Saving Strategies

Michelle Singletary
Thursday, June 11, 2009; 2:09 PM

The recession is forcing many people to find ways to save money, so last week for my Color of Money Question I asked: What's the weirdest, cheapest, or most miserly thing you've done to save a buck or cope with this recession? Here's how you responded:

DC Smith of Grand Rapids, Mich., said he's begun to use the condiments in the office refrigerator. "It seemed silly to use condiments from home while those at work sat there going to waste," he wrote. "I don't think I would consider that miserly. A big part of miserly in my book is saving money at the expense of others."

Al Carson in Oxford, N.C., has found a way to eat out and save a little. He wrote: "I order a sausage pizza with a coupon and while I am waiting for it to be delivered I sauté peppers, onions and mushrooms to put on it and save $1.50 per item."

"This winter, I swept up the salt and sand from the street to use on my own driveway," wrote Carole Merideth of Ottumwa, Iowa. "I have enough for next year too!"

I certainly hope she left enough to prevent her neighbors from slipping and sliding.

Cumberland, R.I., resident Cheryl Lucena wrote: "I cut off 3/4 of the soap (pump) dispenser in my bathroom, with all purpose heavy duty shears, to get at the amount of soap that is unreachable by the dispenser at the bottom. Well, as weird as that small piece of bottle looked on my bathroom counter, I managed to get a week and a half out of that soap, with just my husband and I using it in our master bath."

"I gave my stepson a copy of 'The Millionaire Next Door.' He took it to heart and gave his sister bottled water for her birthday," said R. Spivey of Austin, Texas.

Cindy Newman in Philadelphia, Pa., did what many women couldn't even imagine -- even during a recession. She wrote: "Most drastically, I have decided that I will no longer be a slave to the hairdresser and color my hair. I have learned to embrace my gray hair cutting it very short, thus saving over $800 a year at the hairdresser, untold kilowatt hours of electricity by not needing a blow dryer and, I'm sure, hundreds of dollars a year on hair care products! I love the new look and the freedom that comes along with it."

I loved Cindy's cost cutting but I'm like my grandmother, Big Mama. She went to her grave with jet black hair. "Child never let them see you gray," she would preach.

Robin Horner of Harrisburg, Pa. says he's been washing out freezer and sandwich plastic bags for reuse. He also saves aluminum foil. "I have turned into my grandmother!"

A Layoff Equals Employment Purgatory

Twenty seven percent of the nation's 14.5 million unemployed individuals have been out of work for six months or longer reports Post staff writer Annys Shin.

With unemployment benefits running out, pending foreclosure, depleted savings and mounting bills, long term unemployment makes financial hardship a way of life.

Those suffering from long term joblessness can't rebound until the unemployment rate goes down and job growth picks up. "If past recessions are any guide, that's not likely to happen for at least another year." Shin reports.

Read Stuck at Unemployed: When A Layoff Becomes a Lifestyle (June 6) for more.

Color of Money Challenge: Down But Not Out

Layoffs, cutbacks and furloughs are plaguing the nation. Last month's data showed that nearly one in 10 Americans are unemployed, according to the Labor Department.

Keep an eye out for Sunday's column for my next installment of the Color of Money Challenge. This year I'm working with challengers who are struggling because of job loss.

If you missed the first part of the series, meet the participants and get updated here.

Strapped Patients, Compassionate Doctors

More patients are having trouble paying for basic medical care. Unemployment, reduced wages and altogether loss of health care are the culprits. Some doctors are increasingly sending overdue accounts to collections. But other doctors have decided to help their patients by devising innovative payment plans and cutting their fees.

Health writer Sandra G. Boodman says that some family physicians are launching plans to counter the rising no-show rate among patients and curb medical costs.

Check out Some Doctors Help With Bills As Well as Ills (June 2).

And, for those who think they have adequate health insurance, be sure to read Some Insurance Plans Are Bad for You (June 9).

Columnist Steven Pearlstein's argues in his column "Fixing Health Care Starts With the Doctors" (June 10), that if America wants to fix overpricing in the health care system, we need to start with doctors. Physicians have to change the way they practice medicine.

Charity Brown contributed to this e-letter.

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