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April 23, 2009

Shopaholics on the Loose

Shopaholics on the Loose

by Nancy  Go to fullsize image

I don't know about you, but my credit cards spent the winter in hibernation.  This savings plan was easy because I was in The Hole writing a book. I wrote, paid off my debts and watched the stock market plunge.  Apparently, I was not alone.  We're in the Age of Austerity, in case a few CEOs still haven't noticed yet.

But now it's spring.  Are your sweaters shapeless from so many washings? Like me, have you put on a few extra pounds, so last year's summer clothes don't fit?  (I'm still swimming regularly, honest, for those who are also on the fitness kick.)  Well, this week I must finally do some book-related (and therefore tax-deductible!) travel---to sunny Florida.  (In fact, by the time you read this, I'll be on my way to the RT convention in Orlando.) And I needed something to wear. So I pulled the plastic out of mothballs.

For the first time in months, I went shopping.  The kind of shopping you do alone, with a bottle of water, a protein bar, clothes with no buttons and slip-off shoes.  A precision-strike retail rampage in which a credit card can be rendered into a sizzling lump of melted plastic in a couple of hours. 

I decided to skip my usual pricey boutique (since, I swear, I'm losing those extra pounds!) and instead I visited a few  budget-friendly stores, because who wants to buy expensive stuff that you won't wear once the diet starts working? I went into a store that calls itself a Barn.  Until now, I found the name pretty unappealing because, really, who wants to look like you got dressed in a barn? (Kind of like patronizing a steak house that calls itself Hoss's. I mean, does anyone else wonder what exactly is that chunk of meat on the plate?) But my daughter (the one who has more in her savings account than her father and I do) urged me to swallow my prejudices and take a look inside the Barn.  What did I notice? First of all, everything was on sale. And they were handing out coupons at the door. And their merchandise was pretty darn good.

I went berserk. A drunken sailor couldn't have spent money faster than I did. And I was only getting warmed up! After the Barn, I hit a couple more budget-friendly stores, and you can rest assured that our nation may no longer need any more stimulus packages, because I have boosted the economy, all by myself.  When I counted up the damage, I had 5 new pairs of capri pants, a pair of white slacks, two pairs of sandals, a bracelet I didn't need and a lime green skirt.  When my head cleared, I decided nobody really needs a lime green skirt, so that one's definitely going back.  (I am the Queen of Returns.) So are most of the capri pants. I think.  At least, that's the plan at the moment. Because truly, if you have a lot of clothes in the big size there's less incentive to lose the extra pounds, right?

So tell me.  Have you been leaving your credit cards at home all winter? Are you ready to bust 'em out again? 

Well, before you grab your car keys, take a look at your most recent credit card statement. Because I was late on a payment last summer (I had foot surgery and then pneumonia, so my wits were scrambled) my interest rate was raised to 23%--which I happened to notice in a tiny addendum at the end of the nearly microscopic fine print on my statement.  And my mother--who always pays off her balance no matter what--suddenly had her $25K credit limit cut by half. Why? No clue. No notice. (And why did the credit card company choose her, of all people?  Because she's never gone near that credit limit in her life! Who's minding that particular bank??) 

Time magazine says 49% of us are spending less on clothing. 63% of us have cut back on entertainment.  I have to think these percentages are much higher, because I don't know anybody who's spending what they used to spend on anything!  Perhaps the more interesting statistic is that 30% of us have failed to pay a bill on time.  I'm glad to know I'm not alone, but it doesn't sound good, does it? My neighbor's house has been for sale for a year. Another couple in our 'hood are putting off their divorce until their investments improve. Bottom line? I think those of us in Middle America are finally discovering our economy stinks.

