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Your Take: Have You Cut Back On Spending?

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When the economic crisis hit, a lot of people cut back on their discretionary spending. Whether it was to bolster their emergency fund or just a gut reaction to a pretty ugly time, it was a sign that America’s hunger for credit and debt wasn’t insatiable. There was talk about new frugality and of a new normal, but I’m wondering how much of that stuck?

Personally, I know that we live a pretty “financially lean” lifestyle because we are frugal by nature. The things we splurge on are few and far between (though they are splurges, since things like traveling are by nature somewhat more expensive) but one thing we did change a few years ago had to do with eating out. We used to eat out pretty often, several times a week, and we’ve cut that back to only a few times a week (the difference between 5 nights out and 2 nights out can be pretty substantial on a budget).

We did this because we felt cooking for ourselves and eating at home would be a lot more fun and a lot healthier. We now cook several times a week and see it as a form of entertainment as much as a form of savings. It’s something that we anticipate will stick around for years to come.

Is there something you’ve cut back on because of the recession and stuck with because you found it to be better?

{ 40 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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40 Responses to “Your Take: Have You Cut Back On Spending?”

  1. Shirley says:

    We are also frugal by nature and choice, but the economic crisis and your blog made me consider all interest bearing accounts and their impact ‘farther down the road’.

    We had started savings accounts for each grandchild at their birth at our local credit union. Our birthday, Christmas, etc., gifts to them are deposits into these accounts as they get plenty of toys and such from others. I recently closed them all and moved the funds to ING accounts with their name as the sub-account name. Monthly interest went from .05% to 1.10%.

    Thanks for the nudge, Jim; I obviously needed it!

  2. tom says:

    We’ve been very fortunate to have our incomes increase greatly over the past year, so we’ve been spending more lately.

  3. mannymacho says:

    Most restaurants I go to these days seem packed. I think that since this recession wasn’t accompanied by a very high interest rate and inflation like some previous ones have been, people’s consumer habits haven’t changed much. That, or they are just lazy and too far set in their ways to change even though it is hurting in the wallet.

    • billsnider says:

      I was just in a resturant packed with teens. The average cost per person for this place is a bout $40-50 per person. I was wondering where do people get this kind of money? i do not live in a particularly upscale neighborhood.

      Bill snider

  4. Bethy says:

    My husband and I choose breakfast or brunch dates over dinner dates. Breakfast fare is always less expensive. Plus, who doesn’t love breakfast?

    • govenar says:

      Sounds good… but then you have to wake up early enough to go out for breakfast.

    • ziglet19 says:

      My husband and I also usually go out for lunch as opposed to dinner. It allows us to still feel like we get to go out occasionally, but is considerably cheaper than dinner.

  5. freeby50 says:

    My wife and I did not cut any spending as a reaction to the recession.

    We have cut spending in some areas just as a mater of being frugal in general. But it wasn’t a reaction to the recession. We try to be frugal in general, not just when the economy isn’t good.

    • billsnider says:

      I am the same way. I have always looked to cut costs wherever i can. This was true in business.

      Bill snider

  6. Jennifer Lissette says:

    My husband and I had a child and went down to one salary right as the recession hit. We cut nearly all subscription services, including cable television, netflix, world of warcraft and our landline telephone. We’ve found that we don’t miss any of them. It’s forced us to be more resourceful if we want media entertainment and to spend more time outside. We’ve decided to keep these cuts in our budget even though we’ve paid off all our debts and are saving 70% of our household income.

    • Strebkr says:

      Our situation is very similar to this. New kids, less income, but we have always been good at watching how we spend. So yes, our spending is down.

  7. Virescent says:

    I’ve cut back alot. Only because I seriously think that things will not be business as usual. Anyone that thinks so has not learned any lessons of this particularly recessions. I read alot and thanks to a gift of a Kindle TV has not been a big deal for me. I have basic cable but do subscribe to Netflix. I use a Kindle/Amzn giftcard to control my book fix or go to the library. Reduced eating out, cook more. Working out joined gym (more discpilined) and thinking more the big pictures of cutting bigger medical expenses later by being pro-active…..just to start.

    • Scott says:

      Ah, if only being healthy lowered your current health insurance premiums. Now THAT is a novel idea! (But it will never happen with today’s big insurance companies.)

  8. daenyll says:

    my actual life/income situation improved over the recession moving from broke student to paid position to full time salary so I’ve gone from super scrimping and postponing or doing with out some semi necessities to being able to afford an occasional meal out. I feel I’m going to be able to retain a certain level of continued frugality by nature, and am slowly moving into the “I can actually afford it stage.” Looking forward to replacing the shaky hand me down bedframe and the futon sofa I’ve lived with for the past 7 yrs as furniture with something sturdy and actually comfortable over the next year.

  9. Amy Saves says:

    I eat out less often and also never buy meat at the grocery store. Instead, I stick to veggies and fruits. If I eat meat, it’s only at restaurants.

  10. uclalien says:

    My wife and I have always been fairly frugal, but sometimes, the storms of life require a person to go a step further.

    We used to go out on a modestly priced date once per week. I bought lunch on workdays, but tried to keep it in the $3-5 range, and my wife brown-bagged-it. My wife was also a good couponer (without it being an obsession), which kept our grocery bill low.

