The town where I live is slow to grow. That tends to mean we're not on the cutting edge of any cultural revolution (the green and local movements are just now becoming popular) but right now, slow is a wonderful thing. We haven't been hit quite as hard by the recession, the increased costs of goods, or the extensive mortgage defaults.
We're lucky, but that doesn't mean we're completely unaffected. Companies are closing, people are losing their jobs, a few are losing their homes, and anyone who works for the state is seeing their retirement die a long slow death. I know a few mothers whose kids (some of whom also have kids) are moving home until they get back on their feet. Even my father is making plans to prep his 100 acre farm so that if anything happened to any of us kids, we could live off his land.
Fortunately, Dave and I are usually on the same page when it comes to money and we don't spend much of it. We're VERY frugal people and our personalities are such that we prefer a minimalist lifestyle to the clutter of owning "stuff." By simplifying our lives over the years, we've come into this recession owning our house and our one car outright (aka we pretty much only pay utilities, insurance, and food), and it was this dedication to simplicity that made it possible for me to quit my job last August without huge financial repercussions.
Of course, that doesn't mean that I'm not always on the look out for ways to continually cut back - especially now that we're living on just one income. Every month, I pour over our monthly purchases looking for things we might need to rethink the next time around. Food purchases are now scrutinized closely, we downsized our cellular phone service, and are looking at cheaper prices on internet service as well.
We've made quite a few other changes throughout the years - things like using our library instead of buying books, movies, magazine and newspapers; never window shopping; becoming a one-car family (the difference in working full vs part time for me) and biking/walking/busing as much as possible; learning to cook from scratch, grow our own food, and make our own household cleaners; cutting the cable; shopping second hand; eating smart - less meat, dairy, and processed food, and more dried beans, lentils, rice, and pasta; getting creative with our spare time (attending free festivals and fairs, volunteering, reading, watching our favorite tv shows on-line for free; hanging out with the neighbors in the front yard); gifting differently by making our own greeting cards and even some of our own gifts (baked goods, crocheted blankets and scarves)...
Of course, like anything else, cutting back demands that we be mindful. I'm not talking about saving money by shopping in your cheap big-box store - that usually just means more "stuff."As you cut back on all this "stuff" in your life, things you find you don't really need, you'll have the opportunity to spend more discriminately on the things you do - for instance, buying from local producers which contributes to the health of your local economy and buying things that will last a lifetime, not wear out just as the 1-year warranty expires. When we talk about where and how we spend in addition to how much we spend, we can make a difference in our pocketbooks, in our communities, and for our environment.
Most importantly, however, remember that cutting back doesn't mean denying the things we love. It's about restructuring and refocusing so that we have time and money to put towards the things that make us happy - more time to spend with loved ones and less stress over how we'll ever get those bills paid. It's about more life and less distraction.
So let's hear from you. Have you always been frugal? How has the economy made you rethink your expenses? What creative things have you been doing to cut back?