Afternoon Inquisition, 10.17

First, a big thank you to Elyse for filling in for me last week while I was er… saving puppies and babies and feeding the homeless… and not screwing off at all…  I’m back for this week and I’m talking about money again with a two-part question:

What, if anything, are you changing in your life to save money in this “Not-A-Recession-But-Something-Is-Happening-And-We-Don’t-Know-What-But-Please-Don’t-Call-it-A-Recession” time?  What can you not possibly give up, even though you probably should?


Maria D'Souza grew up in different countries around the world, including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Kenya and it shows. She currently lives in the Bay Area and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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  1. The past couple of days I’ve been feeling really guilty about buying music and books and booze.

    We’re already scraping by for the essentials… but I figure if the world is out of money and the economy collapses, I’m going to need music and books for entertainment… and booze to cope.

    I’ve been cutting back on groceries, though. I used to go when I thought I could use more food. Now I wait until I’ve honestly exhausted all options for an honest meal. I’ve gotten creative. Though that hasn’t always been a good thing, we’ve managed to save some money.

    I also comparison shop all of my groceries. I know what things cost at the Meijer, Jewel, Target, Walmart, Whole Foods and Costco.

  2. I was saving money to buy a new Wacom tablet, but decided to put it towards bills instead.

    I’ve also “given up” free time: I’m working three consulting jobs in addition to my full-time job.

    What I should give up but can’t: eating out. …I don’t do it nearly as often (nor as expensively), but I still do it more than I “should”.

  3. It’s come down to either heroin or prostitutes, so I’ve found a happy compromise. I’ve stopped buying so so much heroin for my prostitutes.

    I am a Hedge

  4. I bought a few boxes of non-perishable foods (rice, pasta, canned goods, etc) now, just to save a few bucks later. It’s like investing, except you eat the profits!

    Other than that, I don’t really spend much. I mean, like, I could not get the internet, in theory, but we live in the real world here, not some mathmatical, theoretical model where you can live without internets.

  5. Hi there!

    My wifey and I bought a house. Somehow, this has turned into the biggest money-saving device ever. When we lived in an apartment, we’d sometimes go out to dinner, go on vacation, splurge on things we don’t need, etc.

    Now that we live in a house, we’ve been living like characters in a Dicken’s novel. We buy the bare essentials in groceries, we go on short weekend vacations to nearby towns, and we make sure that we only buy frivolous items if we absolutely need them (shhh)

    And now, we’ve managed to pay off most of our bills, we have a lot of spare cash at the end of the week, and are really doing well for ourselves. Sure, we have that silly little “mortgage” thing, but somehow we’ve managed to SAVE money by buying a house. It’s totally bizarre. O_O

    As for giving something up? I could not give up an internet connection. Even though I do nothing BUT play on the Internet at work, and somehow managed to live without internet access for the first 25 years of my life, I simply could not give it up now. Not at home, anyway. Especially since I need it for my second job. (World of Warcraft) [nods]

  6. Color me a little frustrated. Why is it that people are starting to save only when we’re on the brink of recession? Besides that, if you weren’t saving (or saving enough), then hopefully you have been living within your means, and only have to cut out a few luxuries to fix your “savings problem”.

    My partner and I are not rich, by any means; but, because we chose long ago to live within our means and both save and invest money, we’ve been able to weather the Trifecta From Hell (contractor who went bankrupt with $3500 of our money in his pocket, major medical issue [my partner had a disc in her back removed], and loss of my partner’s job) and the current economic crisis.

    Our emergency fund was nearly tapped in the process, but we’re still saving, and it’s coming back. We didn’t need to take out any more credit (student loans and a mortgage are enough… why people get into major credit-card debt, I’ll never grasp), tap into our retirement, or cash out any investments.

    The rule is simple: always save. In a recession, save whatever you can. In good times save whatever you can. Then you have the funds to save yourself if bad things happen, and even profit off a bad economy (market indexes have a long-term return of something like 11%; if you can buy an index fund after a big crash, and avoid selling until after a recovery [even if it looks like you lose money at first], you tend do to well.)

