupons, or free products, or both.

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barbara • December 10, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Didn’t anybody warn you? All women become their mothers. Eventually.

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Shelley • December 10, 2008 at 5:43 pm

@Sarah – I’m a member of The Grocery Game, and it really does work. You stock up on items using coupons when they are on sale, and often you end up paying pennies on the dollar. I love it. I spend about $350 a month on groceries for a family of five, and that includes health and beauty items, cleaning supplies, and paper products.

Also, http://www.pinchingyourpennies.com is a good site for grocery deals, and it’s free. Just pick your state, and the wonderful ladies have matched up coupons with sales in your area.

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Skye • December 10, 2008 at 6:19 pm

My biggest cutback has been on groceries. I’ve grown accustomed to spending well over $200/week at Whole Foods to feed only my partner and myself. The weekly brie and Adriatic fig spread had to go. Now it’s organic peanut butter on whole wheat AT LEAST twice a day.

The upside is that I will have a law degree AND be debt free in eight months.

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100 DAYS IN BED • December 10, 2008 at 6:34 pm

My butt’s 20 POUNDS thinner thanks to my financial crisis. I stopped the lattes, the bagels, the 7-11 runs. I stopped going out to eat as much and started shopping at farmer’s markets. If Lean Cuisine is on sale, I grab that and put it over steamed veggies. Forget drive thru for breakfast, I started making breakfast sandwiches with hard boiled egg whites, wheat pita, turkey bacon and laughing cow.

Only thing is, now I have to buy new jeans!

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The Baroness • December 10, 2008 at 6:44 pm

Hey honey! It’s good to be back reading your blog after a long semester.

Those are cute PJ’s. I live with my parents and they refuse to turn the heat on at all. It’s insane! I have realized this year is going to be tough for me because I’m so skinny now and I have no warmth on my body! Add that to the fact that I live in Texas (so I never buy warm clothes – we only need them for, like, 2 months out of a year) and you might realize that I’m really screwed this year.

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Janell • December 10, 2008 at 7:51 pm

Go to http://www.thegrocerygame.com. I save about 60% on my groceries each week. They also have a free message board. Go to HOT DEALS and watch what people post. I got a set of Neiman Marcus Ralph Lauren towels (Monogramed and shipped free!) for $12.99 each. Great baby gifts/Christmas gifts. People see the name, personalization and think you spent $50 per towel.

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Sharon • December 10, 2008 at 7:53 pm

I thought your income from sales of your book, blog, and job made you a wealthy woman and I was jealous. I wish I had a blog and book but I just can’t turn a phrase like you do. See, what do I know.

On cutting back, I use baking soda for almost everything. I also shop at ethnic food stores. The other shoppers look at me funny but oh well. I can get vegetables and fruit for 1/3 the price of regular stores. The only problem is when I can’t ask questions. So I ask, “is this a vegetable or a fruit’…. the answer is always ‘yes’.

Others ask me. “what are you eating”…. ‘I don’t know.

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Janell • December 10, 2008 at 7:54 pm

@Shelley – I use the Grocery Game too. I’ve done it for over 2 years and saved a ton. I don’t buy toothpaste, deo, cough drops, toothbrushes, body wash, because you can get it for free (if you do the “game” right) I’m stocked up and I’m also able to donate products to women’s shelters and food banks because I save so much.

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Heather • December 10, 2008 at 8:42 pm

Nice Jammies. I like. I want a nice plush bathrobe.

My methods:

Two meals out per month. My friends and I are big foodies. This is hard. But I am now more creative in the kitchen. And I have friends come over for meals instead of going out. No take-out either.

I’m going on a ski-trip friday and I got a room with a full kitchen. We are going to make all our food.

No cabs home from work. I still allow myself the morning ride because I start at 630. Some days I make the subway.

Thift shops only. Not as hard as I thought. I’ve gotten some wonderful pieces.

Lose the weight I’ve gained so I can fit better in my old clothes.

I don’t do coupons because I rarely buy packaged food and I don’t get a paper. Typical NYC bachelorette. I love the farmers market. Much cheaper than using the middle man. And better for the environment.

The building handles the heat.

