Stuff we can live without, part 2…

Okay, so here’s Part 2 – of Stuff we can live without.

As with the last post: @rachellegardner has shared this article I’m about to share with you — and it makes me pause. I’m doing at least 75% of these, and did in the whole “lay-off preparation” month… how many are YOU doing?

NOTE – my commentary is above each item. Would be very curious to see your thoughts, as well — Which I need to get back to, after yesterday’s iPad release had me totally wanting to dump all of my own advice, run to to the Apple Store, and swipe my credit card with no thought to cost or consequence. SO… without further ado, here’s part 2 of Stuff I know I can live without in 2010:

What do you really need?

ugh. iPad.I’m poning for one. (Daughter #1’s word for MUST HAVE NOW.) Yeah. I saw the iPad. It made me pone. I needed it yesterday. I longingly thought on it for most of the day. Then I got over it. For now. I’ve initiated the “Wait for 30-60-90 days” principle. The one I’m still using to NOT buy a Kindle.

Guilt is for the birds. Yes, my cell phone has been dropped more than even I care to mention. It’s chipped. Old. It doesn’t flip out a little keyboard. It has a double touch text – and I often I text unintelligible words instead of what I “MEANT” To say. However, I have a cheap plan through Tmobile. I’m PONING for an iPad…  but, I have a Samsung Blast and the right to change my mind whenever I feel like it. And that equals bliss. For now. Really.

Guilt. Keeping up with all the latest trends and technology takes an emotional toll. “When I could afford it, I always felt pressured to buy the latest software and gadgets,” says Kathryn Husby of Plantation, Fla. When job and health issues curtailed the family income, she and her husband cut back to bare necessities. That meant she didn’t have to learn a new set of buttons or menu options every year; she just kept pressing the same familiar buttons on the old model. “I’m happier than I’ve been for many years,” she says. “I feel like I’m in charge of my life instead of multinational corporations telling me what to consume.”

SO, eating out — well, it’s only a once in a great while thing anyway.  When DD#2 was young, she took off at The Outback Steakhouse, running free and wild around the entire restaurant screaming at the top of her lungs. I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from that yet, even though that was two years ago.

Extra calories. Some Americans say they’re eating less to save money and drinking more water or doing other things to suppress their appetite. Restaurants are hurting as people eat out less, but some diners are trimming the check instead of scotching the entire outing. Some strategies for lighter eating: Going out for lunch instead of dinner, sharing entrees, skipping appetizers and side dishes, and turning restaurant leftovers into one or two at-home meals. A few restaurant chains, like Panera Bread, the Olive Garden, and Buffalo Wild Wings, have even managed to gain business by offering high-quality food at slender prices.

[See 8 Restaurants on a Roll.]

Newspapers. Well, we did this. We canceled our subscription to the San Diego Union Tribune. Sorry, SD. We live just north of North County — so, there you go.

Magazines — this is a good one. My dad has been purchasing our favorite magazine (Sunset) as a Christmas gift for many years. We, in turn, give my mother Entertainment Magazine, and send Sunset on to my BFF up in Los Angeles. A cheap gift, but one that can be enjoyed all year long.  I am allowed one family magazine – because I got in at the beginning and the price is negligible. I no longer buy magazines at the checkout lines, and since shopping’s at a stand still, there’s no more need for having THE LATEST FASHIONS. I’d rather save $$ and have my hair done.

Newspapers and magazines. It’s bad news for the publishing industry, but millions have canceled subscriptions to print periodicals and started getting free news and information online (which is probably where you’re reading this article!). The trend may be strongest among tomorrow’s consumers, otherwise known as teenagers: A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids between 8 and 18 spend just 38 minutes a day with some form of print media, down from 43 minutes in 2004. That’s out of a total of 7 hours and 38 minutes they spend every day using some form of media.

Okay. Here we go. We have what’s called a “Health Savings Account.” It’s a bank account with an auto-payment to potential future medical expenses. We know we’re in for a health-care change in April, when severance is over, and Cobra begins. It’s an unknown. We have a higher deductible, but health is important. It’s all you’ve got. Even the old saying, “Well, you’ve still got your health!” — so remember, don’t skimp on your body. It’s your temple. It’s all you came into this world with. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Healthcare. A forced reduction in healthcare coverage is probably one of the most crushing effects of a weak economy, as the unemployed and others without insurance make drastic trade-offs to cut costs and get by. Millions of Americans are forgoing doctor visits, abandoning medication, ignoring problems, and simply hoping they don’t get seriously ill or hurt. “I don’t go to the doctor as often,” says Debby Abrams. “Aches and pains work themselves out. I have some neurological thing going on in my left thumb right now, but I’m going to ignore it and attribute it to aging rather than go to a neurologist.”

Well, this is one I haven’t heard from before. Haul stuff out of the re-gifting closet and have a re-gifting party. Hmm. I think I might have to try this one out and let you know how it goes…

New gifts. Regifting is a time-tested practice–but there’s always room to refine your strategy. Linda Amicucci of Tenafly, N.J., holds a “treasure party” with a group of friends after Thanksgiving every year to swap recyclable gifts. “We bring all the unwanted, unused items in our house that could be used as gifts or were given to us as gifts throughout the past year,” she explains. “We swap items, since a gift received last year during a grab bag cannot be regifted in the same social circle. But in a different social circle, it’s a brand new gift!”

