What, If Anything, Have You Given Up During This Recession?

Every day on the news (which I really need to stop watching, to be honest), there are stories about families giving up this or that due to the continuing downturn in the economy. As I mentioned the other day, we have not really felt that much of an impact yet due to where we live and what we do for a living, but people are really struggling out there. Some are giving up “luxury” expenses, like nights at the movies, while others are selling their second cars and making due with just one. Each situation is different, of course, dependent upon income level, job security, location, size of family, etc.. But as I see each of these stories, I cannot help but give some thought to the things that I would definitely give up immediately if we were in a financial bind due to the economy, and this is what I came up with:

Drastically Reduce Any Dining Out

As of late, we have been spending about $150-$200 a month eating out at local restaurants, give or take a meal or two. This would probably be the first thing we would cut out of our budget if times started getting really tight.

Look Into Alternative Cellphone Plans

We are no longer on a contract with AT&T, and for the benefit of my family I would definitely give up my iPhone and it’s expensive plan. I rarely if ever use any minutes, and I could adapt to not always having the internet in my pocket. We could both ditch this plan and get prepaid phones for much cheaper. In fact, mine would probably cost nothing as I don’t use minutes!

Reduce Or Eliminate Satellite TV

Granted, we cannot do this right now because of stupid DirecTV and their contract. (Never again, never again) But if I was out of my contract or had cable TV, we would either reduce our package to a cheaper one or just dump it altogether.

Reduce Contributions To Retirement Accounts

Because we are young and have a long time to go before retirement, to have an extra chunk of change each month available for food or shelter, I would cut contributions to our retirement accounts down to the bare minimum. We can always play catch up when things start looking up.

Cut Back Our Movie Rental Plan

I have long been an advocate of Netflix, and absolutely love their service. We are on the 2 at a time unlimited plan, which is $13.99 a month. Since every penny would help, I think we could cut that back to the 1 at a time, maximum 2 for the month plan for $4.99.

We are already pretty frugal for a lot of things: by reducing our energy use, by avoiding bank charges, by keeping high deductibles on our insurance policies, and by not doing a lot of shopping. But even for us, there are some changes we could make to free up a few hundred bucks a month to put towards the truly important stuff in life. These things don’t make or break us, they are just nice little luxuries we can afford right now. If we couldn’t, losing them would not have that much of an affect on our quality of life but would definitely have an impact on our balance sheet. So my question to you is – what would or could you give up if you absolutely had to? Have you already started giving some of these things up due to the economy? Let us all know what you think in the comments!

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Comments (14)

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  1. Nate says:

    Our family does not have a TV service, and we only get movies on our birthdays, so we have not had to cut back in those areas. However, because of budget cuts, I lost my part-time job refereeing basketball.

  2. Miranda says:

    We switched our satellite provider to someone cheaper, and finally got rid of the landline, opting for VoIP. (We’ve always had cheap, pay as you go cell phones.) We’ve also started cutting back our weekly lunch date to a bi-weekly lunch date. We also looked at our grocery bill and decided that we could probably save money through meal planning and buying less junk food (and we’ll be healthier).

    We haven’t had to do a lot of cutting back, but we thought we’d be proactive and do a few little things to make a little extra room in the budget.

  3. Jaynee says:

    We cancelled our gym membership, replaced our home phone with MagicJack, reduced our cell phone plans, cancelled our trash pickup (we take it to the dump ourselves now) and reduced our satellite tv plan to only basic channels. We did more, but those were the easiest things to do.

  4. Pam says:

    Well, I live beneath my means so there is not a whole lot I can give up.

    In fact, I was laid off from my job a couple of months ago and was lucky enough to find another better paying job a month later. During the time I was laid off, there was not a whole lot I could cut since I do not have any expensive habits. But I did have to stop making retirement savings contributions since I had to use that for living expenses.

    The fact that people could be laid off at any time gives me motivation to not acquire any expensive habits in the first place.

