Sunday, April 5, 2009

Financial WHOAs!

by Caren Crane

These days, pretty much every news report, newspaper article, comedy sketch or blog post has something to do with the "financial crisis". People are more concerned about money - or their lack of it - than they are about anything else these days and with good reason. I live in North Carolina, where we currently have the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation (behind Oregon, South Carolina and Michigan). One county's unemployment rate is 17.8%! Numbers like those are something to be concerned about, for sure.

Fortunately, we haven't been impacted by job loss, home foreclosure or Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Nothing, in essence, has changed in my family's financial picture, but in my house we have had cause to keep a close eye on our spending since September. A series of events caused us to put on the financial brakes and really scrutinize what we were spending our money on. After six months of this, I know exactly where every penny of our money was going. Mostly, we ate it!

Like many people born in the 60s, my husband and I had little money growing up. At times, my family had none. Both of us knew from watching our parents how to pinch a penny and squeeze a dollar. When we were dating in college, we had very little money. I vividly recall a "date" where we sat on the porch of his single-side mobile home and listened to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert that was playing down the highway at the new amphitheater. Cheap beer and 'Free Bird', now that is college romance! With our histories, we knew about economizing because we'd had plenty of experience with it. So what happened to us over the past 19 years?

Well, for one thing we started making more money when we graduated from college and got married. A lot more money. We were blessed with medical, dental and prescription benefits, automatic investments for each 401k (with matching interest up to a certain percentage), automatic deposit of payroll, automatic payment for the mortagage and electricity and get the picture. Mix enough "automatic debits" with enough "automatic credits" and it's easy to lose focus of exactly what is going where. Add in two full time jobs, three children and a full roster of afterschool, church and volunteer activities and we were two very busy people managing barely-controlled chaos. And not paying enough attention to our bottom line.

A shocking amount of our money was spent on eating out (oh, the convenience!) and on entertainment (I do love a movie!). Another place we spent too much was at the grocery store. Those fancy jarred pasta sauces, organic chicken broth and free-range eggs really add up! So do the lattes before guitar lessons and after church on Sunday. My husband's downfall was those convenient two-packs of Krispy Kreme doughnuts and a couple of diet Dr. Peppers picked up at the convenience store each morning. Add up all those little things and you can see where my financial WHOAs came from. As in "Whoa, Nelly!"

Being busy is nothing but an excuse, it's true; however, I think ours is a fairly common situation. Like many couples, we were shortsighted and more concerned with our own ease and convenience than with fiscal responsibility. We should have been paying more attention and been better stewards of our resources. Fortunately, with a lot of attention and a good bit of planning, it was easy to get us back on track. The great part is, we have no debt (except our mortgage), enough money to cover our bills and enough left to set money aside for our emergency fund every month. The bad part is, we really have to watch our discretionary spending. The worst part is, books are part of discretionary spending! Therein lies the real tragedy, dear reader. As a result of my own personal "financial crisis", I have had to (temporarily) put the brakes on my book purchases. Except for the must haves, of course. For those, I wait until Borders sends me one of those 30% off any item coupons, then I count my pennies and run out and buy it!

Has a "financial crisis" (either national or personal) impacted you? What, if anything, are you cutting back on these days? Are you in the sad situation that I am regarding book purchases? And do you really know how much you spend on your delightful beverage of choice in a month?


sarabelle said...

is it me??????

sarabelle said...

wooohoo I get the ROOSTER.

Excellent post, it is near and dear to my heart. My Dh has been off work since July so financially speaking it is very hard. we go month to month on paying bills and hope like hell we have the money for the bills, so far so good. I have had to swallow a lot of pride in the last 6 months and thank the lord everyday that I have wonderful supporting parents who have helped us out in times of desperate need. My extra curricular spending has dwindled down to about nothing and am so grateful for the wonderful authors and their blogs, that has been how I have been getting wonderful new books.

flchen1 said...

Woohoo! Congrats on the GR, Sarabelle!

Caren, great post--we're still keeping afloat at the moment, but I am constantly reminded to be a better, wiser steward of what we do have and not to rush to acquire more. But the books continue to beckon! ;) (I don't tend to spend much on stuff like coffee, but those book purchases sure do add up!)

limecello said...

Congrats on the GR, sarabelle!

Great post, Caren. As for financial woes... I don't even want to talk about it. I'm a student, and have been one for a loong loong time. Uncle Sam owns me, my firstborn, and his/her child. I'm going to die in debt, and jobless, at this point.
:P And in eternal winter.

>.< Man, yesterday and today's posts combined are really depressing for me.

Jane said...

The financial crisis has definitely impacted me. I don't eat out as often and I brown bag my lunch most of the time. I've definitely cut back on my book purchases and I borrow from the library more often. The library is great for trying new authors and if I don't like the book I won't feel as if I wasted my money.

Virginia said...

Congrats sarabelle on nabbing that rooster! Have fun with him today!

Great post! We too have cut back on our spending. So far my hubby has kept his job but he was laid off for one week and has had some hours cut back, so he is not making as much money as before. He was working 12 hour shifts and now they are going back on 8 hour shifts and have laid some people off.

We do not eat out as much as we used to. I also buy more store brand products. I have also quit smoking, but hubby has not. He is also a big Mountain Dew drinker but I told him he is going to have to start drinking the store brand drinks like my son and I do and dear hubby is not very happy about this. I only buy books unless it is a must have thing and then it kind of falls in my grocery cart, shame, shame. I just can't give up everything right now.

