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Your Take: Where Are You Cutting Back?

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Seinfeld Tom's RestaurantIn times of uncertainty, the prudent thing to do is to save so that you can weather whatever the world throws at you. That rule has been and always will be one of the unassailable ideas in personal finance (unless you’re facing rampant and runaway inflation, fortunately that has never happened in the United States) and that’s the mantra I, and many other people, have started to live by.

The first step is to cut back on spending somewhere and we’ve decided to cut back on eating out as often as we had been. My wife and I are fortunate to have disposable income and we treated ourselves to eating out at restaurants several nights a week. We didn’t go to lavish restaurants or anything like that. We’d go to our local pizza joint for a $20 meal of pizza and calamari or our local pho restaurant for a $15 meal of pho (those are totals for two). Even at a mere $15 a night, three nights a week, ends up being $180 a month.

We’ve replaced them with more cooking. We’ve made cooking a fun activity that’s part entertainment, part sustenance. Cooking is also much cheaper, makes more (for leftovers!), and saves us on gas (we can walk to our grocery store). A simple, delicious meal of some pasta and tomato sauce can’t cost more than a dollar or two per person and can feed us for several days.

In our case, we’ve “cut back” financially but enrished ourselves in other ways.

Where have you cut back?

(Photo: wallyg)

{ 18 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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18 Responses to “Your Take: Where Are You Cutting Back?”

  1. Miranda says:

    Like you, we’ve cut back on the eating out. My husband and I go out to eat once a week for lunch. This costs much less than eating dinner out, and since we go for a “date” while my son is at school, we don’t have to pay for him, either. (Although we do take him to lunch on Saturday a couple times a month, so it’s a real family treat.)

  2. My wife and I have cut back on eating out as well. I sat down just a couple of weeks ago and realized that each day I was spending approx. $4 for breakfast, $6 for lunch, and $7 for dinner. That’s $17 dollars a day and $119 a week! Now that we are cooking at home, I am averaging around $7 dollars a day, a savings of $70 dollars a week.

  3. Glenn Lasher says:

    We are eating out less, though perhaps there is still room to crunch that one down a tad. Renting DVDs from Blockbuster/Hollywood has become a really rare event (we are Netflix subscribers), as well as PPV movies and actually going to the cinema, though we haven’t actually cut any of these activities down to zero (as demonstrated by a recent post in my blog).

    We are also cutting back a bit on driving. I used public transit all summer to get to work, and we are visiting family less.

  4. lisa says:

    Driving! dh and I started driving less and finding things closerby to do when gas got so expensive. Now that it’s cheaper (I got it for < $2 a gallon!) we still have cut back because we got used to driving less.

  5. Joshua says:

    I stopped going out to eat about 2 months ago. I prepare my meals 3-4 days in advance. I also basically cut out alcohol completely. So that means not as much entertainment expense.

  6. Fred says:

    We started keeping a list on the refrigerator with all of our prospective non-essential purchases that we’re evaluating only once per month at the end of the month. Essentials for us include groceries, gas, regular car maintenance, and any emergency items (e.g., if our last pair of shoes breaks, the dryer breaks down, etc). Everything else goes to the list, including the possibility of eating meals out. This has worked really well for us because it keeps us from impulse buying.

    Also, since we look at all the items at the end of the month in one place, we can really decide which ones are more important on a long-term basis. We realized just how much we were spending without even thinking about it. That amount had become huge (as much as 15% of our budget).

  7. Jeremy says:

    No real cutting back on anything here. We already only eat out a few times a month if that. Not much in the way of excessive driving or expensive entertainment either. So, just plugging along as usual.

  8. Ben says:

    We have not cut back. In fact we’ve discussed increasing our spending allowance to another $20 a week each.

    Though I’ve increased our cash savings about as much.

    Since we both have stable jobs and both of us have gotten/will get raises why not continue to live normally?

  9. John says:

    No cutbacks. Trying to find ways to increase my income. However, I’m usually frugal by nature anyway.

    I think those of us who live within our means should try to find ways of maintaining our quality of life instead of cutting back because of economic fears.

  10. Gates VP says:

    I’m with John here:
    I think those of us who live within our means should try to find ways of maintaining our quality of life instead of cutting back because of economic fears.

    It’s the whole “latte factor” problem. For those who have read the book, he talks alot about “cutting out” the lattes, but makes no attempt to actually “replace” them.