Are you shopping more at the big box discount stores? (If so, has anyone else noticed that Scott toilet paper has become a nearly useless product? Because it breaks down--uh--on contact. The package says it's "distributed" from Wisconsin, but is it made in China, perhaps?) Have you been serving pasta at least one extra night a week to keep your grocery bill down? Have you noticed that most stores have stopped issuing those 25%-off coupons in favor of those buy-something-today-and-we'll-give-you-a-discount-on-your-next-trip promises? Are you buying new shoes this season? A new handbag? Or making do with last year's model? 

And let's not even talk about cars.  My husband's lease is up in August, so we're going to be forced to start shopping for a big ticket item, but we're seriously considering finding ourselves something old and cheap, and we'll baby it until (if!) this economy improves.

The only product that's selling well right now in the US?  You guessed it.  Guns.  Although I hear the sales of romance novels are on the upswing, too.  (I'll find out tomorrow at the convention.)

So our economy looks a lot different than it did a year ago. Let's do an informal TLC economy poll.  What have you noticed that's changed? And what adjustments have you made in your household? And if you have any tips for saving dough, let me know.  My credit card bill is going to set me back this month.

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Comments

Maybe you could get a Vespa. They get good gas mileage, and wouldn't you like to feel like Audrey Hepburn (not Ben Rothlisberger) everyday?

I hear you, Josh! We've been talking about a scooter for a couple of years. Most of my life is within about a three-mile radius. Downside for us is that Pittsburgh is not the most weather-friendly location. I don't mind the cold, but the snow, sleet and rain require a roof.

Spending less? Yep. On everything. The first thing to go were restaurants. We dropped a pool membership last fall too - we weren't using it much, and the cost-benefit analysis was easy.

The only new shoes I've purchased in the last year are Crocs (for Croc-lovers, rumors abound the company may not make it until the end of the year). Not that we stopped shopping - our son grows over night. Off to Little's tonight for dress shoes for him. Yikes.

We're spending much less, but making an effort to spend locally, not at the big box retailers. And when we do eat out, we eat at locally owned joints. There are bargains galore to be found at thrift stores when it comes to clothing, particularly kids clothes, plus it's good for the environment.

Like Nancy, I've put on a couple of pounds this winter, and dread the thought of pulling out last summer's clothes. I just refuse to buy a larger size; now that the weather is improving, finally, in Pittsburgh, I'll force myself to get enough exercise to get back into last year's stuff. The only item I'll purchase are some new flip flops. A girl cannot have too many flip flops.

I'll admit it.--I kept the new sandals. They're Merrells--without the little toe thingie that bugs me in flip flops.

Josh, I've been looking at a couple of cute Smart Cars here in my neighborhood. Not exactly a Vespa, but close! They're really cute. But I didn't see any on the streets during heavy snow. Hm.....

I like the idea of helping out locally owned restaurants. We're trying to do that, too--especially the neighborhood sandwich shops. I'd really hate to see those go under!

Count me among the drunken sailors. Let's see, recently I've bought a new camera, a three-piece wicker set (and pillows), books, CDS, two new crowns, and since I'm about to travel to Malice, I'll be hitting some clothing establishment (and probably leave in tears--I have no clue about clothes. HELP!) Oh, and there's a new roof in my future. Where's that next advance check?!

Going out for dinner or picking up take-out has become a treat instead of the norm. DVD and book purchases have become sharply curtailed; I drove past a Big Book Store yesterday and forced myself not to stop. Felt like a grown-up, cried like a little kid....:)

Sank 3K into car repairs instead of buying the new one I've been wishing for. (3K sounds like a lot, until one balances that against a monthly car note.) My mechanic was telling me they've been flooded with new business. More and more people are repairing instead of replacing, so much so the garage has had to hire more staff.

Re-did the TV/phone/Internet package I had for years and have saved almost 100.00 a month. Still hit Amazon.Com almost daily, but if there's something I want, the first thing I check is the "Used" section. I know, I know... it galls me, but reality is reality. Postponing upgrades in the forensics lab while simultaneously being stunned how far prices have dropped.

Any purchase is carefully considered and thought out, instead of the (in retrospect) ridiculous impulse buying I was once famous (infamous?!?) for....

