Surviving Tough Economic Times? Readers Say, Bring It!
Acouple of weeks ago, I printed some money-saving tips that I gleaned from books printed during the Great Depression. They spoke of a desperate era, when people saved their dried cheese rinds, wrung five or six cups of tea out of every tea bag, and wore their clothes until they were rags. Ah, good times.
I confess that when I asked readers to come up with modern tips to get us through the current economic apocalypse I was expecting snarky suggestions: Trade your gas-guzzling Hummer for a slightly more fuel-efficient Escalade. Cancel your Internet service and steal your neighbor's WiFi.
Instead, what I got convinced me that there walk among us people so thrifty that they react to the news of rising deficits and failing banks with two simple words: Bring it.
Their tips ranged from the eminently sensible ("I suggest that everyone use both front and back of copy paper," wrote Arlington County's Jo Cunningham) to the . . . well, you decide: "If your roots are different than the rest of your hair color, you can put off coloring your hair by parting it to hide the roots."
That last one was from Sandi Franklin. Sandi sent in 10 pages of tips, proof that she might be the most frugal person in the area, capable of living, like certain spider plants, on nothing but air.
And she's very clever, our Sandi. Her very first tip: "If a product has a phone number on its package, call the company to comment on the product. If it's a compliment or a complaint, the company will sometimes send a coupon for the product. I complained to a company that their product didn't work. The person I talked with sent me three of their other products that I liked which amounted to the money I spent on the product that didn't work."
Vienna's Kay Fab got to the heart of the matter with what she said is the most important tip of all: Differentiate between what you want and what you need. "Is your comforter really old, or are you just sick of looking at it?" Kay asked, hopefully rhetorically. "Meet your needs first, and then see if you can afford what you want."
And in the spirit of spending money to save money, Kay offered this tale: "I was spending $150 every three months to groom my two dogs. I studied two books and a DVD from the library and bought myself a $69 kit of professional clippers. After three months, I have finally got the knack of it. My dogs are not show dogs. But they looked professionally groomed. I have saved $600 this year!" The question Kay says we have to ask ourselves is: "Do you really want to save money . . . or are you just stuck in the complaint that you don't have enough money?"
Glen Kiltz of Remington, Va., said you can save a little money and reduce your carbon footprint by following his lawn-mowing advice. "Very small areas of most people's grass are actually thick enough and high enough to need the lawn mower cranked up to full throttle," he wrote. "Now that nearly all lawn mowers have the throttle on the handle, get in the habit of throttling down over the more tender, shorter or thinner grass, and throttling up only where you need to, when the engine starts bogging down to any meaningful extent. It will seem a little odd at first, but as you get used to it, you will do it almost without thinking. You'll save a can of gas over the summer! At $10 to $15 per can!"
Glen says this works with snowblowers, too.
Charley Owens of La Plata says he saves gas by never using a drive-through windows: "You can usually save time as well as gas. Usually I can go in, attend to business and still beat the gas-guzzlers sitting in line."
I liked Lisa Owings's suggestion: "Have more parties!" wrote the Arlington resident. "Have your friends over for drinks and a bite to eat rather than going out to the bars. If you and your friends have kids, either invite them too or share a baby sitter. Everyone enjoys the intimate setting, you'll get to really relax when your friends reciprocate, and you will have saved tremendously on the cost of going out."