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  • How to Realistically Pinch Pennies in a Recession

    2011 - 11.19

    I am very frugal when it comes to money, and with the income my husband and I bring in, I have to be. People don’t make a whole heck of a lot of money in my area (see Recession: How it Impacts a Rural Area), so I am always looking for ideas on how to stretch my dollar. Although I often enjoy reading articles that offer me advice or new ideas about how to pinch pennies in a spiraling economy, I often come across ones that seem to target upper middle class households. So in response, I have gathered some money-saving tips geared toward those of us who aren’t making the big bucks.


    Many articles that I read without fail suggest using public transportation, walking or riding a bicycle to work to save money on gas. Unfortunately, in Rural America many of us have to drive over ten miles to get to work, myself included and public transportation is not offered. Solutions:

    • Cut out unnecessary trips. Drive to work, but don’t make avoidable trips such as a quick run to the grocery store on the other end of town after work if you can help it.
    • Work out a route. Many folks are active families with busy lifestyles. If you are a family with many commitments, you can do one of two things: figure out a route you can take that will cut a few miles off to meet your commitments or simply ask yourself whether any of these commitments are really worth the commute. If it isn’t, eliminate the commitment that is eating away the most time and gas.
    • Carpool anyone? If you have coworkers who live in the same neighborhood as you, see if you can set up a carpool and you both share driving expenses or take turns driving to work. If you and your spouse have the same work schedules and if it’s convenient, have your spouse drive you to work and pick you up.



    This is a big one. It seems like every time I visit the grocery store the price of food fluctuates from one week to the next, so here’s what you can do to make the grocery bill less excruciating at the checkout.

    • Make a list and stick to it. I hang a piece of notebook paper with a pencil attached so that when my husband or I discover things we are running low on, we just grab the pencil and mark it on the list. Then when I go shopping I pick up the items listed and only those items and I leave unnecessary items on the shelf.
    • Budget. This is a difficult one if you don’t know what you’re doing. My husband and I usually only have a small budget to work with when buying food, so I have to use extra caution when I buy. Set your budget and make a point to stick to it. If you have a list, you may even want to write down the cost of the items on your list and add them up on a calculator so that you can have a general idea of what you are spending before you make it to the register. Plus, when you shop the following week or so, you can compare those prices with last week’s prices.
    • Buy as much as you can in bulk. Canned goods, pastas, beans, rice, and meat can all be bought in bulk. By purchasing things in bulk and storing them properly in your pantry and deep freeze, you will find yourself only shopping for perishables, fruits, vegetables, and personal care items.
    • Plan your meals. Get a general idea of what you want to cook and put these ingredients on your list. Then when you cook the meals, be sure to cook items that are leftover friendly such as soups, chili, spaghetti, etc. You can pack these in a lunch the next day or you can freeze them and reheat later so you can eat it for dinner when you’re in a pinch time-wise.
    • Stop eating out. My husband is guilty of eating out during his lunch hour every day, and after looking at our budget, we quickly discovered that his eating out is the culprit that has us bled dry by the end of the week. Instead my husband packs his lunch and takes it to work with him, and because I only have a 25 minute lunch, I pack my own lunch as well or I opt for whatever is served in the school cafeteria.



    • Look for sales. Look for good sales advertised in the newspaper. Watch favorite stores such as JC Penney to see what kind of discounts they will be offering on the next upcoming sale and try buying out of season clothes when they go on clearence.
    • Check out consignment shops and second hand clothing stores. Many people don’t even look to consignment shops or secondhand stores such as Goodwill and Salvation Army because most folks assume that the clothes there are just someone else’s trash. Wrong! I was able to snag an entire name brand wardrobe for pennies on the dollar! For example, I snagged a pair of Tommy Hilfiger brand capris for only $3.50 at a Salvation Army. Bargain? I think so!
    • Yard sales. If you have an extra Friday or Saturday coming up and you can spare the gas, grab a copy of your local newspaper and check out the yard sale listing in the classified section. If you choose reputable neighborhoods and make a reasonable route, you can make a great haul of good quality clothing for much, much less than the department store. Don’t forget to bring cash only!


    *Originally written for Yahoo! Contributors, but it was declined. It was written in response to an article I read by another contributor who chalked up buying a $200 Vera Wang purse on sale as ‘living economically’.


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