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Everyday Economy

Staying in and saving

It’s always fascinating to get a look at other people’s – i.e., richer people’s – idea of frugality. The New York Times reports that for many people accustomed to dining out several times a week, this year has marked a return to the kitchen.
Tracey Gist, an accountant in Sewickley, Pa., near Pittsburgh, used to eat out five nights a week with her daughters, 9 and 11. She started eating in when gas prices went sky high — she drives 40 miles each way to work — and has kept it up. “It starts with the gas prices, and then the price of food and then the heating bill,” she said “and the fact everyone is on the verge of unemployment makes you not want to spend because of the uncertainty of the economy.” Her children haven’t been happy about it. “ ‘We want to eat out,’ ” she said, mimicking them. “ ‘We don’t like your cooking.’ It doesn’t matter what it is if it doesn’t come on a menu.”
Some of the trends unearthed in the story may sound like routine life to some of the rest of us.
They are following some traditional techniques of penny-pinching, though, like clipping coupons, choosing sale items, buying less meat or cheaper cuts, using leftovers, choosing store brands instead of national brands, entertaining less or doing potluck. Canning is also becoming popular. Sales of canning jars are up, as are registrations in cooking classes.
The story got me wondering about the ways people scale back in their financial lives. Some of us try to nip and tuck here and there. Others try to make bigger, wholesale changes. Have you undertaken any big, broad change in your life – eliminating something you used to do several times a week to save money? Or have you developed a strategy for targeting a lot of little things?

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Shawn Vestal
Shawn Vestal joined The Spokesman-Review in 1999. He currently is a columnist for the City Desk.

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