    I am lucky to live in a place that has a pretty good library system. I rent books and DVDs from library for free and do not have to enroll in services such as NetFlix. I just have basic cable in order to get local channels and I can cut that if I want to. I don’t eat out as much. I could cut that out as well as the occasional latte. They would not make a significant dent in my monthly expenses. I actually do not have a cell phone but have been considering a prepaid one now that I have a job. The other thing I do is to watch for sales in local grocery and other stores and stock up anything that I know I will be needing in the near future. That saves a lot of money. I do not clip coupons, but I do take advantage of sales only for things I know that I will be needing.

    All these things help me kind of live beneath my means and also helped not cause a lot of worries during the time I was laid off and I was able to just focus on job search instead.


  5. Enrique S says:

    We’ve cut dining out to a bare minimum – just dinner for my wife’s birthday. We haven’t been to a movie since last year, and have postponed some trips and major appliance purchases.

  6. Gene says:

    It’s Gene here, from http://www.kitchentablenomics.com Turns out I’ve given up about 15 pounds since the recession wiped out my newspaper job in September. It’s probably a combination of eating less, eating at home more often and a lot of that kind of cutting back that you and others write about, plus more recreational walking, about four miles before sunrise to clear my head and organize my day.

  7. Craig says:

    I haven’t directly been affected just have been trying to be more proactive about my spendings and savings.

  8. Chris says:

    I have cut back on Cable TV. I’m back to the basics!!

    This past summer, I didn’t drive around as much. I usually take several trips to Six Flags, but I only went once this past year.

  9. Slinky says:

    I’m pretty much just continuing business as usual. I’m actually thinking of starting a gym membership. The only concession I’ve made so far is to do a fresh evaluation of my minimum and ultimate eFund goals, and to make sure it’s stocked up to the minimum. The minimum gives me somewhere between 4 and 7 months of bare basic living expenses.

  10. Stephanie S. says:

    That would be really hard. We’ve already given up so much to pay off debt.
    I guess the gym membership, but that’s only $20 that is taken out of DH check. We don’t have cable. We have to keep the house phone because our youngest does not have a cell. Or maybe we could add another cell on for cheaper than the house phone.
    I guess we’d use less water and heat. Oh, and the credit card payments would probably get closer to minimum due.

    I just hope that we are out of debt before we have to cut back. Or at least the credit cards are paid off.

  11. Bocarat says:

    Here’s what I did the first week I got laid off. I ditched my cell phone.

    Well, it wasn’t hard. I had a company phone but I had the option of keeping it and start paying for it on my own.

    I thought prepaid phones might be funky but did some shopping and found out that I could still get a good, no-frills phone for around 20-30 dollars and didn’t have to sign a contract or even have a credit card or credit check.

    It turned out that I got a phone from net10 and I’m VERY happy with it and can really control my costs.

    I don’t give the number out to everyone and that helps too, and I can control the costs up-front. Sweet!

  12. Golfing Girl says:

    I purchased a golf pull cart so I’m saving $13 every round by not riding. The $50 used cart paid for itself in only 4 rounds.
    Also we’ve been brown-bagging it alot and have done more meal planning. We were already pretty frugal so it’s hard to find more areas to cut back. Direct TV might be the next one, but I’m pretty addicted to TiVO…

  13. I live pretty bare-bones to start with, so there’s not much to give up. I don’t have a car, I have a cell phone, but it’s a pay-as-you go so I don’t have a plan, I only use a few minutes a month. I don’t have cable, I share a Netflix subscription with my family, so movie rentals are cheap. I don’t have a gym membership, there’s one where I live I can use for free. I grow some of my own food, and don’t eat much meat, so groceries are cheap. I do eat out sometimes, but not to where I need to cut back. I guess it’s pretty much business as usual for me.

  14. Pat Yoe says:

    I got rid of my iPhone. I loved it but AT&T made the experience a bad one day in and day out.

    Instead, I got Straight Talk on the Verizon network. Bought it at Walmart and it’s an amazing deal. The Samsung Finesse is a very cool smartphone and paying only $45 a month for unlimited everything is the best deal going!

    Who needs an iPhone? LOL!!