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January 03, 2009

Got Ideas for Getting By?

Image6 Seven Days launched a new feature in our last issue of the year called "Getting By." In it, we'll share tips, strategies and stories about how Vermonters are surviving the recession (to the right is the nifty "Getting By" logo, from 7D designer Andrew Sawtell).

For the first installment, I interviewed the thriftiest, most resourceful person I know — my partner, Ann-Elise Johnson. Or, as I call her, "Stingepot." Ann-Elise graciously shared a few of her money-saving strategies. She also offered some insight into the experiences that shaped her sense of frugality.

This is my favorite part of our interview:

“When I was a kid,” she explains, “my brother and sister and I would be out driving with my dad, and he would always stop the car and make us pick up the cans on the side of the road. If we complained, he said, ‘Where do you think your Christmas-present money comes from?’ You grow up with things like that, and they stick.”

At the end of the column, I invited readers to share their own belt-tightening tips. I've already gotten several emails in response to my request. One came from a friend who wrote,

You'd be proud to know that since Sarah & I go to Maine to visit our family often, we've started collecting bottles that are not redeemable in Vermont but that are accepted in Maine! We stuff the car full of bags of bottles and cross the border to Maine. Last week (over the holiday) we made a whopping $33.50! Not too shabby, eh?! (Thank goodness we have a station wagon).

Gotta love that expanded bottle bill (Maine's covers non-carbonated beverages such as juice and iced tea).

Got a tip or a story to share? Send 'em my way, or comment here on the blog. You can email me at [email protected]

Oh, man. I could write a freakin' book about cheaposity.

Stop using your clothes dryer - air dry. Saves a lot of electricity. Wash your clothes in cold/cold. Don't buy things that are dry clean only.

Shop at Mr. G's Surplus, ReCycle North, Big Lots, and other area thrift/surplus/discount stores. Once you get to know the different stores' general inventories you'll know where to go when you need specific items.

Always buy generic brands. Most of the time brand name stuff is more expensive than generics even if you have a coupon.

Always carry snacks, lunches, coffee thermos, and refillable water bottles with you from home so you don't end up buying expensive cafe or convenience store drinks and nibbles.

Start thinking creatively about repairing stuff instead of automatically tossing things to buy new ones. Get to know some basic fix-it skills and materials.

Cancel your cable/satellite. It's making you retarded anyway.

Only eat out on very special occasions and check out Seven Nights for price ranges and special deals!!!

Go to matinees instead of evening shows and don't buy any concessions.

Buy fresh fruits and vegetables according to what's in season (cheapest). Don't just grab your favorites every week regardless of cost.

There are discount "seasons", sort of. Be mindful of the best times of year to get or stock up on certain things. Here's a pretty good list:

Cancel your gym membership. There are plenty of free ways to exercise.

Learn to distinguish between things you NEED versus things you WANT. That may sound stupid, but the inability to tell the difference is what lands people in insane, crushing debt. Speaking of which...

... kill your credit cards.

Geez, Molly, I shoulda interviewed you.

And good one, Matt. Thanks.

Words to live by, by Marjorie Jensen: "It's not a bargain if you don't need it."

I just started a blog to chronicle my efforts at exactly this!
I'm sure I'm one of many who has decided to share the tips and tricks of thrift without misery. Cook with friends would be my #1 tip of the day. The greater amount of food you buy at once, the cheaper it is. Make a giant something (chili, lasagne, batch of pork chops, whatever!) and split the leftovers between you. I can only hope that these tighter times will encourage this kind of community.

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