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November 19, 2008



We're doing things differently for Christmas this year and asked the kids (13, 15 and 18) to come up with "Three Wise Men" gifts--3 gifts that they would like that would be meaningful to them. More homemade items from me to friends, no holiday party this year but i am planning on organizing a pot-luck dinner for friends.

On the charity front, I'm actually planning on taking on more--our unitarian church does a "giving tree" where we buy a child some gifts, and we are going to do more than usual this year. I feel that we have so much, and that people who are closer to the edge are really in much worse shape, and our gifts may be the only ones those children get this year.

As for other measures...i teach spinning at a gym so my membership is free. I meet friends at houses for lunch or tea now instead of meeting at Starbucks. I avoid the mall even more than I ever did. Cooking more meals at home instead of take-out or go-out. More wine from Trader Joe's instead of 5th Ave. Liquors! Less Whole Foods, more Stop and Shop. Still supporting my farm down the road though.

My son will get a job this summer, my daughter already lined one up for the 6 weeks she'll be home this winter. Not doling out spending money to them since they can earn their own.

And definitely more library and less Barnes and Nobles. I won't even confess how much of our household budget that will save, but it's not a small amount.


We have just about stopped any discretionary spending. Buying more store brands, shopping at discount stores, and my personal sacrifice--buying cheaper wine. I am making every effort to reduce waste and postpone any shopping trips as long as possible. Our holidays will definitely be simpler, especially among the adults. Not sure about the charitable giving. It will probably be somewhat less, but not drastically so. Our biggest obstacle right now is that we had planned to buy a used car for our newly licensed teen driver, but that seems to be very difficult to justify right now.


" Letting magazine subscriptions run out? Buying generic or off-brand products? Visiting the library more often than Amazon.com? Exercising at home instead of at a gym? Planning a gift-free holiday season? What else?"

I've always done those things. My family hasn't exchanged gifts in years, and you know, it's okay. We're all adults now, so it's not like there are any children worrying that Santa isn't coming this year.


Ay, this hits home, as you know. We are in lockdown mode in terms of spending -- basically only laying out money for food, kids' tuition, and utilities/taxes. We've canceled our usual December trip to see my parents.

We've dropped our daily newspaper subscription -- although I'm not ready to test the oft-stated notion that I can't live without the Sunday Times! We tell ourselves we could keep up online, which for me is a double-edged sword. (I will use any excuse to get online, but I'm not necessarily catching up on the latest national and international news at nytimes.com. I have a rare gift for wasting time!)

We've always been heavy library users, but we also used to buy books, especially for the kids or for travel. We adore Newtonville Books but now we don't have "buying days" when we go there, just "looking days". That's ok with my kids, luckily.

We've been trying to sell off some stuff that we don't strictly speaking need -- jewelry, outgrown baby carriers. (I'm trendy that way!)

I'm putting off some medical tests because our insurance (which, thank G-d, we still have) doesn't cover labs. That $1,000 ultrasound will have to wait till better times.

My family has always been pretty light on the Chanuka gifts but I am still hoping to give something. Instead of individual gifts, I'll probably do one gift for each household, probably something home baked.

The philanthropy question is really gnawing at me. I'm still doing the project we used to do together, but am considering being more assertive about getting shipping reimbursed. I've been recycling most cash solicitations for other organizations, but am going to attempt to donate childrens' items where gently-used things are accepted. It pains me to give up our monthly tzedakah habit, and I don't intend for this to be a permanent decision. But until my husband gets a job that can cover our expenses, my donations will have to be more of time and less of money.

It's ok so far -- we are in much better condition than many families in that we started out with so many more advantages. But it's a steep learning curve for us all, and not a pleasant one. It sounds shallow but I really miss the *freedom* associated with money -- being able to go out for lunch (oh how I miss sushi!) or buy a new shirt just because I like it.


I paid off my mortgage several years ago. Best sanity-enhancer I can think of.

Right now I'm doing a little barter: my hairdresser is launching a new consulting business, and I'm trading branding advice for haircuts and color. I can't afford to do a lot of bartering, but this exchange feels good, and I'm learning interesting stuff about the world of salon-makeover consulting.


