First Person: Our 'Thrifty Habits' Remain Through the Recession and Beyond

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We had what you might consider "thrifty habits" before the recession ever hit. I developed these habits largely by way of a relatively low-income upbringing. A CNBC article regarding the subject notes, "With household budgets under pressure since the financial crisis of 2008, consumers have flocked to discount stores, shifted from branded goods to private-label alternatives and shopped more often at convenience stores or online rather than spending on expensive fuel to drive to out-of-town hypermarkets."

With good habits in place from my youth, I've continued my frugal tendencies even after the recession supposedly ended. While such efforts weren't necessary, I've found that once in place, it's often easier to continue such habits rather than stop and start them irregularly.

Shopping resale not retail

We tend to shop resale before retail for certain items on our family needs list. Especially when it comes to our clothing needs, we tend to hit area resale shops and garage sales first. We often find lightly used or even almost new clothing needs for the kids as well as ourselves for just pennies on the dollar. This enables us to keep our annual clothing budget in the $300 to $400 range, with our biggest costs in a retail setting coming from shoes and undergarments.

We also shop resale for many home goods -- picture frames, books, games, and even furniture -- which helps us save, and sometimes even make a few dollars when we go to resell such items down the road at garage sales of our own, at area consignment or resale shops, or online.

Building in financial reserves

We maintained an emergency fund well before the recession ever hit, but there is something that we've started to do more recently with our budget after the recession. Having pared down our expenses and our overall monthly budget after the recession, we left ourselves less wiggle room when it came to costs. We began to notice though that in the process, it was extremely hard to meet our budgeted number, and unexpected expenses that we really couldn't avoid kept cropping up to bust our budget. And even if it was just by $50 or $100, not meeting budgeted costs each month can begin to get frustrating. Therefore, we began building in a small reserve fund to combat such costs.

With just $100 to $200 each month factored in as a "reserve", we protect against such costs. And if we don't spend the money, we either slide it into next month to build our reserve, save it, or occasionally treat ourselves to a little something special like a family dinner out.

Remembering that the little things add up

Our son is the perfect example of how the little things can add up when it comes to money. Even though he gets a weekly "payday" for his efforts around the house (we don't call it an "allowance" since he works for it), he's still on the lookout for money. The other week he found a dollar's worth of quarters in the nearby newspaper dispenser. The other day he found four cents on our way to and from school. He now has four piggy banks that he's using to hold much of the change he's found on our walks around town.

We often turn this into a game now, seeing who can find the most loose change around town as we walk. It's a fun competition, one that earns a little extra money for the family, and one that teaches and continues to remind the entire family about good saving habits whether the economy is good, bad or ugly.

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The author is not a licensed financial professional. The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute advice of any kind. Any action taken by the reader due to the information provided in this article is solely at the reader's discretion.


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