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Your Take: Will Your Recession Changes Stick?

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Almost Empty WagamamasWhile most of us don’t believe we’re out of the recession, no matter what the statistics say, we can all agree that we made a few sacrifices over the last year and a half. Some have made a lot of sacrifices. One of the things my wife and I cut back on was dining out. We would go out to restaurants several times a week, not counting weekend festivities with our friends. For a dual income, no kid household, it’s not uncommon because our other expenses are generally low. However, with the uncertainty of the recession and my wife starting a PhD program, we thought that cutting back on one of our largest expenses was a smart idea and we believe the changes will stick even after the economy truly recovers.

We decided to cut back for health reasons too. We weren’t eating at unhealthy places (our favorite was a local Vietnamese noodle Pho restaurant) but anytime you eat out, you are almost guaranteed to eat far more calories than at home. By cooking at home, you control what goes into your food and you’re more likely to serve more reasonable portions.

A side benefit of cooking more at home is that we’ve experimented more with some fun recipes. Some highlights include our Homemade Provençal Rack of Lamb earlier this year and the occasional homemade dumpling (by the way, I’m getting hungry writing this… so don’t click through unless you’ve eaten!), but more importantly we’ve added a lot of recipes to our “list of dishes we liked that we can make from memory.” I think it’s crucial for you to build up that portfolio of dishes because you’re less likely to go to a restaurant if you have a few things you can make yourself.

Finally, we found that cooking together is fun. We get to experiment, make mistakes, substitute ingredients we think we’d like more, and otherwise just have a great time spending time together working towards a fairly simple goal. We made the Provençal Rack of Lamb on a whim and lucked out that we didn’t mess it up on the first try. :) But had we screwed it up, no worries, we can always try again! (if you love eating out, you can always try to make it at home using what are known as “copy cat recipes,” just do a Google search)

Because of all those reasons, I’m pretty sure we’ll continue to cook more and eat out less even after the recession ends. It’s morphed from a “save money, save calories” decision to a “wow this is a lot of fun.”

Has something like that happened with you? Maybe you cut off cable television service for financial reasons and found a plethora of alternatives you liked better? Or maybe you went from two cars to one and found you liked that arrangement better? I’d love to hear it because then we could all give it a try.

(Photo: avlxyz)

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37 Responses to “Your Take: Will Your Recession Changes Stick?”

  1. kitty says:

    No. I am fortunate that I have sufficient income and savings that I don’t really need to cut my spending. I am also older (50) and so my net worth is higher than that of most younger people here. I also have no debt, I own my home outright. As a result, I have about half of my net income left after expenses, including full credit card bill and max 401K contribution. But I’ve never been a huge spender, at least not by American standards. I drive a Honda Civic that I bought new for cash, I bring my lunch to work – I prefer my cooking, plus eating out or buying lunch at work seems like a bit of wasted money for me. I’d rather spend on things I like more.

    Some savings did happen for family reasons – my mother is seriously ill so I had no vacation this year — I took days off, but I stayed at home taking care of family matters. I did take nice vacation last year – a transatlantic cruise, so it’s fine to skip this year. For the same personal reasons I skipped on my usual trips to Metropolitan opera or even Met HD Broadcasts. I just really have no time. Not much time for shopping either, really.

    I also gain a bit of weight and when this happen I usually go to “no new clothes until I loose weight” mode. So some savings there as well.

    Aside from that I see no need to change my lifestyle. If I lose my job, than I’ll cut a few things, even though I can survive on my savings for quite a while, so I see no need to cut expenses now. In fact, if I could find a cleaning lady I could trust, I’d probably hire her. Time is at a premium these days.

  2. Patrick says:

    I’ve also cut down on eating out at restaurants with my finacee. It just got so expensive and we have a nicer time making dinner together. As you said Jim, it’s also much healthier as well. All the ingredients we put in are fresh and we use more whole grains as well.

  3. Wilma says:

    I’ve always lived frugally. So I’m not in any real financial trouble at this point. Finding new ways or experimenting with new ways to cut back on utility usage, food bills etc keeps things interesting and me on the frugality track. I listen to those that have no concept of what it is to cut back in one area to get something in another area of your life. Purchases (especially big ones) must be planned. Some times sacrifices must be made. Hopefully going forward those that got into hot water will learn to spend more wisely.

  4. Jill says:

    I have not changed my habits much because I have not been personally impacted much. However, I think that some things will stick. There has been a push towards better financial education that I hope will stick around. I also think savings rates will stay higher, especially as long as credit markets stay tight.

  5. Just a guess, but some changes will stick because the rules of the game have changed. It’s not likely that we’ll see the easy credit standards of the 90s and early 2000s back any time soon and that will make a lot of spending changes permanent.

    So much of the pre-recession excess was being paid for by home equity lines of credit for everybody and the mailbox full of fresh credit cards, and it’s absence will put a short leash on a lot of us.

  6. Deby says:

    I’ve rediscovered the local library. I admit it’s much easier now that they’ve gone online, just order the books I want and in a couple of days (for older books, new ones can take longer since they’re in more demand) they’re ready. I’m giving up my Barnes & Noble card, and I don’t think I’ll miss it.

    But if overtime ever comes back for me again, I’ll be making an appointment with my hairdresser to color my hair again! ;)

    ~Deby


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