Helen said...

Congrats sarabelle have fun with him

Caren I think a lot of people all over the world are really starting to think about what they spend their money on whether people think it is a good thing or a bad thing the Australian Govt is giving every taxpayer a payment of $900 starting this month to spend and that is what the Govt wants us to do to keep the economy going.
As for us we only have one wage coming in (mine) but we only have a mortgage to pay no credit cards or any other debts which is good for us but I try and save money where ever I can stock up on specials buy home brand goods take my lunch to work and eat out very rarely. I cannot help myself with books though I am addicted here in Australia the average price for a romance is $15-95 and I spend about $150 a month on books and while I can afford it I will they are my life savers my turn of to everything that is happening.
I am sure that we will all get through this financial crisis I am thinking positive.

Have Fun

jo robertson said...

Wow, Caren, this is a GREAT topic! I think we're all guilty of being careless in our spending. Like you, we haven't been hit hard with the economic crisis, but it just seems wrong to spend foolishly when so many people are hurting.

I heard my daughter talking to 3 yo Annie the other day when she was going potty at my house. Annie need is toilet trained but still needs help with the big stuff, if you get my drift.

Anyway, I heard Shannon say, "Be careful Annie. Remember, we don't waste our flushes."

When we were raising our children, a night out for the family was those Thrifty ice cream cones. Do you have Thrifty stores on the east coast? Anyway, they were a nickel a scoop so we could literally treat the entire family for less than fifty cents! What a deal!

Caren Crane said...

Sarabelle, congrats on snagging the Golden Rosster!!

I'm so sorry to hear about your dh's situation. I know SO many people here who are out of work. No matter how annoying my job is sometimes, I thank God for it every day! My dh went through a long period without a job. He started a home-based business, which helped some, but it was great he was home when the kids got out of school and could oversee homework, take them to appointments, etc. That was a blessing we didn't expect!

I'm glad we Banditas can provide some cheap entertainment and free books! Keep entering out contests (and the ones on our authors' websites). I'm sure we can keep you in reading material at least!

Caren Crane said...

Fedora, aren't the books just a siren call? *g* I try to get the books with a shorter shelf life first, like Harlequin books by Tawny, Beth and Trish and Mills & Boon books by my beloved Deb Marlowe.

Some, like Sabrina Jeffries', I get to read before they are published (which is a fabulous friendship perk!) and other author friends will sometimes slide me an ARC (like Claudia Dain and Liz Carlyle). They are so good to me!

I do look for sales at Borders and B&N (which are local here). Borders puts out a weekly coupon, which I eagerly anticipate each week! I have learned to be more patient and wait on even the "must read" books. Man, is that tough!

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Limecello, don't be sad! Summer will come, even to your cold part of the world, and the winter of your financial woes will pass, too.

Being a student is usually the poorest time of many peoples' lives - it was mine! Trying to pay off student loans is a big issue for someone just starting out, too. It can take years, depending on how much you owe.

The great thing is, there are lots of great sites and programs and help available that will help you, when you graduate, to think of your debt in manageable chunks and to help you get on solid ground.

I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University. He has a morning talk radio show that usually plays on AM stations. He is awesome!

As to there being no jobs for graduating students, that is a passing thing. Baby boomers may be hanging onto their jobs for a while longer than usual, but they won't be in them forever. There are a lot less young people coming up than older people retiring, so your day will come!

Oh, and if Nancy and Jeanne don't pick up your spirits in the next couple days, Annie West will be visiting us on Wednesday. She is always a delightful treat!

Hang in there, sweetie!

Caren Crane said...

Jane, it sounds like we're on the same plan! I used to buy a salad many days during the week, but I've rediscovered the money-savings realized by brown bagging it. It's astonishing how much money my family and I used to spend on prepared foods!

I have started using the library to check out book club books. They are "literary" and not usually ones I would want to own, so it makes sense. I have also used it to try new authors. Of course, if I love them, then I have to put them in the future spending plan!

Caren Crane said...

Virginia, sympathy on the reduced hours! I have a friend who stopped getting paid for overtime each week. Since she's hourly, she can only work her 40 hours now. The extra helped her have, you know, the "extras" like a dinner out once in a while or savings for a vacation. She's single, so she really felt the difference.

She has started working a part time job in the evenings a few days a week so she can save for a vacation. I admire her so!

I hear you on the dh and the soda. Happily, my dh gave up all soda for Lent. I can't tell you how much money it has saved us! I REALLY hope and pray he gives it up for good. It is the single most expensive thing, given how much he drinks and that it's a daily habit, that we have!

Of course, we also gave up beef and pork for Lent and have saved a ton of money there, too. If you buy chicken on sale and keep the freezer stocked and cook dried beans each week, it can make a big difference!

Good luck on getting the dh on Mountain Thunder or whatever your generic of choice is. That can be a hard sell!

Caren Crane said...

Helen, it sounds like you have a good handle on your spending. Good on ya! I can only feel a certain small measure of guilt in buying books. I do re-read my favorites and I am all about supporting authors I love, so I want to buy them and keep them. All things considered, books are relatively cheap entertainment (at least in the USA).

