The Wall Street Journal carried an article Oct. 4 by Ann Zimmerman on the “Frontier of Frugality.” It discussed the growing realization among retailers that consumers may not revert to their free-spending ways. Certainly, the numbers suggest they haven’t yet, despite a slight rise in October’s numbers—a 3.4% year-to-year jump in retail sales. But nothing in the economic or political tea leaves indicates spending will return to past numbers anytime soon.
So I’m wondering. Have people really changed their spending habits? And if so, are the changes permanent, like the article suggests? I’m more inclined to believe that those who still have money are spending it—just that fewer of us have it. Certainly, the carts I see at Costco have TVs and garden statues and laptops in them. Someone is buying all those iPads and Kindles and Xboxes.
So are you saving money, and if so how? Have your spending habits really changed? Will you stick to your new plan if times improve? Following are some of the changes we’ve made.
- No eating out and no more stops at Starbucks.
- We put off non-essential home repairs. These delays have lead to some interesting discoveries. For example, our 30-year-old fire extinguisher really does work.
- We wait on some dental care and don’t fill every prescription. When we do need medicine, we look for generic drugs.
- No more packaged foods or non-essentials at the grocery store—goodbye Doritos and ice cream. We buy generic and make most of our own treats like cookies or bread. No fancy beauty or cleaning products—vinegar, baking soda and homemade soap work for most chores.
- No more cable TV. No texting on our cell phones and minimal minutes. Basic, dinosaur phones that are only good for a short conversation and embarrassing the teenager.
- No vacations except backpacking, which costs only the price of a Forest Pass and a small donation of blood to the mosquitoes.
- No events or activities, except the free sort. We’re blessed to live in an area with an abundance of these.
- No new clothes that don’t come from Goodwill, except for the kids.
- No nonessential purchases, except for the kids’ birthday and Christmas presents, and we shop resale for those. No more exchanging gifts outside the family, except for those we grow or make.
- We drive an ’88 Toyota pickup (go Toyota!) with minimal insurance instead of a more expensive vehicle.
- We turn the heat way down and pile on the blankets.
- We carry high deductibles on all our insurance.
- Repair what we can, live without if we can’t.
- We’ve dropped all magazine subscriptions, museum memberships, etc., and read magazines at the library instead. Our county has the best library system in the world.
Some of these measures we’ll stick to when things improve. Some we won’t. I’ll definitely turn up the heat and replace some dangerous appliances. But I love the library, and I don’t miss cable. What changes will you keep?