That’s my story. Right now I need to save money because I have such high debts and I do have a little fear about the recession. I’m in the medical field so for now job security is good.

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Heather • December 10, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Nice Jammies. I like. I want a nice plush bathrobe.

My methods:

Two meals out per month. My friends and I are big foodies. This is hard. But I am now more creative in the kitchen. And I have friends come over for meals instead of going out. No take-out either.

I’m going on a ski-trip friday and I got a room with a full kitchen. We are going to make all our food.

No cabs home from work. I still allow myself the morning ride because I start at 630. Some days I make the subway.

Thift shops only. Not as hard as I thought. I’ve gotten some wonderful pieces.

Lose the weight I’ve gained so I can fit better in my old clothes.

I don’t do coupons because I rarely buy packaged food and I don’t get a paper. Typical NYC bachelorette. I love the farmers market. Much cheaper than using the middle man. And better for the environment.

The building handles the heat.

That’s my story. Right now I need to save money because I have such high debts and I do have a little fear about the recession. I’m in the medical field so for now job security is good.

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s • December 10, 2008 at 10:08 pm

i hardly eat out anymore.

i don’t buy clothes often.

(but the places i buy clothes are going out of business so i have indulged in a sale or two.)

i do buy expensive granola bars.

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s • December 10, 2008 at 10:14 pm

you know what really kind of ticks me off a little, though? is that i have been frugal for a long time, living as a student. i didn’t have an extravagant tv or buy mochas every day or eat out every day. and the people who are cutting back are in a lot of ways just doing what i am doing now. but they are complaining, and i know it’s different for them but i have little sympathy. yes, it would suck to lose your job. but if you’re okay enough that you still have a tv without special cable channels and you can buy food and pay rent and all that, well hell, you’re doing pretty well.

i know it is different for everyone, and especially different for people with families and who have to take care of others, but i don’t see what the big deal is, some of the time.

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s • December 10, 2008 at 10:20 pm

but, i should add, some of that last post is misdirected and should probably be channeled elsewhere (like not being such a cranky person :p). i guess mostly, i’m totally baffled by the economic stuff going on here, and how it all got to be this way.

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Liz • December 11, 2008 at 12:13 am

You know, I scanned all the posts so if this is a dup, sorry, but you have got to get into freecycle. http://www.freecycle.org. It is similar to Craigslist (I like it better) except there is NO money exchanged. So you can get rid of unwanted stuff and acquire new stuff. I just got a new ironing board last week and it is as good as new. The cover is a bit outdated in style, but in perfect condition. And it saved me $20!

Also, we have lived so frugally for so long that we truly haven’t had to make changes. Two tips I will share:

-beware of coupons. If you are really savvy and spend a lot of time and effort you really can save a ton, but if you are a casual user you will wind up spending more than you otherwise would have. Especially for the non-food type – sorry JF – like a 15% off at Kohl’s or Borders or some such. The cost of the items are on a 25-50% markup already, so you are still paying more WITH the coupon than if you simply wait for it to get to the clearance rack. Also it can encourage the “get it anyway” mentality, and encourage you to buy something you don’t really need – or could substitute something else for.

-do as much as you can at home or from scratch. This always saves money. That goes for cleaning things (like clothes), washing things (like cars), feeding or hydrating yourself (especially coffee and alcoholic drinks), mending clothes, and entertainment. Anytime you can do that you save loads. Just loads.

Love the posts JF! Glad you didn’t lose your job and could still afford the Vera Wang!

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hanlie • December 11, 2008 at 3:13 am

I would have insisted on the floaty pyjamas! Just think how comfortably you’ll sleep in those!

I hate to give advice, but I’ve been thinking about your headache. I recently discovered Dr Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live program and he specifically mentions chronic and constant headaches in his book. You can visit his website, where there are some success stories, for more information.

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DonnaLynn • December 11, 2008 at 4:11 am

@Janell -

Do you know if military commissaries are included in “your local store”?

I’m very interested. Here in Hawaii, groceries are outrageous. At the commissary milk is about $7.00 a gallon, but in town it’s sometimes over $10.00!!!