Nancy, those SmartCars aren't such a great deal. First, they don't get the kind of mileage you would expect, only in the upper 40's. You can get maybe 20% less mileage in a real sedan like a Honda Civic, and you can do just as well in a Prius or Insight, which are both "real" cars; a few years ago, I drove to Florida in our Prius and had four separate days when I drove at least 500 miles, one day close to 1,100 miles and another day over 700 miles. Try that in a SmartCar. Plus, at speeds up to 80, I got a combined 47 mpg on the 3000-mile trip. Second, they aren't really that cheap. Third, they have to use premium gas! How's that for savings?

I apologize for this little hijack, but I just read this gem on CNN.com. Levi Johnston was on Larry King Live last night, and this exchange occurred:

King: Where did sex occur? In their house?

Johnston: You know, Larry, that I'm a gentleman. And I don't kiss and tell. So I don't think that really matters.

Josh, you made me bust out laughing! That kid is Walter Raleigh all over again.

The Prius.--I'm going to have to drive one before I decide. I really like the Toyota Highlander hybrid for everything--except the sticker price (SHOCK!) and the gas mileage is hardly anything to get excited about.

What I really want? One of those cute little netbooks. Only $500, right?

Off to the airport! Play nice, everyone.

We've always been pretty frugal and even with me losing my job last July we're in good shape (except for the 401k, but I won't talk about that).

Our grocery bill is lower since I'm home all the time. I'm not picking up things on the way home from work and I'm making most things from scratch. Meals not only taste better that way, they're healthier, too. And if our big grocery chain here would stop raising prices so they can offer all those so-called "perks" it'd even be better.

Since I mostly wear jeans, I don't need much in the way of clothes. Every once in awhile I'll get something new, but only if it's on sale.

Nancy, we have a Toyota Corolla and a RAV 4 and we love them. Not too expensive, and very economical to run.

Nancy, I feel your pain, er, gain. Same here. Overnight, several unwanted pounds fell on me sometime in the last couple of months, even though I've been working really hard to lose. The scale went the other way! What is up with that?

An old friend was in town the other night and several of us had dinner with her. Our waitress told us that more people are paying cash now than any other time since she's been in food service. One of my companions, a woman famous for shopping at thrift stores, told us about spending $300 a Chico's. I nearly fell off my chair. Seriously, she's never spent more than $20 on anything in the entire 20 years I've known her. She even furnished her house with garage sale stuff.

When my husband and I got married, 27 years ago, he made me promise never to carry any debt beyond our mortgage. It sure went against the grain at times, when everyone else was getting ritzy new cars and bigger homes, all on the bank's dime, and we were stuck saving for a more modest car. Ha! Now he looks like a genius.

My new car is a Honda Civic, downsizing from the Accord, and I'm not very happy with the gas mileage so far. However, I'm taking it on a 450-mile trip for the rest of the week, so we'll see if it does any better on the highway.

To all the Tarts who are going to Florida, safe journey and happy trails.

I've stopped using paper towels, which makes me feel smugly eco-friendly and frugal. I cut up two of my husband's ratty t-shirts (I admit, it felt GREAT) and we keep them as rags in a little bin under the sink. The damp and dirty ones go in a pile, and every few days I toss them in with a load of laundry that I'm already doing.

I was recently thinking that I could use some new clothes, but the Easter Bunny brought me a lovely cotton sweater set that got baby spit-up on it in no time flat. Ugh!

Oh, and completely off-topic, a very happy 445th birthday to William Shakespeare today!