Heaven knows they are cheaper than concerts. I am missing Kings Of Leon, who are playing about 3 miles from my house!! I just couldn't justify spending $45 on a ticket. Of course, I could do like we did for the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and hang out nearby to listen. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Jo, isn't it interesting how things have come back around? Growing up, I recall that if we went to the movies, we went to the drive-in, where you paid by the carload. *g*

There were five kids and my parents in a station wagon. Mama would lay down the back seat and fix a pallet for the little ones to go to sleep when they were ready. She would pop a paper sack full of popcorn, pack drinks in a cooler and off we would go!

A great treat was to buy a big pickle from the concession stand. *g*

We don't have Thrifty stores where I have lived, but I remember those ice pops you stuck in the freezer. They were kind of nasty and burned your throat if you ate too many, but they were COLD and SWEET and often that was all we wanted!

I have fond memories of the Burger Chef, who ran specials and printed coupons. We went there for special treats, too!

Louisa Cornell said...

Yay Sarabelle! Congrats on the GR. Tell him you are on a budget so he won't eat you out of house and home. I understand he does great housework so tell him you need a free maid service if he intends to spend the day.

Great post, Caren, and very timely.

I had to laugh when I read it. I know all about financial crisis! Try going instantly from a doctor's wife to a doctor's penniless widow. When the DH was killed we had no life insurance. Why would we? We had no children, he was out of med school less than three years. I retired from opera to play the doctor's wife which meant I had no job except to do charity work and throw dinner parties - necessary in the medical / psychiatric world. I had enough money to fly him home and bury him and we had a ton of debt. I worked three jobs and it took ten years to get it all paid off. I am still deeper in debt than Mexico when it comes to school loans and I will probably never pay them off. They're insured. The government will get it when I'm dead. Thank God they are willing to take payments based on my income!

The good news is my trailer (such as it is) is paid off and my land is paid off as well. So long as I pay my property taxes I have a place to live. A true blessing considering we almost didn't buy this property and I thought of selling many times.

My lifestyle has changed quite a bit from the pampered opera singer who had a clothing allowance, massage allowance and all kinds of perks with her job to the bakery manager at Wal-Mart who is the coupon queen.

I don't eat out, I don't smoke, I don't drink. I buy generic. However, two things I refuse to give up are my books and my dogs. Which means my money goes to those two things and I eat a lot of sandwiches!

And it's okay, because I know there are people much worse off than I am!

Gillian Layne said...

It's just the reality of today, isn't it? I've been ashamed more times than I like to admit about how hard I think it is to stretch a dollar.

My parents can make "nothing" last forever! But it's their combination of country common sense and the barter system that exists between small town country and farm folks--you do this for me, I'll do this for you, and we'll all be fine. Like a friend of my folks lost their home last week to fire. So the sale barn donates all it's daily breakfast proceeds from their restaurant to the family, others donate furniture and clothes, someone comes up with an old trailer they can use for now.

I have reined in my food bill too. I still buy books. I think I'd rather cut cable than quit books.

Gillian Layne said...

Caren, my Mom brought hot dogs in a thermos to fix at the drive-in. I remember how excited we were when my Dad broke down and finally let us go buy french fries from the concession stand. :)

Nancy said...

Sarabelle, congratulations on grabbing the rooster. I hope you have fun with him.

Caren, we're saved from the perils of lattes by not living near one of the usual providers. We live just far enough away to make walking annoying, and the parking is always tight.

I've also cut back on book purchases and, especially, on DVD purchases. I haven't been clothes-shopping in a while. We're lucky that the dh has great job security, but we foresee a massive increase in health insurance premiums. There are also big budget cuts in the program where I teach.

Like you, we eat out less than we did. When we do, we stay with cheaper restaurants and skip dessert. We can make dessert for the three of us at home for what one dessert out costs.

We don't go to the movies as much (though I do see Star Trek in my future), and we don't buy refreshments there.

Once those health insurance premiums hit, we may be cutting more.

Nancy said...

Sarabelle, I'm so sorry about your dh's situation. I hope things will improve soon. I've heard we're about to hit bottom on the jobs situation, and I certainly hope the situation will swing upward soon.

Nancy said...

Limecello, I remember being a student and having loans. This, too, shall pass. And some students are getting out of school and finding jobs. I hope you'll be one of them.

Louisa Cornell said...

When I do go to the movies with my niece and nephews ( a special treat when they visit) I always take Aunt Pam's Magic Purse. It is huge and can accommodate several boxes of those movie candies you can get at Wal-Mart, a bag of home popped popcorn AND four 20 oz Cokes. I know. I know. You aren't supposed to do that, but can you imagine ME feeding three hungry teenagers at the movies AFTER paying for tickets??

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Caren! I hope its as Sunny a Palm Sunday where you are as it is where I am. :>

Congrats on the GR, Sarabelle!

Its an interesting economy and I think everyone's taken a hard look at what's "Necessary" spending and what's "Excess" which is always a great idea.

Since I became a full-time writer and a working mom, we watch everything, but I have to confess that I made line items in the budget for books, the occasional date-night, and my addiction to Starbucks. Grins. I may not do very many Girls Nights Out any more, but I get my daily Starbucks.

I'm an optimist by nature, however budget-practical I have learned to be, and I have to say I'm pleased to see the housing numbers rise and so many of the economic factors are beginning to show signs of turning.

