Monday, March 9, 2009
Cutting the Fat
Over the weekend I was having yet another moment of bread line hysteria, which is my own brand of full-on panic over the economy. I mentioned to John I'd like to know when the economists will finally admit that we are in a depression. Collapsing banks, stock market plunges, high unemployment; don't they all scream "Depression Ahead?"

I poked around a little and as it turns out, there were a couple of stories published (here and here) explaining that while we are most certainly in a recession, a depression is much harder to define. There are no rigid criteria the economy must meet to be classified as a depression but today's landscape pretty much matches the landscape of 1929. So according to this guy, we probably are in a depression but it won't be acknowledged for years.

That same guy, Peter Morici, also wrote a an Op-Ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer about a year ago that said, quite frankly, Americans must learn to live within their means. (You can download it if you'd like to read it; click the first title under selected OpEds in that last link.)

We haven't always, but now we do live within our means. Mostly because we never found much happiness in buying and buying and buying. Don't get me wrong, I like stuff, but how much stuff does one person really need? After awhile, it just collects dust and then you get sick of looking at it and you end up either throwing it away and it sits in a landfill, or donating it for a paltry tax deduction or trying to find someone else who wants to buy your stuff.

We are fortunate that we can live within our means but that doesn't mean its always easy. Sometimes (OK, a lot of times) it means saying "no" to things that would bring a nice rush of instant gratification, sometimes it means staying up an extra 15 minutes to make a brown-bag lunch because it is at least 50% cheaper than buying a similar meal at the cafeteria and sometimes it means living with basic cable and waiting to see The Tudors on DVD (and most movies for that matter). It means passing up nice little luxuries because the kids are having a growth spurt and need new ____________. It almost always involves making larger purchases at the end of the season and shopping around. Always with the shopping around. Oy.

So beyond brown bagging lunch and buying as many generic products as we can stand, can we tighten our belts any further? Is there any more fat to cut? Yes and yes. Here's the fat I've been cutting:

I started cutting my kitchen sponges in half, as well as Brillo pads and Magic Erasers. I don't need a full size of any of those items to keep things clean and the Brillo usually rust after a couple of uses anyway. I also bought a spray bottle at a discount store, filled it halfway with Lysol cleaner and topped it off with water. It cleans the kitchen counters just as well as the full strength stuff.

Waste Nothing/Freeze Everything
If I don't think I'll use it before it goes bad, I freeze it. Bread, eggs (beaten and stored in a small container, not their shell), hard cheese, butter, tomato sauce, overripe fruit (cut up for smoothies), leftovers, uncooked bacon, muffins and pizza slices. I have even frozen milk at the camper if it won't keep until the next time we're there. Air is the enemy in the freezer so if you wrap it well enough, it ought to keep for at least a couple of weeks. My mother in law recently told me her parents did the same thing during the depression.

Clip, Scan, Bulk
I was lax for a couple of months but I started clipping coupons and scanning circulars for sales again. This week I was able to buy a few things we'd run out of at a deep discount. The store I shop at has a habit of opening up their bulk boxes of Annie's mac n' cheese, putting the individual boxes on the shelf and charging $1.89 each. If you buy the bulk box, you get 6 boxes for $5.99. They also have a great bulk bin section. I bought organic oatmeal (enough for one small batch of granola) for $.98 and some coconut (for the granola) for $.19. It requires organization and planning but the savings add up.

Work the System
I joined ebates last fall and earn a small percentage back on purchases I make online, plus got a $5 bonus for joining. You can still use promo codes and free shipping coupons if you roll like that. I totally roll like that.

My keychain is full of those little cards you swipe at drugstores and supermarkets. I've been remembering to use them more and more. Sometimes they just give you a coupon to use at the store but occasionally the store will give you something for free. CVS has given me box of tissues and a small bottle of Purell so far. During the summer, when we head up to the camper for the weekends, we use a supermarket loyalty card that gives you a break on gasoline from a nearby gas station, anywhere from $.10 to $.50 a gallon.

So Long Pedicures,
(I Will Miss You the Most)
I usually only go during the warmer months, anyway. Assuming I go once a month from May through October, I'll save $138 doing my own toes at home (6 pedicures at $20, plus 15% tip). Even if I splurge and buy a new bottle of polish to keep at home, I'll still be up at least $130 (that's if nail polish even costs that much).

Do it yourself and make it yourself (see also pedicures, above). This summer we're tearing down an old shed and landscaping our yard ourselves. I stopped giving the fancy bakery $3 for a loaf of french bread so now I make it myself. I've seen lots of blog posts on homemade laundry detergent (here's but one) and I have to admit, I am intrigued. I love making granola at home and Ali over at the Cleaner Plate Club has been making her own yogurt and she's learning to do her own carpentry. Again, I'm intrigued!

I know we can hunker down and weather the storm but it'll be nice when we're all laughing 5 years from now about cutting sponges in half. Any other tips, tricks or ideas out there?


Anonymous Mom said...

Good Morning my Love,
Those are really great ideas. I do some of those thing myself. Once i saved $47.00 with coupons! I couldn't believe it. So i always go with coupons.Another thing, Grandma used to wash off tin foil to be used again (not really dirty tin foil). One thing that i do is after i clean the glass dining room table, i turn the paper towel around and dust the base boards, and molding. I also re-use ziplock bags. I put items in their own packaging and they don't dirty the ziplock. I read an article recently, similar to what you said about using less. Shampoo, who needs a whole big glob, a small amount will do just as well, conditioner too. Also dishwashing detergent, both for dishwasher and hand washing, so i've been doing this as well, toothpaste too who needs a whole big line of paste anyway? Mouthwash, dilute with in my individual cup. Thats all the money saving ideas i can come up with at 5:30 am. I just wanted to mention that SOS pads do not rust as quickly as Brillo pads do.
Love you,

Blogger Andie said...

great ideas both of you!! can't think of any of my own right now...worked all night & too tired.

Blogger Frugal Maven said...

Thanks for linking on the laundry detergent how-to! I swear you'll love it if you try it. Great ideas also in your post and I love the phrase bread line hysteria!

Blogger Meredith said...

Thanks Frugal Maven...I'm looking forward to making the detergent!

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