Nancy-Josh is right about the smart cars, they're cute, there's the sticker shock, the now so low mileage (it's so tiny, it should get like 50 miles to the gallon, but the sticker said upper 30's, my 10 year old Hyundai gets that). Last year we purchase a 'new' car, it has 17,000 miles, it was the smallest SUV we could find, and the gas mileage was in the 30's. We have three kids, so if we want to go somewhere together, we needed something big enough for everyone. It's a good thing we got it last year, car loans aren't happening around here right now, or at least not often. Neither are home loans, I don't know how many people are having trouble securing home financing. My sister is a realtor, she's having trouble finding financing for her clients. We cut back on everything, books (using the library more too), dvd purchases, shop at Wal-Mart more than we used to-even food purchases, itunes instead of purchasing cd-much less expensive and you don't have to buy the whole album, also re-did cable/telephone/internet to a slightly less expensive plan as well as changed the cell plan, lowered the thermostat, will have the windows open more this summer and a warmer house-allergies look out. We still go out to a movie about once a month-Kerasotes' theaters are offering $5 admittance on Tuesday with free popcorn-it cost us $13.50 for a date night. I'm purchasing everything I can at discount stores. We still eat at a few restaurants, but nothing expensive-goodbye steakhouses and we've cut back and serving meals that stretch. We're definitely greener this year. When my hubs laptop crashed, we did purchase a netbook-it was only $350-used money from Christmas (another thing we conserved on this year, cut back the amount spent on Christmas).

Nancy, I cut back on the credit card spending, but now my fingers are itching and my plastic wants to smoke. So far, I've resisted, but then I read your blog . . .
Have a good time at RT and sell lots of books.

Yeah, we're cutting corners everywhere--for new spring clothes/shoes, I'm either just wearing clothes from last year or looking for sale prices. At the grocery store, I'm much more budget-conscious--using coupons, buying "off" brands, choosing meat cuts/fish that's on sale. Oh, and buying locally from my farmer's market.

I did spring for a new macbook (which I love love love) but I waited for a a royalty check and it's tax deductible.

Have fun in Orlando!

Nancy, I love the "precision-strike retail rampage" quote!

That's how I shop. I try very hard to stay out of the mall and clothing stores because that's the easiest way for me to save money. But twice a year (spring and fall) I go on a precision-strike retail rampage of my own to fill in my overworn wardrobe. Did it in the last 2 weeks, so I am basically set for spring and summer. I did very well with coupons and discounts, but it still hurts..

Eating in all but once or twice a week to save money. But boy, my grocery bill sure has risen. And not just because of my increase in quantity, either. Prices sure have risen.

I am trying to buy locally grown produce. I've found that the farmers market has better produce, it's cheaper, and it helps the local farmers out. Win-Win for me. First one of the season starts next week!

The whole economy thing depresses me. On the upside, our economic condition hasn't changed--my husband has a secure government job, and I've been making a new writer's income (ha! that means I spend more on promotion than I earn). We never did manage to put together a savings plan, so there's nothing to lose.

The downside is, there's nowhere to cut. We don't eat out, we don't go to movies, we haven't taken a vacation in decades, our cars are 10 and 17 years old. We never did buy processed foods, and we always ate pasta and shopped at farmers markets.

Guns and romance novels, eh? What does that say about our culture? (I'll ignore the fact that I'm getting a gun permit...)

The Smart didn't do go well in crash tests this week. BUT, you've got to see these "remakes" of the Smart car. http://cynthiadalba.blogspot.com/2009/01/very-smart-car.html

Yesterday, I twittered that I wanted a picture of Nancy with one of the Mr. Romance contestants. I'll keep posting it until we get one!

I'm not buying much these days. No clothes at all. I'm home most of the time. Shorts and tees work for me. It's so bad that my dog panics when I put on a bra because that means I'm "dressing up" to go somewhere!

William - your AT&T bill fascinates me. I don't have AT&T wireless and I dumped the house phone, and I have DirecTv, so there's no way to do what you did, but the SAVINGS are incredible.

Have fun at RT, Nancy. I'll hold down the loop!