Hang in there, everyone! Thankfully reading's still free at the Library and books are cheaper than virtually any other form of entertainment. So I'm going to keep reading and get through this right along with my fellow Bandits and BBs!

Now I'm off back to the cave...

Louisa Cornell said...

Sending prayers and waves of good wishes your way Sarabelle! I just know God is going to send a great job your husband's way!

Keira Soleore said...

Caren, like you, books is where I have been economizing. I don't have a clothes or shoes or bags habit. I do have a Target habit, but mostly, it's books, books, and MOAR books. So that's where I've had to put the skids on, and it hurts me to think about all my friends whose books are coming out and I have had to say about some maybe next month or perhaps in a couple of months. It's a horrible thing to have to say out loud on a writers' blog, but there you have it. Them's the breaks right now.

Joan said...

Congrats Sarabelle! The Rooster doesn't even require a coupon!

Oddly....and maybe I'm living in La la land, but I feel a bit stabler (?word) right now. But ONLY because I paid off my car in December and now have that extra money to decrease my debt and save. I have recently made the decision to step down from a charge nurse position to staff nurse. I'll admit to being a bit surprised at how much the pay would drop...but I figure I'll save in the long run by being healthier.

I know I could do better with eating out and especially buying my lunch etc. at the hospital. It makes me cringe everytime I see a family buying a meal there and how much it costs.

JT signing off from Dallas....see ya'll in KY this evening!

Janga said...

I took early retirement so that I would have time to write. I had calculated carefully and counted on freelance writing assignments to provide the occasional splurge. When the storm hit, not only did I lose income I had counted on but the freelance work took a big hit too. I'm still a lot better off than many people are, but I do watch what I spend more carefully. The splurges are postponed indefinitely.

But I think the experience has been good for me overall. Eating out rarely means I enjoy it much more when I do eat out. Cutting out prepackaged foods means I'm eating more healthily, and planning trips into town carefully has reduced those trips from several a day to two or three per week. I not only save money and time, but I also get to feel good about being more ecologically responsible. And I save a bundle by cutting out all the "little toys" for the grands and stocking up on craft and scrapbook supplies at the dollar store. They have a great time, and they are using their imaginations more, a practice that delights me.

I have cut the books I buy. I buy almost no hardbacks, although I confess I could not resist Lisa Kleypas' Smooth Talking Stranger last week. I still buy my autobuy authors. I've been blessed to win many books by new or new-to-me authors. I even won a $100 gift card from the goddesses. Yahoo!

It's a mixed blessing though because sometimes the free books just add names to my already lengthy autobuy list.:) But since I don't smoke, rarely drink, and rarely go to movies, I can justify my book habit.

Trish Milburn said...

I think even for those of us who haven't experienced job loss or mortgage woes, this financial crisis is so big that it's made all of us aware of what we spend and we're trying to make wiser choices. That said, I haven't stopped spending totally. I think it's important to contribute to the economy if we can. We don't eat out as much as we used to because, like you said, it adds up fast. There are only two of us, but we can blow $100 on 3-4 meals out. I can cook a lot more than that at home for $100. I also coupon when I can when we eat out, and I've noticed lots of restaurants in the area offering more special deals to get people to come in. Another thing we do to save on eating out is to eat out for lunch on the weekends instead of dinner -- cheaper, and then we can eat a small dinner at home.

Trish Milburn said...

Hey, we had one of those $5 per carload drive-ins in my hometown too. It's not there anymore.

I think the thing that really ticks me about this financial crisis is that it's hurting even the people who have done everything right. Hubby is naturally frugal, and I grew up poor as dirt so didn't have any choice but to be. So we went into our first jobs after college with saving in mind -- 401(k) to the max, including the ROTHs. So we started saving early for retirement, like the experts say to do because of the benefit of compounding. It's depressing to have done all that and to know that half of it is just gone now. :(

Janga said...

Trish, we always do the lunch thing when we're vacationing and want to eat at some of the really ritzy spots we have read about or that have been recommended. We get the experience and the food at much less. But we always do dinner somewhere special once.

Terry Odell said...

Ah, yes. Everything goes along just right - sure, the economy sucks, but our house and cars are paid for, I have enough saved to cover my writing 'career' for a couple years without having to rely on a big advance, and in a few years, we can retire and get out of this state. We've never had a lot of money, but we've managed to stay out of debt.

And then hubby's company says, "your position will not exist after July 1st, and because we're SO nice, you can work half-time (half pay, no bennies) from April 1st until then (rather than a severance package.)

So, our retirement savings will have to be used sooner than expected, the bottom line is much lower than we'd like it to be due to the economy, and we're crunching numbers to see where our money goes and where it won't be going much longer.

Luxuries first, of course. My cleaning service, which I'd sneaked into the budget even after quitting my full time job because I hate housework and figured the fights we'd get into about who did what and how often were well worth the money.

And books? Well, libraries are doing well, and one of my books targets the library market, so maybe people will ask their libraries to carry it. My other books are trade paperback (taking a big hit) or digital (hope those sales will pick up.)

And my writing savings? Well, for now, those dollars are waiting to see if we'll need to use them for basic living expenses.

Caren Crane said...

Louisa, you had a head start on all of us with scaling back, didn't you? Bless your heart, I don't know how you did it! Well, maybe I do. Having watched my mother do something similar, except my veterinarian dad simply took off after the divorce and left the state and never paid child support for the FIVE kids.