There was an interesting article in today's NYT about the irrational "savings" decisions people make when hard times hit. Things like splurging on a flat-screen TV at Walmart (nyet) because it's $20 less than at Best Buy or whatever, even though it's hardly a "Thing To Buy During Economic Downturn." I'm profligate on food, still, but have scaled back on clothes (and that one hurts! I'm vain.)


I've been doing those sensible, frugal, money-saving things for years, so no changes there. (Can you tell that I'm the child of Depression-era parents?)
I'm planning to write a larger than usual check to the local food bank this year though.


Don't subscribe to magazines. My bad is a $5 a day coffee / pastry. No new clothes or shoes this season. Credit card Christmas last year and a slim one this year.

Do you think Obama will help our economy and if so, how?


I think that "helping the economy" is tantamount to turning around an aircraft carrier...it will take a long, long time. If obama stays in office for 8 years, then it is possible that the results of some of his economic policies will be felt by we citizens, but I think the effects of this current crisis have deep and long-reaching roots, and "change", when it comes, will be slower than we wish.

Regulating the financial industry, to some degree, will go a long way in preventing a future crisis. I'm sure Obama will help institute some stop-gap measures in terms of helping people stay in their homes and un-freezing the credit market, but those are just bandaids in a gaping wound.

just my humble opinion!


Ken George

More brown-bagged lunches (given the paucity of really good places for lunch on my section of Commonwealth Avenue, that isn't all that much of a sacrifice).

At home we are re-discovering the joys of pasta. Had it twice this week already.

And yes, libraries are a great way to save. We went a little too heavy on the Border’s in Burlington last year. Fortunately, the Robinson Library in Arlington is great. We never got ride of the VCR, and that may prove a blessing given the extensive VHS collection. They are also beefing up their DVDs.

Thankfully gas is dropping in price. Got some in Burlington last weekend for $1.99 a gallon. A colleague from Taunton bested that: Would you believe a 1.93?

One thing I hope folks don’t scrimp on is pledging to their local NPR affiliate! ;)

Now is there something we could do with a Google mash-up to map out the best deals in the area?


We've always brown bagged it and I have my own espresso machine, so coffee out is a big treat. My husband is in construction; he isn't getting paid reliably these days and may not be working much longer. We have had conversations about how that will work with just my teacher salary to draw on. I'm relieved that he put money away in when he had really good years, so we can use that if we have to. Thankfully, we're not overextended and don't need a lot of stuff. (an occasional beer or dinner out)


I have always been frugal, too. I, too have been donating more time than money lately to the causes that I can donate time to.

I work at the library and we do notice that our circulation, especially of DVDs has increased rather dramatically.

Additionally, on a personal note, I have really been paying attention to sales circulars and buying in bulk, especially meat, when I get a good deal. Then I package it in the quantities I need. Also, been making more soups, since that seems to stretch further.


We don't follow a strict budget - we go by "feel." I plan to cut out massages and chiropractic in favor of physical therapy ($20 co-pay) for my sore rotator cuff. No eating out so much is a big money saver. Take fewer vacations. We'll do more local trips -e.i. visiting friends. (Ted has 5 weeks and we use every single day! - yeah Ted!) We had planned on sending Henry to private school next year for 6th grade, but at close to $30,000 a year for day school - I think we'll try for 9th grade instead. I'm thinking about subbing in the high school, but I think just staying out of stores will do the trick.


I've been frugal for so long and now it is hard to find new areas to cut back. But, I'm trying. And like you, I'm working on that philanthropy issue.


Packing lunches for my son. Looking at prices in the grocery store FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY 46 YEARS OF LIFE!!! Reading the weekly grocery store flyers and possibly even visiting a couple different stores to take advantage of specials. I've been working which was more happenstance than an effort on my part. But now that I am working, I want to work more. And I like the paychecks!

I am definitely differentiating between wants and needs. And prior to our trip to Mexico, I DID MY OWN PEDICURE!

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