[See 10 products that boomed during the recession.]

Yeah. No budget = no new truck for hubby this year. Sorry, sweetie. Looks like the Ford F150  will see 100k after all. Keep oil in it. Next.

New cars. It’s no secret that new-car sales plunged to levels 40 percent lower than the peak in 2006. But many buyers who have traded down to a used model are surprised at the quality of the merchandise. “I have found that many people take really good care of their cars,” says Jay Bailey of Phoenix, who’s currently shopping for a used SUV. “You can find cars that have over 100,000 miles that have been maintained so well that you can easily get another 100,000 miles out of them.” Many other car shoppers apparently agree, one reason used-car prices have actually been rising, with some models hard to find.

I’m typing this with my fire in the fireplace. My mother’s voice “Put socks on! Wear a sweater!” Echoes out of my mouth, directed at my children. I flip off lights and we live in darkness, save for our room of occupancy. We watched Mythbusters, and truly — leaving the lights on does not save that much on the electric bill. That sealed our cave once and for all, much to the satisfaction of my miser-hubby.

Lessons My Dad Taught Me:

  1. Turn the water off while you’re brushing your teeth.
  2. Don’t open the fridge unless you know what you’re getting out.
  3. Turn the lights off when you leave a room.
  4. Save the clothes washing until the washer’s full.
  5. Do one load of dishes a day.
  6. I don’t want to mention the potty 0ne — you probably know the color rhyme… ewww! but true.

Comfort. Thermostats all across America are going lower in winter, higher in summer. After losing his job last year, Phil Landry, a Florida software salesman, analyzed his use of utilities, among other things, and decided to shave costs by setting the temp at 86 in the summer. “Every once in awhile I’ll lower it to 84,” he says. “But as long as you’re not running marathons in the house, 86 is OK.” Carrie Chiarenza, an Army officer who is based at Fort Hood, Texas, and is currently serving a yearlong tour in Iraq, takes supershort “combat showers” when she’s at home, and she applies other tricks learned while living in the field. “Never leave any water running if you don’t have to,” she says. “So when lathering hair with shampoo, water comes off. Same thing with hand washing. Sometimes the task takes longer, but it helps the environment, and my utility bills.”

I worked from home. I write from home. And, duh– as to sentence one. That’s a forehead slapper. But, remember, mileage to job interviews could be deduction from taxes. Check with your accountant.

A daily commute. If you’re unemployed, obviously there’s no job to drive to, one reason the number of vehicle miles driven has dipped to 2004 levels (and traffic on some of the most congested highways has eased). Telecommuting increased during the recession as well, and more people say they’re riding bikes or walking more to save on gas costs–or a gym membership.

[See How to Live Happily on 75 Percent Less.]

HA. I’m married. I haven’t been on a fancy date since my oldest daughter was born. um. 6 years. Next.

Fancy dates. Online dating services like are growing, but courtship is a bit of a comedown these days. Discount-dating advisers suggest cooking at home instead of eating out, looking for free performances, browsing at bookstores, going hiking, and exploring yard sales (yes, yard sales). And some discouraged singletons are sitting on the sidelines, waiting for better times. “I am not dating,” says one woman who recently lost her job at a financial firm in San Diego. “Who will want to date an unemployed female?” Still, she says, “I am determined and motivated to survive this recession.” And date again.

We’re not debt-weighted down. That’s the best part about the man I married. He refused to ever be in debt, and if I charged it, he’d pay it. The difference is, now, I know we don’t have as much cash flow to back it up. So, therefore, I’m learning to live on cash.

Debt. Who needs it? “I have learned that it takes little time to run dangerously high credit card balances,” says Tom Poirer of Lowell, Mass., “but an inordinately long time to pay it back. I have learned to deprogram myself from the consumerist mayhem.” Many Americans seem to agree. Total credit card debt is about 7 percent lower than it was a year ago, and Americans have paid down more than $100 billion in credit card loans and other types of revolving credit since October 2008. We may ultimately end up with less stuff. But at least we’ll be able to afford what we have.

The last word on stuff we can live without.

I think GUILT on this page says it all. I hate that my kids now know that things cost money, but I’m also proud of them for opening their piggy banks to drop a dollar into the Haiti fund. Going through their shoes to see what we can donate for Soles for Souls… I can learn something from that.

Yes, by stopping shopping and changing my own way of thinking, I’ve managed to find some cash to stash by doing things “more better” as my 4 yo says. And you can, too.

That said, I don’t buy the big packs of Rice Krispy Treats anymore. It’s fun to try and figure out how to do things yourself. Don’t buy the pillows. Make them. Don’t buy the valances. Make them. Don’t buy the quick and easy box dinner. Make it. It’s better. It feels better. Tastes better. Smells better. Fills your breast with the feeling of accomplishment. Knowing that we can do it. Our grandparents did it. We have lessons to learn from the elderly, if we stop and listen.