My mother found out that since she "got the house" in the divorce, that meant she got the second mortgage Daddy had taken out (without her knowledge) as well. She had no money, not even an account with her name on it as a joint owner. And he canceled the home, car and medical insurance when the divorce was finalized.

Mama pulled herself together, got a job, applied for welfare and did what she could. It was horrible, really, but she made it the best she could for all us kids. So, I admire you tremendously!

I have to laugh about the dogs and books, because we always had dogs and cats (family of a vet, you know) and still had them when we had no money. Mama's post-divorce job was pulling book orders at Ingram's in Nashville, so she got a book discount, too. At Christmas, we always got books! *g*

I, too, have resumed my Coupon Queen tiara. I dragged out the coupon box and noticed I needed to change some labels. Since the "baby" is 14-1/2, I didn't need the ones for diapers and baby food anymore! LOL

Caren Crane said...

Gillian, isn't it great to see the community pull together like that? We live in a big community that is a satellite of Raleigh, so we don't have that sense of "neighborhood" you get in smaller places, sadly. But I have to say, the church we belong to is really great about pulling together to help those in need, both in our church family and in our community. People have fundraising dinners, product sales and take up special offerings to help those in need.

We also try to provide transportation, meals, cards and visits when people need them. I tell you, it's nice to know that if something happens to me, there will be people ready to help out! And that's not even counting my Bandita sisters and writer friends, who I know ALWAYS have my back. You can't put a price tag on friendship like that!

I totally agree with you about cable, too, Gillian. I don't require TV, really. I think my high-speed internet would be an issue, though. How else would I connect with my Banditas and BBs?!

Caren Crane said...

Gillian, french fries! Man, oh, man were you lucky. Fries made anywhere but home were like manna when we were little. *g* French fries at the drive-in and hot dogs, too? The mind boggles at the goodness of it all. Just add "Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang" and you have paradise!

Caren Crane said...

Nancy, I hear you on the DVDs! I used to buy some good ones I saw on sale for less than $10 when I was out shopping. I haven't bought any since Christmas, though, and those were gifts.

I adore movies and, in my opinion, a person simply can't own enough. *g* One thing that stayed firmly in the entertainment line item of the budget was Netflix. For $18.14 a month, we get unlimited movies (as fast as we can turn them around, 3 at a time) and we can watch thousands of movies on our computers. If I could just get my husband to network the TV into our LAN at home, we could watch them on the TV, too. So, I can forgo the DVDs easily. *g*

I'm so sorry to hear about the health care insurance increases. I know it has been a sore subject for NC State workers. I think it's horrible! And yet, you have to have it. Maybe something good will happen with our healthcare costs. We can hope and pray!

Caren Crane said...

Nancy and Louisa, I hear you on the movies! Louisa, I adore your Magic Purse. I have a huge Kenya bag (from the early 80s, I think). It only sees the light of day when we go to the movies. There is a $1.50 theater here that is a decent one. On Tuesday nights, you can get a large popcorn for $1 and a large soda for $1. Tuesday nights have become very popular! *g*

And the Dollar Store sells movie theater candy and 20-oz sodas. What's not to love?

Caren Crane said...

Keira, isn't it heart-wrenching? I try to save money on other parts of the budget to buy books when they are new releases (and hopefully with one of those handy Borders coupons that pop up in my email!). It doesn't always work out, though, and I hate to miss the first week, when it would help the author, numbers-wise, the most. But times are tough!

Books are good, cheap fun, but they are only one of many, many line items in the old budget. It only gets what it gets!

Caren Crane said...

JT, congrats on getting the car paid off! I hope you had a note-burning ceremony. *g* When we get our house paid off, I'm going to have a bonfire!!

Be careful flying back from Dallas. Don't try to sneak onto a Qantas plane, either, and visit our friends Down Under like you're always threatening to do. You'll create an international incident!

Caren Crane said...

Janga, I think having to "live smaller" will be good for many families and people. I know we eat much healthier when I cook at home all the time.

My older daughter just had a birthday last week (she's 16 now!) and instead of going out to dinner, as we had started doing, we had a shrimp boil at home. It was so much fun to attack a mound of shrimp, sausages, potatoes, onions and corn while listening to zydeco! We had a great time and, shopping sales and my beloved Aldi, we managed to spend less for the 6 of us than it would have cost for 2 of us to eat out. baking a cake from scratch costs less than half of buying one and it tastes a hundred times better, too!

I'm so gald to hear the grands are exercising all their limitless creativity. Isn't it a marvel to watch?

Louisa Cornell said...

Caren, your Mom is my hero. I went through hell, but it was just me and one dog at the time. I didn't have five kids! While I would love to have had a child to keep part of the DH with me, I am grateful I didn't have to go through the tough times AND take care of a child.

And I do HATE that I can't buy some of the newer movies as they come out. I really want to see Marley and Me, but the 20 bucks it cost now could buy me three books! So, I'll wait until it comes out a bit cheaper. Just bought Inside Man (my love Clive Owen is in it.) and Scoop (my other love Hugh Jackman) for 5 bucks each!

My nephew will be dog and house sitting if I get to come to Nationals> I have no cable and on video game systems. His Mom said "Will you have enough to do out there in the middle of nowhere?" He said "Mom, have you SEEN Aunt Pam's movie collection?"

So I have three vices - Dogs, Books and Movies!

