There's plenty of blame to go around, but don't point fingers at the penny-pinchers.
People who watch their spending are taking heat in some quarters for helping to wreck the economy.
The argument goes like this: Our refusal to buy every little thing we want or eat out for every meal is causing a tidal wave throughout the business world, hurting retailers, suppliers and manufacturers, who are then forced to lay people off.
Attempt to protect yourself could backfire.
This post comes from J.D. Roth at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.
Recently I had lunch with Hardy, a Get Rich Slowly reader here in Portland, Ore. We chatted about life (and personal finance) over burgers and fries. He generously offered to pay the bill. When the waitress returned with the credit card slip, she asked to see his driver's license.
"What was that all about?" I asked.
"Asking for my ID?" said Hardy. I nodded. He flipped over his credit card and showed it to me. He'd written "see ID" where his signature ought to be.
"Does that work?" I asked.
Save your plants with an old pantyhouse and a plastic bottle
Going away and afraid that your plants will dry up, particularly now that you've become a container gardener? Or maybe you're just too forgetful to keep them watered.
Michael Nolan's Frugal Mania presents the cheap way to make your own self-watering device.
It doesn't get much cheaper than this. All you need is a plastic water or soft-drink bottle and a piece of old pantyhose.
Find out how to maximize your savings.
This is something that retailers won't want to hear, but January is a particularly good time to shop at thrift stores, The Thrifty Chicks advise. Thrift store shelves and racks are full of end-of-year charitable contributions of things and Christmas gifts the recipients didn't like.
Before you go, get over the silly notion that "if it's not new, it's EWW." Once there, follow the shopping tips from The Thrifty Chicks, a site dedicated to thrift store shopping. "Our tips will turn a novice into a master," thrifty chick "Ms. Shopping Golightly" says.
Dress well and don't discuss religion or politics.
It goes without saying that you shouldn't chew gum, drop bad-word bombs or wear your gym clothes when you're at a job interview.
Or does it? Based on the experience of "Gibble" and that of his readers, job candidates sometimes violate these basic rules and a bunch of others. As a guide for job applicants, Gibble offers "10 things not to do during an interview" at Gather Little by Little.
Gibble, who interviews a lot of candidates in his job as an IT manager, said those 10 violations "pretty much make me cut the interview short and walk out."
Subjecting your friends to advertising? No thanks.
It's undeniable that large amounts of money can be saved by using cloth rather than disposable diapers. But Madison's husband nixed the idea for their two kids in diapers. He's the one who does the laundry in their house.
In a post at My Dollar Plan, Madison lists that and other frugalities she won't embrace and explains why she prefers the more expensive alternatives. They include brown-bagging lunch and that "annoying" Brring.
If you're struggling to care for a pet, help is available.
This post comes from Lisa Wade McCormick at partner blog ConsumerAffairs.com:
Leanne Potts can't shake the painful image.
A distressed pet owner told Potts she'd lost her home and business and could no longer afford to take care of her beloved dog. The Chattanooga woman then asked Potts' organization to take her 8-year-old basset hound.
The story is one her animal-rescue group in Tennessee is encountering often during these tough economic times.
It's not hard to beat fast food prices (and the food tastes better, too).
This post comes from partner blog The Simple Dollar.
This is a question I had from a reader (we’ll get to the cheeseburger in a minute):
"My question is about budgeting for food. I’ll be starting my first real job soon so I’m setting up a list of monthly expenses. I haven’t yet lived on my own, so I don’t have a good basis for estimating monthly food expenses. Could you shed some light on the matter?"
My rule of thumb is this: For one month, save the receipts for every food item that you buy, whether it’s at the grocery store, eating out, or anywhere else. Then add 10 percent to that. That should be your food budget for a month.
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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Sounds too good to be true . . . but by using these extreme tactics, it's possible to save big at the pump.