More vegetables, meat is a seasoning rather than a feature. Due to several factors, rather than put in tomato plants this year, I'm getting a CSA box once a week for $17/week. I'll never know what I'll be getting, so cooking will be even more of an adventure.
I'm sad about Crocs. I have bad feet and the Crocs have been a godsend. I may have to come up with the money to get some. And the Crocs have been just about the only clothes I've bought all of last year. Why yes, those stretch corduroy pants from Land's End four years ago are getting past the butt-sprung stage, but nobody much sees them, because I don't go anywhere.

Soooo....my mom calls me and says to turn on Oprah. There's a guest who is telling people who have been laid off what they are doing wrong. (I find Oprah having anything to do with not having money kind of weird. Like a vegean owning a slaughterhouse.)
So basically she's telling these people out of work to cut their spending in half.
Well basically I am getting half of my previous salary from unemployment. So far I'm breaking even (If you don't count the rent I owe my Father). So cutting my spending in half has paid off for me.(Pun intended.)
I will tell you I have also cut my wine purchases in half.
I buy the big bottles now.
Just saying.
Have a romantic time in Orlando Nancy!

Xena, you crack me up.

But seriously, we've been buying wine in the cardboard cartons, and it costs about 2/3 as much that way. Plus, you can have a half glass of wine without worrying that the bottle will go bad once it's opened. I especially like the Bota Box Cabernet Savignon. Kroger usually has it for $16 a box, which is the equivalent of FOUR bottles! And every part of the box is recyclable, a bonus.

Hey, Karen,

How long does the wine keep in one of those boxes after it's been opened? I've had one in my refrigerator for over a month.

I've been experimenting with a lot more vegetarian recipes lately, mostly for health & environmental reasons, but the money savings doesn't hurt, that's for sure. The kids & hubby grumbled at first but now they're adjusting to the change. it helped when I found a couple of fabulous veggie burger recipes that they all loved.

I haven't bought paper towels in years - we also do the rag bag thing. Paper napkins are a new addition to my hit list. I looked at all the linen ones we inherited and wondered why on earth I was letting them just sit there taking up space while I bought disposables. The husband is having a hard time with this transition, too, but he can be trained.

Juice boxes - haven't bought those since December. Found some great reusable containers and make frozen juice for the kids.

We've never had cable. Netflix and the library are our big entertainment sources. Well, and the 5,329 school & youth symphony concerts we attend each year.

A friend has shown me the light of day about buying laundry products. Fabric softener is a thing of my past. One-quarter cup of vinegar does the same job for a fraction of the cost, and no, it does not leave the clothes smelling like a pickle factory. I've just started making my own laundry soap, too. It's really easy, works just as well as Tide, etc, and is soooooo much cheaper.

Of course, all of these little savings are totally negated by college tuition bills, summer camps, music lessons, etc, but they're better for the planet and make me feel like I'm doing something.

Joyce, it lasts a long time, because the oxygen doesn't get to it. And if it does ever taste a little off, I just use it to cook with and open a new one for drinking. But we've never, ever had wine go bad! Hate to think what that says about us.

Kris, I'm intrigued about the laundry soap you make. Where did you find the recipe, and how hard is it to do? I've been using some stuff from Costco that has no bad stuff in it, but I don't like it much. The only issue I have is that we have a high efficiency washer, so I can't use real sudsy soap.

I'm glad to know about the vinegar, too! Fabric softener sheets are one of the big no-no's my ecologically-minded daughter keeps giving me grief about, so that is a keeper tip. Also, dryer sheets reduce the effectiveness of lint traps, especially the fine mesh plastic ones. You have to keep them washed, otherwise the dryer sheet causes a film that actually blocks the airflow through the trap, and that can cause a fire. I checked mine--water poured on it did not go through, it just sat there. I was floored, and that with using only a half sheet per load. So as soon as my dryer sheets are gone I'm not buying any more. A gallon of white vinegar costs less then a buck and a half, even less than that at the dollar store.

Oh, yeah, and about paper napkins--I only use them for parties, and even though only for big groups. My father-in-law used to ask for a paper napkin, saying he didn't want to put me out. But I would have had to go buy one just for him, and that really would have been inconvenient! We use nice cotton ones, dark colored, and I just thrown them in with the rest of the laundry. No biggie.