Keira Soleore said...

Tawny, as promised, my camera's downloaded and here's a photo of your book on the Target bookshelf.

Caren, you're right, while I do feel the pinch now and then, overall, the thrifty side in me that I had hidden inside is now having fun scrimping a bit here and there--she loves that virtuous feeling, almost better than the things itself, except for books.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

GREAT post, Caren! The DH and I LURVE listening to Dave Ramsey's show. WHen those people call in and scream, "I'm debt free!!" it is so fun. :-)

My sympathies to everyone who has been hit hard by this economic fiasco. I had already scaled WAAAY back when I quite my DDJ 5 years ago, but it is VERY depressing to look at my 401(k) and other retirement accounts shrinking by the day. I can only HOPE they will recover by the time I have to use them.

I've cut way back on going to lunch with friends, one of my few entertainments. :-( But I'm meeting Jo-Mama this afternoon! And I saw exactly 3 movies at the theater last year. THANK GOODNESS for Netflix!

I always use my Border's coupons to buy books, too. And all my friends know to buy me gift cards as presents... Speaking of gift cards, I will be giving away 3 of them to members of my newletter group on April 26th. If you aren't a member, NOW would be a good time to join (on my website)!


Christine Wells said...

Caren, good on you for reining in the spending. We've been lucky in that we haven't been overly affected by the financial climate. One are where I have to spend carefully, though, is my writing expenses. I've just done my tax and was astonished at how much I'd spent promoting my books. All those small amounts really add up! So I'm going to work out a budget for each book and try to stick to it!

Sarabelle, congratulations on the rooster! I hope he shows you a good time today!

Caren Crane said...

Trish, isn't it odd how we are sometimes affected by the perception of a crisis even if none is evident in our lives? I do think it's prudent of anyone to pay close attention to their finances and ensure they have what they need when they need it.

I really enjoy having a big meal at lunch, so making that a "date meal" is a great idea! I have to say, "date night" has suffered due to the dh's lo-o-o-ng work hours and rare days off. He's at work now! He left church right after Sunday school and went to the office. I'll be glad when this 24/7 work thing is no longer the norm!

Caren Crane said...

Trish, I've found people think wrongly about their 401k plans and other investments. Except for the initial investment, there is no "money" to lose. There is only the POTENTIAL to realize money if you could sell all the shares of everything in your portfolio at the current price.

So, you now have less POTENTIAL for realizing money. But, since you now own lots more shares, since they are priced so low these days, when the prices increase you will be in a better position than you were, even if stock prices are not as high. In other words, your POTENTIAL to realize the value for that greater number of shares will be greater than the potential for the shares you owned when they were higher priced.

No use crying over it now, unless you had planned to cash out. Now THOSE people need our prayers!

Caren Crane said...

Janga, the dh and I also like to take advantage of the "early bird" specials lots of resort areas run. They usually want you to go in when older people would eat - like 4:30 - 5:30 or something. We have no trouble eating that early! We will go and then have dessert much later in the evening, when we're back at the condo or wherever we're staying. I love that!

Caren Crane said...

Terry, that is a TOUGH position to be in. Companies are having to make such hard decisions these days. Most aren't completely heartless about it (though some are). The lack of benefits would terrify me, but the half-pay is better than none, for sure!

I have no doubt the two of you will figure out a way to weather this storm. That's where all that creativity comes in handy. I hope you'll get to relocate somewhere with a higher employment rate and maybe THEN you can both retire after a few years. Sheesh! There's no good answer, is there?

Caren Crane said...

Louisa, I saw 'Marley and Me' at the $1.50 theater last weekend with Liz Bemis. It was wonderful! It's a must-see for a dog lover like you. I think it's a perfect movie for anyone who has had a dog who was part of the family. *sniff*

We also saw 'Seven Pounds', which I really liked. It wasn't an easy movie, by any means, but I thought it was well-motivated and believable. Plus, I really like Will Smith. *g*

Caren Crane said...

Keira, I get a little thrill when I get the "your total savings were" message at the bottom of my receipt. I love saving money!

We have a chain of groceries here called Harris Teeter. They are generally a bit higher-priced than other chains, but lately they have been running these crazy "buy 1, get 2 free" specials. They assume, of course, that you will come in for the special and do all your shopping there. They don't realize I have no loyalty except to low prices! *g*

Three stores I like (one being Costco) are near my work and two are near my home. One is between home and church, so I usually only go when I'm on my way home from the church. I make a list for each store and stop in as I have time during the week the specials are on. It is SO satisfying to figure out how much I knocked off the necessities of our life each week.

Plus, the Coupon Queen tiara goes well with the current hairstyle! Of course, using the lower-priced hairdresser is a whole other blog post...

Helen said...

In times like these I love the support and friendship that is shown we all need people to lean on at times even if it is someone just to listen to you often helps. Getting together with friends for a BBQ can be cheap and lots of fun and for me reading takes my mind of things and the blogs are always great for getting new recomendations and a chance to discuss books and get things of our chests.

Have Fun

Caren Crane said...

Aunty Cindy, I've scaled back on the lunching with friends, too. It's so sad! I'm considering quitting the book club at work, because they tend to pick pricier lunch places for our book discussions. Since none of us at the Bank are getting raises this year, though, I'm waiting to see if we start frequenting cheaper venues.

If not, I may just go every other time!