    Eating out is very different from eating in. If you can change to eating in and still be better off, then bully for you. But honestly, most people don’t “eat in” the same meals that they “eat out”. So it’s very rarely an apples-to-apples comparison (pardon the pun).

    In times of uncertainty, the prudent thing to do is to save so that you can weather whatever the world throws at you.

    Great, so start naming me some “times of certainty”. This whole “cutting back” thing implies that you are somehow accepting a reduced quality of life. When really what we want to do is to find ways to improve our quality of life, even with a recession looming.

    If you’re adequately living within your means and meeting your savings goals, you should already to prepared to weather these nefarious “times of uncertainty”.

    If you’re using truly disposable cash to pay for eating out, why do you need to cut back?

  11. Kenny says:

    Yes, controlling expenses while increasing income is the mode of operation in our household…..We are completely debt free, and in a debt free mode of operation we are a high expense household. I just totaled my total expenses for 2007 (late!), and it is exactly $41,439.57 for exactly 12 months. This to me is a HUGE number considering that not a dollar went in interest expense for mortgage or credit card.

    So, we started doing some things that led to cutting back on using SUV/Van, defining “WANTS vs NEEDS’, pushing expenses for upgrades out to 2009, cutting back on eating at upscale restaurants, having more get-togethers at home/friends, no vacations in 2008, limiting flying ONLY to free travel through mileage programs, cooking more at home than buying food from outside (for example making a wheat flour pizza at home rather than a $10 Papa John’s pizza) etc. On the income side, we started upgrading credit cards to collect points (no debt or no balance of course) to get free gas cards, free restaurant cards, working harder at the jobs to earn more income (takes time in a salaried job), and making sure that we call lots of friends who bring great gifts for kids birthday parties (just kidding!!!!).

    In short, cut back + earn more, reduce debt, live within the means and survive the down-turn.

    Gas costs have come down so a lot of pressure on increased expenses have been cut down.

    I have a GREAT TEAM MEMBERS at home who are with me all the way, since they know these are “smarter” ways and I get 100% cooperation.


  12. Miss M says:

    I run a pretty frugal ship, there’s not a lot of fat in my budget, so there’s not much to cut back on either. Maybe we’ll drive a little less, use a few more coupons, but that’s it. This is a style I plan to keep in good economic times and bad.

  13. velvet jones says:

    I used to cook at home, but now I dine out more often. Just got tired of it. Like you and your wife, I’m not going out for steak dinners, it’s Panda Express and Panera lunches. 🙂 Tasty, but the money does add up. So I’ll start going back to bringing my lunches instead of eating out all the time.

    Other areas where I’ve cut back:
    –Cancelled insurance and “ring-back” tones on my cell phone
    –Stopped getting my hair colored
    –Stopped getting my eyebrows waxed

    I’ve been completely debt free for over a year and my monthly bills are few, so even with dining out regularly, I save quite a bit every month. It’s just that I could save more if dined out less. Saving more is important to me right now because a family member is going through an illness and I think 2009 is going to really rough financially…for everyone.

  14. Higher-end grocery shopping and wine buying have been my two biggest (and hardest) cut backs this year.

  15. Jon says:

    I have my wife cut my hair. I have long hair so it’s easy. I don’t know how much money I’ve saved over the past 7-8 years as I don’t remember how often “shorthairs” get a trim. 🙂

  16. Studenomist says:

    Being in my early 20s, cutting down on the nights out.. If I do go out I try to go to a local bar with friends.. Going out less in general is better now too because it is starting to get really cold where I live. My friends dont listen but by not going to night clubs you save a ton of money..

  17. Rob Lewis says:

    Cutting back on spending on food (taking lunches to work, rather than buying there), also satellite TV channels have been stopped too.

    Managed to cut back on my cell phone (mobile phone for those of us in the UK) and car insurance.

  18. Katy says:

    We cut back BIG TIME! A week ago, we stopped spending money for 2 weeks. No trips to the grocery store, no detours to the local coffee shops, only left-overs for lunch at work (except when required work lunch which might even be reimbursed), a barter of greens for apples, no gas for the car??? We have made it through one week, and while it’s hard to calculate the “real” savings, I’m going to give it a go on my blog today. We still have a week to go. We’d love to have your opinions on our experiment and maybe some advice as we scrounge around the house to make it through to the end. Although, I have to say, it hasn’t been so bad. We may renew the pledge for another 2 weeks…

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