-DonnaLynn

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town mouse • December 11, 2008 at 7:10 am

hot water bottles. (Um, can you even buy those in the states?) Couldn’t survive the cold nights without one

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Olivia • December 11, 2008 at 8:40 am

I keep the heat at 64 degrees, too. I prefer it that way. I think it’s weird to keep the house warm enough for short sleeves in the winter. I love breaking out the fleece and blankets.

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debby • December 11, 2008 at 11:23 am

The main thing I do now to save money is shopping for clothes at thrift stores. It didn’t start out that way–it was just something fun to do with my Mom. But really, I can get ‘gently used’ designer clothes that I never could afford in real life. Its so much fun. Last week I got a pair of Amalfi heels that still had slick soles and the original price tag ($120) and I paid $15! Fun, fun, fun!!

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Christy • December 11, 2008 at 11:55 am

I have stopped buying bottled water and started using a water filter. We had are home phone turned off because we never used it and I got so mad paying that $50 bill each month and our cell phone bill. We also have cut way back on eating out. My husband and I both have jobs that appear to be pretty secure but the thing that hurt us the most was gas prices. We are starting to have a little extra money now that prices are down.

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Jen • December 11, 2008 at 1:20 pm

I just love your new web design and wonder if you might have an opportunity to make money by helping other bloggers pimp their blogs orr doing other freelance design projects on the side.

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Brandi • December 11, 2008 at 1:31 pm

@s – I totally agree and can really relate. I know that people who are better off than I am are being touched by the recession too, but jeez. They are giving up things that I couldn’t afford even before the recession and there isn’t much left for my family to give up. We only had basic cable before, limited our driving, and we ate out so rarely that we have to read the menu to refresh our memories even at fast food joints, LOL … But I guess it’s partly our own faults, we are supporting three people (soon to be four) on one income so that we can maintain a stay-at-home parent.

Then again, I’m not sure getting a job would help us, since it would add the expense of child care for what will soon be two children…

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Johanna • December 11, 2008 at 1:43 pm

@laura – Loves being cold and eating frozen meals… hmmm… Just admit it! You’re not human at all are you but in fact a bear, right??

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Thumper • December 11, 2008 at 2:53 pm

In the interest of monetary goodwill, I think you should go back and insist on a few bucks back, because clearly, there’s something wrong with the pajamas you bought if they don’t float. Obviously, they’re supposed to. You have photographic proof of that.

If they won’t give you cash back, they can at least give you a pair of socks or something.

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mamaV • December 11, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Great topic! I get a buzz off of saving money during normal times, so now its even better when things are tight, here’s my list;

Department Stores

Always ask the cashier if they have a coupon, my mom does this and 9 times out of 10, they sneak on to her. Be nice and smile.

Always ask for the 10% discount if you are a Kohl’s Credit Card holder. The cashiers always give it me just for asking.

Goodwill

Sunday and Monday in my area are sale days, there will be a certain colored tickets on sale 50% off. Sign up for the Goodwill card, you’ll get 20% coupons from time to time in the mail.

Grocery

Find out what day is “double coupon” day. This allows you to double manufacturer coupons, and if the item is on sale you get even more off.

ALDI has some good deals…some stuff is kind of gross though so pick and choose.

Buy generic – the only exception for me is ketchup.

Make air popped popcorn as a snack- cheap and healthy.

At home

Eat leftovers for lunch or for two nights in a row for dinner.

Cancel cable-many shows are online anyway!

Give the kids an allowance, they can save up for what they want instead of asking for toys.

Going out

Go to matinees to save on movie tickets, then smuggle in drinks and popcorn. My husband cracks up because I always have this huge bag! No one has ever checked it.

If you have kids, ALWAYS pack a little cooler with drinks and snacks, this saves ALOT of money because kids eat 24/7!

Gifts

Cut down your list, we had to tell family we just can’t afford to buy for all the nieces and nephews..we will have them overnight for fun instead.

Ask for $ instead of another sweater that you do not need.

-mamaV

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maggieapril • December 11, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Two things I didn’t see above…

I cleaned out all of my closets and cabinets and had a yard sale and then called Salvation Army to come pick up the leftovers. (Tax deduction and housecleaning and extra cash all in one – can’t go wrong there!)