Oh, if you need Aunty's website, it's!

Caren Crane said...

Christine, I've heard others say that as well, that promotion can really get away from you. You'll have to let us know how it goes sticking to a promotion budget. It should be easier to work one out now that you know what's involved, since you've done it a couple of times now and have a good handle on what costs how much.

I badly want another Christine Wells book. When is the next one out, in July? Ooh, I can get it at conference! Yes, friends, I AM going to conference. I worked it into the annual budget!

Keira Soleore said...

Of course, using the lower-priced hairdresser is a whole other blog post...

Well, now, see. That's where I got into trouble this past week. I thought I'm not going where it matters what I look like, so I walked into one of those Super Cuts. Woe is me, indeedy! My hair's uneven in the back, still piecy on the sides, sticks out in a clump on the left. Fifteen more bucks with my regular hair stylist, and I wouldn't have to look the comical me in the mirror. I've figured that I'll cut my hair less frequently, but I'll always go to Kathy. Why bother messing up with a sure bet?

Caren Crane said...

Helen, aren't pot lucks great? We are all rediscovering the fun and economy of the potluck dinner in my area. Except for the time and effort to try to get my house in order for company (*g*), I love having people over!

I think one reason I can't give up books (and apparently my darling Keira can't either!) is because is IS such an escape. After clipping coupons, checking all the sales flyers and creating six grocery lists every week, I need a little escape!

Caren Crane said...

To those who like to cook, I'm proud to say I bought a big roasting chicken on sale last week. I stewed it last night with celery, onions, carrots, salt and pepper. This afternoon, I strained the broth and picked the meat off the chicken.

I made chicken, lentil and brown rice soup first. I plan to make a big container of chicken salad and to make chicken enchiladas as well. I also still have some broth left that I will use when cooking wild rice tomorrow night. Thrift can be fun!

Keira Soleore said...

Caren, please, oh, please share your chicken enchiladas recipe.

By stewing, did you put it in a dutch oven on the stove?

Chicken's so versatile, particularly, the well-flavored and well-cooked kind.

I've been to a couple Harris Teeters in Charlotte. Gosh, I loved their ambience. All those glowing (sigh, waxed) veggies and fruits. My mouth's watering just thinking of them.

And yes, on coupons, but you knew that.

Today, we're having semi-homemade pizza, dough from the grocery store, toppings from home.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Good afternoon, y'all!

Caren, what a thoughtful and timely post. We've been figuring out this financial stuff for quite some time. My husband works by commission only, so when home repairs, (roofs) are not a priority we feel the belt tigtening around here. We're consolidated computer/phone/tv into one bill and saved about $65/month...and sadly we only get one premium channel and that's sports.

I, too, have limited my book purchases. Okay, I only buy two at a time, instead of four. He and I eat in every meal, and I've cut back ordering out with the girls at work to once a week, and taking a salad the other 2 or 3.

With writing, I'm very picky about which contests I enter. The final judge HAS to be one I'd hope to get my work in front of OR it has to be one with come weight behind it, like the Golden Heart.

Caren Crane said...

Keira, if your chicken is small enough to fit in your Dutch oven and be covered with water, that's great to use. For this honking roaster I had, I had to break out my smallest stock pot (about 8 quarts).

Okay, here's the chicken enchilada recipe. I like this one because it's easy.

Cooked chicken, diced (about 2 c.)
12 flour tortillas (I like whole wheat)
2 c. grated Monterey Jack or Mexican cheese
3/4 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 c. chicken broth (reserved from cooking chicken)
1 c. sour cream (I use fat free)
1 can green chilis or Ro-tel tomatoes and chilis (which I prefer)

Place 2 tbsp. cheese, 1-1/2 tbsp. chicken and 1 tbsp. onion in each tortilla. Roll up tightly. Place seam side down in a 9 x 13 casserole. Repeat until all are rolled and in pan.

Melt butter in saucepan on medium-low heat; blend in flour, stirring constantly. Slowly add chicken broth, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until mixture thickens and bubbles.

Stir in sour cream and peppers or Ro-tel. Cook until heated through, but do not boil. Pour sauce over tortillas.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese over enchiladas and bake for 5 more minutes or until cheese melts.


Caren Crane said...

Keira, I also love to make pizza! I prefer whole wheat crust and I like to make pizza dough in my breadmaker. It's almost too much machine for the job *g*, but it makes lovely dough! The only thing is, it's SO elastic you have to work it like a pizza chef in a restaurant to get it to retain its shape. The last time I made pizza, I was flinging dough in the air like my name was Guiseppe. Enjoy your pizza!

Caren Crane said...

You know, Suz, I keep looking at that combined cable bill and saying, "There MUST be a cheaper way to have cable and phone and high-speed internet!" I have no idea what that would be, but I feel it's out there and just beyond my grasp. *g* We have "standard" cable, which is basic plus stuff like the Discovery Channel and whatever. No premiums at all!

I hadn't thought about contests, but I follow your philosophy. I only enter if I am trying to get my work in front of someone's eyeballs. *sigh* I keep hoping and writing and submitting. Someday it must happen!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Caren, I make homemade pizzas, too. I make my own marinara sauce or alfredo sauce depending on who's coming over for dinner. Hubby likes cheeseburger pizza, the kids like a white chicken pizza.