Karen, if you google laundry soap recipes, you'll get lots of options. I use a basic powder-y one that's really easy:

Grate 1 bar of laundry soap, like Fels Naphtha (sp?) or just a bar of Ivory. I do this in the food processor. Mix it with 1/2 cup borax and 1/2 cup WASHING soda. Use 1/8 to 1/4 cup per load. It's not sudsy at all, so shouldn't be a problem for high-efficiency machines.

All the ingredients can usually be found tucked away in the laundry aisle. The washing soda looks like a box of Arm & Hammer baking soda, but it's not the same stuff.

Someone calculated this out to cost one penny per load, at 1/8 cup per load. Don't know if it's really that cheap, but it's definitely less expensive than even the cheapie stuff I'd been buying at BJ's.

I just made a quadruple batch which will last about 3 or 4 weeks. Four bars of the soap cost about $4, and I used about 50 cents worth of each of the other ingredients, so when you add in tax, etc - maybe $6 for about a month's worth of laundry for 6 people. Go wild & add in the vinegar, and wow, we're up to about $10.

We stopped using dryer sheets years ago because they were giving the kids a rash. Now that I read that about the lint traps, I'm really glad we stopped!

A friend bought washcloths to use as napkins -- very absorbent and no need to iron them (as if I ever would).
I'm eating at home except for occasional meals with friends, no more weekly stops at favorite restaurants. I do miss some of my favorites, though, and need to make plans to go back soon. A friend said that crocs are on sale cheap at St. Louis Mills -- I've never been there, but maybe I should.
I've discovered that Aldi's doesn't have balloons, so I can buy groceries there (latex allergy and balloons mean that I can't go to the fancy grocery stores). I've been getting food from http://www.angelfoodministries.com/
and cooking at home.
Of course, the best thing for me would be finding a buyer for the condo. I keep hearing that the housing market is thawing -- maybe if I go buy some cheap crocs and boxed wine, it would help the market soften?? I'm willing to do my part . . .

Actually, Karen, when I think about it a bit more, I'm betting that quadruple batch of detergent is going to last a good 5 or 6 weeks. Not bad for 6 people.

Ironing napkins? Ack! The thought makes me itch all over.

Thanks so much, Kris! I will definitely do this. We also have a septic system, so I try to be mindful of what goes into it, and none of that stuff would be as harmful as all the other chemicals that go into commercial products.

I've also been using vinegar and baking soda for cleaning, and have barely bought any other cleaning products for years. Like Mary, I have allergies, and I really don't care for fake scents, either. When I mop the floor with vinegar and water (1 part vinegar to five parts water), I add a couple drops of real essential oil, usually orange or pine, which makes it smell less salad-y after. And saving all that money leaves more for books. ;-)

Okay, bye for now. Getting on the road.

Having just gotten back from 4 days in New Orleans, I'm not one to talk about credit cards, although I must say I did take a fair amount of cash and used all but $50.00. One thing about the Biggest Jazz Brunch in the world...no credit or debit cards. Strictly the green stuff.I did however buy a truly wonderful hat(if you're on Facebook you can see it because Cath posted the pics), some earrings for my sister's birthday, and two prints of paintings by Nevada Barr Paxton...oh yeah and pralines.
Now my cards go on vacation...until the next trip :o)
However, even with all the eating, I gained not a single pound! We walked, which makes me resolve to do the same around here instead of driving around the block to go to the store. And you know, I had a credit card "discontinue" me for non-use...interesting experience.
Have fun at RT Nancy :o)
Now I've got to get to work to pay for those dinners at Muriels!

I have to admit that I've boosted the economy a bit lately -- I treated myself to an iPod touch and did continue building my spring/summer wardrobe with a new haul of LLBean polos. Luckily for me, the extra pounds I've put on this winter haven't kicked me entirely out of last spring's clothes. They tight, but I figure that's just good motivation to get back on the wagon.