    In early 2009, I took a promotion that required a long-distance move. It also required my wife to quit her job. The combination reduced our income by roughly 25%. But we felt that the financial hit was worthwhile since the move put us within a couple hours of our families. It also opened up doors to future financial growth within my firm.

    After our move, since my new office was so close to our new home, I stopped going out to lunch and ate lunch with my wife instead. My wife was hesitant to find a new job because we had been trying to start our family and we planned on her staying home anyhow. Well… 6 months after our move, my firm closed my division and I was out of work. And a week later, we found out my wife was pregnant.

    Needless to say, a new level of frugality was required. We stopped eating out almost entirely. Our dates now consisted of walking to the local farmer’s market. I was still looking for work when our lease expired, so we moved to a tiny little granny unit In my hometown at about 60% of the cost.

    It has now been over a year since our 2nd move. I’ve found new work (albeit part-time) and we have a beautiful little girl. We still live in the same tiny house and, aside from our space issues, the move to a more frugal lifestyle has been great for our family.

    • billsnider says:

      Hang in there. Life is a roller coaster. You and your family will one day see better times.

      Bill snider

  11. govenar says:

    I haven’t really changed my spending much, up or down.

    • Kate says:

      Very little eating out, no cable, and I’m reworking my hair because I need a haircut. Filed my taxes today-not a pretty sight. Sometimes, the only way you have to go is up!

  12. Donald says:

    Our household income has gone down in the last 3 years. We have compensated to some degree by getting rid of cable TV entirely, refinancing our mortgage and reducing the amount of meat in our diet. I’m not really sure what else we can cut and still maintain a reasonably comfortable lifestyle.

  13. skylog says:

    i would not say that i cut my spending so much, perhaps a little, but i have certainly shifted my spending in some ways. i have been “spending” more in my retirement accounts and on maybe focused on essentials and long term purchases more.

  14. Wilma says:

    I’ve always been frugal so I really haven’t changed. I still don’t have cable or dish. Still keep the heat turned down. Still watch my spending closely.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I cut back on cable costs, there is not too many program worth the money on TV, as well as the landline ($15 per month with Vonage, and I use Skype).

    Cooking at home is fun and healthier, definitely.

    I also rent instead of owning, although I would love my own home, I enjoy the time saved on cutting grass, repairs, shoveling. Me and the other tenants share the community expenses. This substantialy free some money for my kids college and savings.

    I could not save on vacation though… this is my soft spot.

    Grocery shopping-wise, I cut on processed food such as chips and frozen meal.. Don’t miss it.

    It’s a sport to find a waste and eliminate it 🙂

  16. qixx says:

    i am still battling my way out of a job crisis. (Underemployed but i have a job). Our spending is way down in our family but i’m not sure if that is because our income is down. i’m working to ensure our reduced spending stays down once i end up fully employed.

  17. zapeta says:

    Our budget has always been pretty lean and we haven’t changed it in the past few years…so I’d say our spending has been mostly flat.

  18. thunderthighs says:

    I’ve been using Groupon a lot for splurges I would have made anyway. And the $10 referral bonus is very useful if you work it right…

  19. scdavid says:

    Our biggest change has been to delay large purchases like a new or newer car.

  20. Ginny says:

    We never ate out much unless it was with a special offer, but now, it is maybe on a birthday and that is with a gift card someone gave us. We only go to see movies with gift cards given to us for birthdays and we try to make them last all year. I buy clothes on sale maybe two times a year, rest I buy at yard sales. No raise at work, expenses up, such as gas and utilities and insurance, health and car. Husband is a commission only sales rep so due to cut backs in his field, less sales coming his way so he is never sure what income will be down the road. Vacations are out and we used to go to some great places, now NOWHERE.

  21. bloodbath says:

    I’ve cut out or cut back on almost everything. The thermostat is set 5-10 degrees lower/higher depending on the season, I shower and flush less, I have not dined out in almost 2 years, I buy fresh fruits/vegetable, no sodas, bottled water or snacks (my doctor wants me to lose 10 lbs and lower cholesterol anyway), I still have Dish but no HBO or HGTV and some other premiums, I wash my car at home, cut the lawn and do basic carpentry myself. I save more and monitor my investments more carefully, I no longer buy shoes and clothing just because I like them ( I wear what I have more), I cut my own hair, sold unused/unwanted items .

  22. Since I purchased my first home last year I have cut back my spending more than ever

  23. Bryant says:

    I never (thanks to my dad’s advice and bargaineering) never live up to my means. I make good money for being 26 and i live on about 45% less than what I make. It’s not like I live on instant noodles, but I do forego luxuries and fancy cars now for an “early” retirement and a good nest egg. I cut my cable entirely and reduced my internet down to the lowest level. Even with Netflix at < $10/mo, I saved $150/month. One of my vices is eating out too…so I cook at home and bring a lunch to work. It's paying off and I highly advise all my close friends and family to never ever live up to your means. Just because you get a 10k promotion, doesn't mean you need to figure out a way to spend 10k more a year… Just my .02…Always a good read Jim!

  24. ziglet19 says:

    We didn’t cut back too much, as we already were pretty frugal. When we were first living together, my husband was still finishing college, so we had a real tight budget. We cut out a lot of monthly bills (land line, cable, etc.) way back then, and never picked them back up. Don’t even miss them.

  25. cubiclegeoff says:

    I haven’t changed my spending much. I’ve always tried to keep expenses low anyway, so there wasn’t much I could change anyway.

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