I bought an insulated blanket for my hot water heater.

Good post, great ideas, and nice to know I’m not the only one pinching pennies.

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Lila • December 11, 2008 at 4:53 pm

What I’ve done that actually REALLY helps is to make tea and coffee at home rather than get it out. It’s amazing how many times I have the instinct to grab a cup of coffee or tea or even a diet coke when I’m out (maybe 3 or 4 times a day!) so now, I made the resolution, No Drinks Out! And I’ve actually noticed that there’s more wiggle room in my budget.

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Amy • December 11, 2008 at 5:47 pm

@Liz – Freecycle around here (I live where PQ does) is a real PITA. I use it relatively frequently to get rid of things, but even that is annoying since everyone replies and many don’t show up. To reply to someone else’s offer post–well, everyone else already did and you’ll never get it. I have a lot of patience but not for screwing around for other people’s junk. I suppose if you have a lot of time on your hands it might work, but around here the system does not work well. Most posters say “first one who can get here can have it” so the folks who stay home all day and watch the messages are the only ones who really have a chance. I’d rather learn to do without or shop Goodwill myself.

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DonnaLynn • December 11, 2008 at 7:11 pm

When we didn’t live in a hot climate, the rice sock was a nifty little thing to help keep warm. Take an old tube sock, fill it with uncooked rice and nuke it in the microwave for about two minutes. It will stay hot for a really long time. You can put it in your bed about 30 minutes before you climb into it, or you can sit around watching TV with it snuggled in your blanket with you, and I’ve even put it on the floor under my feet when I had to be up and on here typing. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhmazing.

-DonnaLynn in Hawaii, who REALLY misses cold weather

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Cat • December 11, 2008 at 7:47 pm

My husband and I do the heat thing as well – we figure, why not save on heat. We don’t mind wearing coats and sweaters in the house and piling on the blankies. I invested in a pair of Victoria’s Secret boyfriend sweats, and like your new pajamas, they have been the best for fighting off cold. But I live in the Bay Area, it doesn’t get THAT super cold…

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Gwendolyn • December 11, 2008 at 8:03 pm

@Nina – You can always check offbeatbride.com for tips and ideas. There’s lots of homemade, simple, cool, tattoed, eccentric, etc. things there…even a couple that did a ‘backpack’ wedding! The owner, Ariel, even used mismatched mugs instead of the typical rented/purchased glassware or plastic cups and put wedding stickers on them!

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Laura • December 11, 2008 at 9:41 pm

We’ve always bought generic in groceries and clothes (for the most part), it’s amazing how much that adds up. I think we save hundreds over the course of a year.

I’ve always loved thrift stores– and I do think clothing has dropped in price at the department stores. Part of it’s Christmas, but part of it’s the crunch. They have to move merchandise.

My husband and I actually have more money this year than last, thanks to my job, though it’s a one year thing, and I”ll be looking again in May.

I think I’ve always been frugal, so it just isn’t affecting me as much.

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Andy L • December 11, 2008 at 10:29 pm

@Lynn Kent – what a great idea! I get that coupon guilt BAD, it’s a killer! What a great way to use them and not feel guilty buying stuff I don’t really need! I figured out at one point that amortizing the cost of the space that all the sale itmes I was storing in the linen closet wasn’t worth the am’t saved on the products lol! Anyway, it’s super tight everywhere, nice way to share the wealth.

Other stuff we’ve done: installed a ventless gas heater in the fireplace for the rooms we use the most (family and kitchen), let the kids sleep together for warmth, knit sweaters with all the yard I’ve hoarded, use up the yarn I’ve hoarded and open up that space in the closet so we can finally get the door closed, keeping the temp up in the bedroom, and make larger pots of chili that we eat all week long (veggie). Totally saves money to have more food in your freezer (keeps it from having to turn on as often), and not have to run out and buy Chinese on Sunday at 6pm because VOILA! Chili in the freezer! :D

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dayna • December 12, 2008 at 1:38 am

This isn’t a money-saving idea per se, but sign up for MyPoints (mypoints.com). A lot of reputable personal-finance bloggers rave about it, so I signed up last year. Basically they send you advertising emals and you click on them and receive points for each one. Get enough points and you get a gift card from one of many locations (Walmart, Walgreens, Target, Kohl’s, and many more). There’s no scam, you don’t have to buy anything (though you can earn more points by doing internet shopping through their portal- I never have, though)- and you can earn more points by answering surveys. In less than one year I have gotten 2 $25 gift cards and I have almost enough points for a $10 one. It takes all of 2 minutes or less per day and it’s an easy way to get a gift card once in a while to treat yourself to something fun.