Otherwise, we've made a lot of the same adjustments everyone else has mentioned. Crockpot cooking has been a godsend, as it's kept me out of restaurants, I don't shop for clothes and shoes for fun, and I'm doing a better job at using the library to satisfy my book-and-music cravings.

Unfortunately for me, there's not a lot I can do about the fact that I own the quintessential money-sucking machine. No, not a hummer, a horse. Even with a wonderful woman taking on half the lease, the expenses are endless. And in this economy, even thinking about selling is pretty pointless.

Oh, hey -- about cars? I bought a Ford Escape hybrid a year ago, and adore it.

I felt like a one-woman stimulus package myself last month. My husband's computer died and we had to buy a new one (ouch), and then my alternator died in my car (on a book tour no less--I spent the whole time at the bookstore thinking about how I would have to call AAA after I finished signing books).

But we have definitely stopped going out to dinner or getting a babysitter as much (I miss date night...).

Kathy-I hope you're wrong about the Crocs company, because I am an addict. And I don't need an excuse to buy even more pairs.

I will be doing my part in stimulating the economy. Due to a job transfer, I will be leaving NYC and relocating to the Midwest. I will need to buy at least one car, furniture, etc. I am going to miss my mass transit and 'old lady shopping cart' that I used for grocery shopping and runs to the laundromat! I'm very interested in buying a Prius, those of you who own this car, how does it perform in snow, ice and hills?

Also when you put vinegar in the wash it is a natural anti-bacterial, without any chemicals - a very good thing to use if anyone is sick and you want to de-germ their clothes. You can use lemon juice (cheap generic) instead of vinegar for a cleaning agent with baking soda if you don't like the smell of vinegar.

I haven't been shopping much either. A few scrapbooking supplies and regular groceries. I drive a Honda Civic that will be turning 20 in September and still gets good gas mileage.

I do crave buying books or music but just paid my house insurance bill and then it will be car insurance. I live in an area where I mostly walk and have thought about giving up my car but I have friends in the 'Burbs and the idea of taking transit to see them is awful.

In Canada there is a new savings program called the TFSA, stands for Tax Free Savings Account. I can save $5,000 a year without paying tax on the interest. I am 1/5th the way there.

Normally I buy my clothes at Chico's because they always have discounts for passbook members and the clothing lasts a long time. However, I haven't bought any clothes for a couple of years, and now the ones I wear over and over are fraying and looking really old. So I will be shopping for a few new items soon, maybe at that Barn Nancy mentioned.

We did just lease a new Jetta that gets really good gas mileage. Three people were sharing two cars, and the gas used to take someone to work and go back to pick him up was getting out of hand. So something needed to be done.

We are now going out to eat once every other week and attend events that are free (like the Navy baseball double-header last Saturday). Luckily, we live in an area with loads of things to do for little or no money (i.e., DC museums, Annapolis art galleries and City Dock, hiking/biking trails all over the place, and just staying at home to work in the yard). We just take along a peanut butter sandwich and some chips if we want to eat something.

I use Dream Dinners for most of my evening meals. Last month I spent $175 for 36 servings (or 12 dinners), several from which we had enough leftovers for the next day's lunch or dinner. (My son works at a seafood carryout business and eats there the nights he works) The food is high-quality, and it tastes like we're eating out at a nice restaurant. I just buy veggies and household goods at the grocery stores or farmers market and save about 1/2 of what we previously spent per month on groceries.

My biggest sacrifice is not going to Barnes&Noble but once a week. I was going two or more times/wk to do work, but I was buying iced tea and other stuff. Giving those visits up has definitely been hard!

I hope everyone going to RT this weekend has a wonderful time. And I'd like to see some pictures of our TLC'ers with those hunky bookcover models too!

CALNYC: We are on our second Prius, and it works just fine in snow, on hills, etc. It has front wheel drive, and it is probably the most engineered car on the road.

