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How the Recession Makes Us Smarter

Over at this morning, I read a tongue-in-cheek column by Rachel Marsden on men's underwear purchases being an indicator of the recession. The theory goes like this: when money's tight, men will let their briefs get tight, too. And holey. And frayed. No one sees them anyway, so they'll stretch out their purchases.

This has some logic to it, since my husband doesn't really care about the state of his briefs. But the problem with the theory, in my mind, is that MEN DON'T BUY UNDERWEAR. At least my husband rarely does. I buy it for him, usually at a discount store.

In fact, my husband doesn't buy much clothing at all. I think that's true for most men. They let their women dress them, if they're smart. When we were married Keith had these disgusting pair of grey sweatpants that he had worn since he was 14. They were one of the first things that went in a bag to the Salvation Army. Of course, he was angry, because they were COMFORTABLE. But they were also gross. And bit by bit, I replaced my husband's entire wardrobe.

So for underwear to be a sign of the recession on a large scale, women would have to decide not to buy men's underwear. And I'm not sure we're at that point yet.

But Marsden makes the point that what a recession is good for is teaching us to shop smarter. We don't buy all the Starbucks we used to because we realize McD's is cheaper. Or we can just make our own coffee and carry it in a thermos. We don't buy bottled water when the tap stuff tastes fine.

I have to admit that our family is not really hurting from the recession. My husband's job is very secure, and my income is fine. But one of my practices every September is to re-evaluate our family's budget and figure out whether we're really on track. And one place that we fall short is eating out. We don't buy a lot of clothes. We don't have expensive hobbies. But we do eat out too much.

One of my resolutions, then, is to keep the house stocked with things that are easy to make for lunch and dinner. And to stop us from ordering pizza or going out, I'm going to start buying some frozen meals. I didn't used to before, because as a rule I'm against them. They're not healthy, they're expensive, and they don't taste as good as my own cooking.

But often the reason we go out is because I'm too tired to cook, or we're pressed for time. If we had frozen meals, I'd make them. And $4 a meal is a lot cheaper than $12 or $15 at a restaurant, plus drink and tip. Especially now that my girls are starting to order off the adult menu.

The trick, of course, is to save those frozen meals for emergencies, and not just make them because they're easy, but so far it's working out quite well. I also cook double quite frequently and freeze the excess, too, so my freezer is well stocked. But what I'm finding is that while my grocery bill is going up, my restaurant bill is going down.

And Keith's underwear is still pretty hole free.

What about you? Where have you cut back? Where do you think most of your money is wasted? I'd love to know!

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At 10:14 AM , Blogger Kate :-) said…

We have been a single income family for almost two years now and had already cut our budget as much as we could before my husband was laid off in January.

I started using coupons and shopping at discount grocery stores. I watch for sales on things I usually buy then stock up. We've switched from name brand items to no-name. (Guess what? They work just as well!)

We've cut back considerably on eating out too. The children were actually happier about that because they love my cooking (yay!) and love sitting around the table, eating and talking and being together. We do order pizza every friday but that is included in our weekly food budget.

We try to keep the lights off when we aren't using them, turn off the A/C when we're out or open windows.

I also send my husband to work with coffee in a thermos so we don't have to buy it at Tim Horton's.


At 10:43 AM , Blogger The Happy Domestic said…

We became a one-income family right when we bought our (first) home - not the best timing, but we needed the space for a new baby. Since then we have gone from eating out about twice a week and stopping at Timmy's regularly, to a truly frugal lifestyle.

This year we were seeking financial advice on how to cut our expenses, and realized that at this point there is pretty much nothing more we can do to trim the bugdet any more! We never eat out, which is okay, because I LOVE to cook gourmet, I have become an expert on discount shopping, and our increasingly green lifestyle has been adding up the savings in other ways.

What we CAN do to save more money at this point is to grown our own produce, re-use or repurpose as much as we can, use freecycle for other needs, and make a lifestyle of giving and receiving within our community.

From what I can see, the economic instability of today has done more than government ever could to promote environmental and fiscal good stewardship, and has laid the groundwork for a revival of true community ("love your neighbour"). So, we really can thank God not just IN hard times, but FOR hard times.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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