  7. I seem to be doing it bass-ackwards: At 27, I just bought (well, financed) my first car (I walked/took public transportation), and I also just got approved for my very first credit card, now that I actually have credit. So … the car means I’m not saving more, I’m actually spending a LOT more. Still, it was needed (my job is way further than I used to work and public transportation was no longer cuttin’ it), and it was a good investment. The credit card is really only for car-related stuff, mostly emergencies.

    I AM eating at home more, though being single and living alone makes that really freakin’ difficult sometimes.

  8. I’m not changing any of my habits, and I am in fact spending more.

    A recession is the time to spend more money. There’s a fire sale on Wall St, housing, etc. Killer deals to be had.

  9. I’ve (I should say WE) turned off the central heating and I’ve started wearing vests and jumpers. I’ve attempted to introduce “Shower Buddy” plan with Mrs S, to no avail sadly.

    I’ve also switched, today in fact, from the Pharmaceutical Industry to full time Academia as it’s more secure.

  10. russellsugden … I’ll have to admit something: I am an a/c whore. Living in Arizona, the a/c is run a LOT during the summer months. It also doesn’t help that I live in a crappy apartment that doesn’t have much in the awy of insulation, so it has to work even harder, and then I’m on the 2nd floor. And of course, I can’t sleep if the temp is above 71. So I keep it at about 70 each night when I sleep.

    But, once winter hits, I NEVER turn on the heater, so my bills go down DRASTICALLY. So there is that, at least :)

  11. @marilove: lol. I grew up in rural north yorkshire in a house with open fires and no central heating. It’s not cold until your breath freezes on the inside of bedroom windows, the water in the loo freezes over and you have to wear an overcoat indoors

  12. @russellsugden: *laugh* Yeah, I have no idea what real cold feels like. I’m lucky that I don’t need a heater at ALL during the winter. I think most winters I MIGHT turn the heater on a total of twice, if someone comes over and complains about being cold. I love winter ‘cuz I can sleep with the winters wide open and freeze my bedroom out :)

    It’s currently 93 degrees out … what sucks is that we pretty much have to run our a/c from April until November.

  13. Hm, alcohol’s out.
    No cable TV.
    No new clothing.

    What can’t I get rid of even though I should?
    My other house.
    I suppose I’d save some if I didn’t have kids…

    nah, really not in any kind of position to reduce my expenses more than I already have.

    Maybe if I rode my bicycle to work…

  14. Oh, and the thermostat is going waay down at night this winter.

    Blankets, lots and lots of warm blankets!

    I have internet at work, so could theoretically live without it at home, but my spouse would then go insane.

  15. @marilove: Weird. I’m you’re neighbor (Albuquerque, NM), and we started running the heater this past week (but only two nights, and not much).

    In the summer, we don’t have AC, we have a swamp cooler. Much cheaper, and works wonders in the desert.

    …It helps that our house has, like, four windows in total. : ) So we’re nice and coooool in the summer.

    But we freeze our asses of in winter.

    Plus, I think it’s really cool that you typed “sleep with the winters wide open”. That deserves to be in a poem somewhere. Maybe resident funny-man I’m a Hedge will indulge us with his lyrical stylings? : )

  16. I thought about getting a MacBook Pro and a 4th generation iPod Nano this fall, but I’ve decided to stick it out with my Dell laptop and 1st generation Nano until I’m sure my main client survives.

    I forgot what a pathetic yuppy I am, until I reread that last paragraph.

  17. I am eating out less… but actually what that means is just eating less since I don’t cook and I can’t rely on the Man to buy all my meals :P

    I could happily give up cable tv but my roomie is pretty anti that idea.

    I won’t give up the ‘net… and I haven’t been able to give up on coffee but I have ceased buying so many books and CDs. So there’s that.

    I will need to buy clothes and non-leaking/waterproof shoes for this winter (I walk to work) but I am putting that off for a bit.

    And I just bought a Halloween costume… something’s are essential.

  18. I was traveling a lot more last year (both inside and outside of my state), but I’ve had to cut back. I would like to travel to visit my favorite skepchick alot more :(

  19. I’ve just adjusted my payroll withdrawal and increased the amount that goes into Stock based retirement mutual finds. There seems to have been a price reduction recently. But I’m eating out less, less Scotch, no new golf clubs and about to dump HBO.

  20. I’m not sure much has changed. I actually just got a job that’s better than the one I had before, so I’m pretty psyched.

    But I vote instead of the ‘r’ word, we should use the code ‘bagel.’