Vinegar in the rinse cycle helps get the soap out of your clothes and your blacks will be black again. Thought they were fading? Nope just soap build up. As to spending, hubby is on the way to Home Depot to get a new hot water heater as ours inconveniently died while I was in the shower. But shoes, oh shoes, I can't stay away from the shoes. Michele can we meet and spur on the economy?

Like you, Nancy, I had to get a few new things for our trip to Florida last week. And my daughter is growing (an inch in two months!) so she needs new clothes. And then there was that trip to Disney. I just paid that credit card, and in full. We never keep a balance. But I think what we bought will have to do for a while. Unless my daughter decides to keep growing...which is inevitable...

The one thing I've cut back on is cutting and highlighting my hair. I'm going eight to ten weeks instead of five to six, and I haven't highlighted since Christmas. Hoping the summer sun will help.

I am watching my finances more, especially with the probability of our impending takeover. My clothes still fit, although I wouldn't mind saying that they were getting looser....they aren't. Being in amish country, my local farms are where I go veggie shopping.

However, my book shopping hasn't stopped. Just spent about $130 at the signing on Friday, but all cash. And then another $30 at the UBS. Gotta keep my authors in business. :)

Soooo....Karen....I tried the box and the only drawback is you can't see how much is left IN the box which either makes you by one for now and one for back-up in case friends drop by and thus totally destroying the cut your spending in half theory as you have spent twice as much as you intended or you run out. (Not a good hostess with the mostest thing in my circle of friends.)
And if anyone really knows or cares per Maxine...there is no such thing as leftover wine!
I like to say that I've been told that for every glass of wine you drink you should drink a glass of water. Well I put ice in my wine so not only does it have less calories (altho' we girls know if it is clear it has NO calories) but I am getting that hydration thing going on immediately.
To health, wealth and happiness!!!!
Just saying.

Hey Kris, can we have those veggie burger recipes, too? You're full of great tips today!

Cyndi, I was LMAO when you said that about putting on a bra! My cats are the same way!
'uht oh! she's putting on make-up & a bra! She's going to abandon us and we'll starve!' LOL

I was told that the other advantage of vinegar for dark clothes was that it counter-acted the chlorine in the water which acts as a bleach.
Also, not cheap, but definitely healthy for cleaning
http://www.cleanhappens.com/
At their special visit to Costco St. Peters, they put flowers in the bottles of cleaning products, and they stayed pretty. Try that with Windex . . .

CALNYC, I love my Prius, too, and love how long I can go between fill-ups (St.Louis to Louisville on one tank!)
I wanted to mention Freecycle to you when you have to re-furnish after the move (and for anything you need to be rid of before it). It's a great way to move stuff around, "one man's trash" and all that . . .
http://www.freecycle.org/

I have to look through my spring and summer stuff to see if it still fits. I'm afraid to find out.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

Cassie, you can find one of the veggie burger recipes right here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Best-of-Everything-Veggie-Burgers/Detail.aspx. The recipe says it makes 6, but we got at least 10 hefty patties from it.

The other is a very easy black bean burger recipe, which I'm paraphrasing from the Good Housekeeping Vegetarian Meals book. Drain, then mash a can of black beans. Add 2 tbsp. mayonnaise (preferably light), 1/4 chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tbsp. plain dried breadcrumbs, and a healthy dash of tobasco. Flour your hands, then shape mixture into 4 patties. Cook in a greased skillet about 3-5 minutes per side.

Both of these recipes yield a burger that's softer than ground beef, but they're definitely tasty and satisfying.

Nancy! Are you here yet? Party in my room. Forget the Capri pants; we want to see the hot pants.

did you guys remember bail money? Did Me, Margie go with you?

Nancy, on the Scott toilet paper issue, I had the same problem. Then I realized that they had come out with a new "extra soft" version - that was the "pat only, don't even try wiping" version. My store carries that and the original version, too, the one you can actually use!

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