Do you find that you feel the cold more now that you weigh less?

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PurpleGirl • December 12, 2008 at 3:24 am

I was cutting back even before the recession, because I had way too much credit card debt. Kinda sucks, because once the economy started sucking there weren’t a lot of corners left for me to cut!

My biggest things were keeping down the thermostat and using my space heater; unplugging electric devices when not being used; drinking water instead of soda (most of the time); and opening my blinds to let sunlight heat the house. Tried and true things to be sure, but so far it seems to be helping. Also, when I go to the store I buy only enough for the next day or so to limit food waste (but I pass three grocery stores on my way home from work, so it’s not an extra trip for me).

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Hide Those Cookies • December 12, 2008 at 10:25 am

I keep my thermostat set to 54. Yep 54. I’m all about layering…

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PurpleGirl • December 12, 2008 at 3:42 pm

Oh, I forgot … if there’s a Dollar Tree store in your area, it’s totally worth it. It used to be all nasty suspiciously generic stuff, but now they actually have brand-name, good stuff, and even food! I get most of my cleaning products there, household stuff, paper towels, some food depending on what they have that day. Big money saver. Except when I get carried away and think “it’s only a dollar!” and throw extra things my cart, of course. :)

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Stephanie Quilao • December 12, 2008 at 7:21 pm

The title of this post is brilliant! Those are indeed cool jammies. I might have to take a peek.

I haven’t had to tighten any belts because I’ve already been living tighter due to starting my business a couple years ago. Don’t feel as alone any more. Welcome to my world :-)

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Kim • December 12, 2008 at 11:40 pm

When hubby and I moved from the midwest to SoCal a few years ago, all “fun” shopping stopped, because the cost of living here is so outrageous. So I love the tips on saving money, love to try to have a few extra bucks left over at the end of the month, so I enjoyed reading all the comments so far…

However, and please bear in mind I’m never ever the dissenter, but I can’t help but worry that everyone “cutting back” is exactly what’s causing the economic crisis, right? I mean, if people stop going to Disneyland, then the Disney employees are laid off…and if people stop flying on vacation or home for the holidays, then airline (and airport) employees will be laid off…if people stop eating out, restaurants will need fewer employees…and so on and so on. I mean, I realize no one is crying for Starbucks’ bottom line, but at the same time, they are well-known as one of the best employers and provide great benefits and upward potential for a lot of people I know with college degrees who can’t get other jobs.

Maybe I’m not understanding how it really works, but it seems like “consumer confidence” is a real and potent issue these days. I’m having to push my husband to still eat out once in a while, because I don’t want the economy to completely drop into the toilet; I want to help keep the systems going while I can, since my job and hubby’s job are pretty secure. When or if that changes, we will be forced to change, but I hope that things for everyone turn around before it comes to that.

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PurpleGirl • December 13, 2008 at 4:10 am

@Kim – I think you’re right that all the penny-pinching makes things worse. I know my dad’s business is really suffering now because even his rich clients, who are still well off, aren’t spending money. So because his rich clients are being stingy, in addition to poorer people not having the cash, all the places he frequents suffer, and so those people suffer, and so on and so on. It’s really frustrating.

If I had the money, I’d totally be spending it, trying my hardest to contribute to the economy. :) Sadly … I’m a waitress with too much credit card debt. Damn!

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Sonya • December 13, 2008 at 2:31 pm

@Sharon – HA! I do the same thing – shopping at ethnic stores. I can get $8/pound shrimp for $3/pound at the local Vietnamese grocery. Talk about “Lick the Produce” – I have to come home and google what I bought to know what it is sometimes.