  21. I don’t give up anything. Instead, I am lucky to get to experience a new approach to life. Did you know that one bag of rice makes, like, 5 or 6 really filling meals? Delicious!

  22. @flib:

    I thought about getting a MacBook Pro and a 4th generation iPod Nano this fall, but I’ve decided to stick it out with my Dell laptop and 1st generation Nano until I’m sure my main client survives.

    Come now, surely things aren’t so bad that you need to force yourself to use windows? You could just get the regular MacBook instead of the Pro. That’s still kind of a sacrifice, right?

    (Unless you have linux on the dell. But still , you should get the mac.)

    I am a Hedge

  23. We normally do lots of money-saving things. Some suggestions that we old farts can offer are listed below.

    writerdd, you still need to have a little fun in your life, especially when the money is short and life sucks. Libraries are a wonderful thing when money gets tight. These days, they have everything! A library card is one of the biggest moneysavers you can have!

    Comparison shopping is great as long as you don’t use more gas money going to the various stores than you save. Read the sale signs carefully, too. Target and Wal-Mart are getting a bad rep for bargains that turn out not to be bargains (see for some stories about this).

    Shop online, too. Sometimes you can get better deals than at the stores. Don’t forget to check overstock places like Big Lots and cheap stores like Dollar General. Who cares if others think you’re cheap? :-P

    Since we’re both from the Great White North, we keep the thermostat at 65 in the daytime and 60 at night during the winter. We have plenty of throw blankets, sweats, etc. Lots of cuddly cats and dogs helps, too! (I knew we had all those Shelties around for something! Three Dog nights!) We’re in WV and we haven’t turned on the heat yet. Until last night, we slept with the windows open…yeah, I know, we’re polar bears.

    If you have relatives that lived through the Great Depression, ask them for their recipes. They know how to make good, cheap, filling meals. You can also find cookbooks of easy, cheap recipes at the (you guessed it) library or online.

    Over the last year, we gradually replaced all of our incandescent light bulbs with the new flourescent bulbs. Places like Lowe’s and Home Depot have good sales on multi-packs. It hardly hurts at all if you replace them over a long time as the others burn out. Not only are they cheaper to run, but they last far longer. (Check with your local recycle center for information on disposal).

    Don’t be afraid to check websites and magazines like AARP just because you’re not retired yet. Most retired people are on a tight budget – there are good tips and hints in those magazines. use your ingenuity – there are lots of places and ways to save money. I expect shepchicks members to be excessively endowed with clever ideas! Go to it and share your successes with the group.

    We’ve been hit, but for the moment we’re OK because we’re both still working, thank Dog. Our savings are low, but rising. Instead of a statement from my 401k account holder, I got a bill…Ok, that’s a joke. I lost money on it, but it’s all on paper anyway. Like anyone in our generation (or even yours) is going to get to retire anyway? ;-)

    As mxracer says, if you have money, now is the time to buy. But there’s that pesky “If you have money” clause there. Darren is right that saving is important in good times – with savings, you can buy time to make important decisions without panicking like Arthur Dent.

  24. Comparison shopping for new auto insurance (so far Progressive looks like the winner, would save me $35 a month).

    Must stop take out dinners.

    Switching from dial up to dsl so I can loose my land line and get a cell (dsl will be more expensive than dial up but the cell will be cheaper than a land line so I will save about $10 a month).

    Must stop take out dinners.

    Switched from stove heat to base board heat for house (thermo default set at 65F).

    Must stop take out dinners.

    No cable, no fancy electronic gizmos (obviously as I’m still on dial up), trying to use library before amazon for books (and movies), have bought one new clothing item in six months (a shirt for TAM6). I think that’s about all I can cut back on.

    Must stop take out dinners.

  25. @JRice: Late comment is late, but swamp coolers don’t work well in Arizona after about mid-July, once monsoon hits. They don’t work at ALL if the humidity gets too high, or if it’s above about 100 degrees. It’s just too damn hot and/or humid out for them to do any good at all. Even at night.

  26. The only significant change in my finances over the last two weeks has been the fall in petrol prices. We have a mortgage with an interest-rate ceiling and we haven’t lost our jobs yet so so far the recession isn’t biting here.

    I agree about libraries, though. Of course, I work in one …

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