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Keira, your poor hair!! I had a terrible tragedy that may turn out to be a blessing. After conference last year, I found out my darling Jesus had abandoned me and moved to LA after nine years. (Please do not confuse Jesus the hairdresser with the Messiah as they are not, despite rumors to the contrary, one and the same!)

I have been in search of a replacement since he left. I like the girl who is cutting my hair now and she charges less than HALF of what Jesus did. Less than half! She is also fast, which can be a mixed blessing. I currently am segueing back to a more dramatic bob, but I'm scared to have her cut it the way I want.

She is good, but the forward-angled bob is a really precision haircut. If she doesn't take her time and do it just right, it could have tragic results. Plus, Jesus went to all sorts of shows and continually updated his skills. Not so sure about my new girl. She is not at a boutique-type salon where they require that sort of thing. *sigh*

My hair is fine for now, but come summer I will want something a bit different. Can she deliver? Bah-bum-bah...only time and conference will tell!

Caren Crane said...

Suz, making pizza was our Friday night tradition in my family. I took over when I was about 11 or 12 and was the pizza chef from then on. We did that until I was a junior in high school and we moved to Texas. Sorry to say, it was a terrible year when we lived there!

After we moved to Charlotte, we just never got back in the habit. I have started making it again and forgot how much I enjoyed it. My favorite is green olives and mushrooms with a little bit of pepperoni, cut fine.

They used to sell this "ham sausage" in TN that looked pink after you cooked it and tasted more like ham than sausage. We used to love that on pizza!

I am also fond of making a margherita type pizza, where you just brush the crust with olive oil, then lay fresh mozzarella slices on it, some sun-dried tomatoes or roasted red bell pepper and some fresh basil. Yummo!

Anonymous said...

Hey everyone -- I finally got some internet access here in Miami! I stayed at El Cheapo hotel last night because the conference hadn't started yet (so work wasn't picking up the tab!) and the promised internet DID NOT WORK. WAAAH!!!

Anyway, great post Caren! As you may remember from a month or so ago, I've definitely been pinching pennies (microwaved coffee anyone?) lately. Not because my circumstances have changed, but it was just such a reality check, to know how vulnerable we all are, and to realize how much we have that we don't need.

I think one thing I'm really struck by is how much my kids take for granted that we never did when I was a kid. We didn't travel by plane, we didn't eat out, we didn't WASTE the way we do now. I remember being shocked as a teenager when a friend of mine bought a bottle of water at a gas station. It seemed so wasteful to spend money on water -- when you could just bring your own! Now, I hardly notice when I buy a bottle of water. So, it's a good thing, in a way, that we've had a reality check. Not good for all the suffering for people who have lost jobs and homes, but good for all of us to sit back and think about what really matters.

Anonymous said...

Hey, by the way, you know what they have here in South Beach Miami?

REAL LIVE CABANA BOYS! I mean, they're men. And they aren't from Sweden. But they are cute! And they call me sweetie. Not honey or darling, but sweetie. I find this so endearing.

I mean, endearing in a -- oh my goodness you're hot -- kind of way. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Oh, and one more thing -- if you want LOTS of attention from the cabana boys, it works to accidentally tip them with a $20 instead of a $1.

Then they really love you. They love you so much, they give you their card (business card). Seriously, no lie. I got a business card today from the "actor, magician, performer," who parked my car.

He called me sweetie AND told me I was beautiful. :-)

jo robertson said...

Great memories of the drive-in movies, Caren. I only went to make out with my latest boyfriend of course. Just kidding!

I am one of those who turns the lotion bottle upside down to get every last drop out. But that's probably cussedness rather than frugality!

Caren Crane said...

Kirsten, I've been thinking about this, too. My kids thought "normal" was having gaming systems, going to movies, going on vacation and staying at a nice condo rather than the KOA. *g*

Since we've made them aware not only of cost issues, but also conservation issues, they reuse EVERYTHING. I bought a flat of bottled water about 6 or 7 months ago and we still have half of it. the girls reuse their water bottles until they crack or otherwise become unusable. It makes me so proud!

Caren Crane said...

Wait a minute. REAL cabana boys? Like, cute boys in swin trunks at your beck and call? I haven't seen those since we were in Cancun! Enjoy every spare moment you can steal down there, Kirsten!

Caren Crane said...

"Accidental" tipping? Does the actor/magician/performer make house calls? Methinks he might...if the price were right. You'd better stick to tipping with ones, Bandita! *g*

Caren Crane said...

Jo, I've been known to clamp binder clips onto a tube of toothpaste and take a Q-tip to the inside of a bottle of expensive facial lotion. My husband thinks I'm a loon because I want to use things completely before opening a new one. You'd think his last name was Rothschild! *g*

Caren Crane said...

I'm heading off to bed, guys. Thanks to all of you for sharing and commiserating. Be sure to post hot coupon tips! *g*

Christine Wells said...

Caren, I'm so glad you'll be at conference (in fact, the alternative is so unthinkable I didn't even doubt you'd be there until you just said that. Yikes!) Glad you worked it into the budget!

Yes, Wicked Little Game is out on July 7 so I'll be signing it at National. Aren't you lovely to mention it?

Kate Carlisle's Homicide in Hardcover has just arrived, so I'm looking forward to curling up with that tonight!

Keira Soleore said...

Caren dear, you're my bff. What a fabulously easy and tasty recipe. Thanks!!!