I also shop second hand stores; drive a lot less; have a cook book of nothing but ways to fix eggs since that’s a good, cheap protein; no longer pay for a landline phone.

I also share internet with my neighbors. We have wi-fi so only pay one bill for both houses.

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Becky • December 13, 2008 at 11:45 pm

I’m considering dropping my cable totally. The only show I’ll really miss is The Closer, and that will be available from Netflix eventually. I hear the digital converters make a significant difference in the reception quality of broadcast TV. I’m paying almost $60/month for basic cable after taxes and fees, which is WAY too much, IMO. If I make all the changes I’m considering, I’ll save about $200/month. And that’s just for regular monthly bills.

Recently I’ve been working on cleaning out my storage closet so that I can get to my Christmas decorations. (Haven’t been home for Christmas in years.) The amount of junk I’ve thrown out is appalling. I’ve spent so much time hauling crap to the dumpster that the idea of bringing in more stuff is very unappealing. Now, for every purchase I ask myself not only “can I afford it” and “do I need it” but also “where am I going to put it?” It’s amazing how much stuff I’ve decided I don’t really need after all.

A lot of people are talking about budgeting and saving lately, and the conversation always comes around to consumer confidence and how we’re hurting the economy by not buying with abandon like we used to. For me, that argument doesn’t wash. As an individual I am responsible for my own financial stability, not the economy as a whole. I can only try to make the decisions that work best for my budget and goals. Rushing out to buy a new car won’t have a lasting impact on auto makers. It will have a profound impact on my finances. I do the best I can with what I’ve got, and the economy will have to take care of itself.

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PastaQueen • December 14, 2008 at 12:48 pm

@Becky – I just got one of the digital converters and my reception quality has greatly increased. I also get more channels now. PBS broadcast three channels and most of my network channels also have weather and news channels.

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Tiffany • December 14, 2008 at 1:16 pm

@Ginny – I haven’t really noticed a huge change in our gas bill–we just turned our heat on Nov. 1 and it looks like we paid $4 more for gas during Nov. than we did for Oct. And that includes Thanksgiving roasting and baking. (Our furnace, gas logs, stove, and I think hot water heater are all gas.)

Our heat doesn’t come on at all most of the time because it isn’t that cold here in NC, and our townhouse is well-insulated and not on the end. We only use the gas logs if we are both at home in the evenings–so basically, we are only heating the house for 2-4 hours if necessary. It’s much more efficient not to heat the house when you aren’t there to enjoy it. Also, if we turn our thermostat up much past 60, our upstairs (where the bedrooms are) is unbearably hot–we’d have to keep our windows open in order not to roast! So it’s also a matter of comfort.

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Laci • December 14, 2008 at 7:48 pm

We started buying more foods in bulk rather than already packaged. Seasonings, instant potatoes, oatmeal, anything. Even trail mix and popcorn kernels. It is a lot cheaper, and if you already have plastic containers at home it saves on a lot of trash. We use a smaller garbage can now and get it picked up every other week, so that saves a lot of money too. We almost never eat out, and with the money we saved we got our netflix subscriptions so we just have a movie night in, rather than going to the movies. We keep our thermostat low and use our fireplace more, using a fan to spread the heat throughout the house. My company downsized so I am at home with the kid for now, but at least we are saving more on daycare!

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Jessica • December 18, 2008 at 12:51 pm

I too am one of those that keeps the thermastat way low, as my dad always did the same. We also go crazy with the coupons. I love Kroger, they send out special coupons taylored to our shopping thanks to that little Kroger card. I got $75 worth of groceries for $6 one time because of all the “free” coupons they sent me! I also get all my meds through them as most are $10 for three month refills.

As for going out, we have been using restaurant.com. Right now they are selling discounted dining certificates for 80% off (use the code SANTA to get this discount, expires Dec 21), so a $25 certificate only costs $2 (regularly $10), $10 certificate costs $0.60 and they are good for a year. We stock up on those for our favs, new places to try or to give to friends. They are also doing a Feeditforward where you can send 3 $10 certificates to your friends a day until Christmas, for free! Easy little gifts that do not cost you a bit! Hmm… maybe I should get a job as their spokesperson! Ha!

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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