Lifestyle

taking back money 150It feels like we all are, thanks to the bank failures, massive layoffs and precipitous stock market drops. We have seen jobs vanish and savings diminish—and even if things seem to be getting slightly better, doesn’t that count as “economic abuse?”

Lots of people seem to think so. According to a recent survey by the AllState Foundation, for 75 percent of Americans, the term “economic abuse” (not a new term) brings to mind Wall Street woes or irresponsible spending.

Here are other responses in the survey, which was part of its campaign to support domestic violence survivors

shopping-bag-and-money 150In a downturn, a little deal won’t do ya.

To get my attention, it has to be a steal. And a low price alone won’t convince me to pry open my wallet; the discount has to be on something really good. Like, say, two one-hour massages for $75—which is what I paid last week through Groupon.

My new favorite bargain source, Groupon is sort of what is sounds like …

Woman with Shopping BagsThe economy may be looking up as of late, but that’s not necessarily good news for everyone. Or for shoppers, at least. That’s because many of the “recession discounts” and super sales that have been going on at stores across the country will most likely become a thing of the past once stocks go up and consumers return to their usual ways.

So what goods and services should you start buying now before the bargains dry up? Forbes has a rundown:

Real Estate: The combination of falling interest rates, discounted foreclosure properties, government incentives, and bottoming home prices is making this a great time to buy. Not that this news is especially shocking to you, we’re assuming …

couple“Let’s go over this again: you’re going to spend our life savings on dried fruit?” I asked my wife, Noha, in 2004 when she first pitched me the idea of starting Peeled Snacks, a fruit and nut snack company.

Earlier in the year we’d both quit our jobs to go traveling before I started a stint as a public school teacher, but I’d assumed that she’d get back to work with a position lucrative enough to offset the modest teacher’s pay I’d soon receive. Instead, she decided to become her own boss and make negative money.

Though those first days truly did gobble up our savings at a frightening rate, watching a company grow and flourish from the front row is exciting. It was a real kick when people started to actually buy these treats…

Heart of Pennies 150Carol M. knew she had a good thing in her boyfrirend, Eric. But earlier this year, when she lost her job as a schoolteacherand faced default on her subprime loan, it showed her just how caring and committed he was.

“We recently talked about being in a relationship, and one of the benefits of being in a relationship is you have someone on your side no matter what,” she says. “We sit down and we talk about things. Last week we talked about having to file for bankruptcy.”

Talking about money with a significant other can be a painful, awkward situation—especially when you’re in a dating phase. You’d think it would be easier in good times, but some are saying that the downturn has made it easier to both talk about finances and to learn about a significant other’s situation. Money is top of mind for many of us and a common topic of conversation. If someone is furloughed, laid off or had a salary slashed, their relationship to money becomes more apparent…

reading-magazines-illustration-250Are you a papervore who is still reading newspapers and magazines? Good—we are too. And while searching for frugal ways to renew subscriptions that are expiring in the middle of a recession, we found two new ways to get our favorite publications.

Magazine resellers often give better deals than the publications themselves. Even lower prices can be had on eBay. Yes, eBay. We renewed New York Magazine for $15, versus the “bargain” $40 offered in a mailing. We spotted BusinessWeek for just $10. Hitch is, the selection is pretty random.

Frequent flyer programs
are another good bet. For 500 Delta Skymiles points, we got a year’s worth of Fast Company. (Time, Sports Illustrated, W and People en Espanol were among the other titles.) United Airlines’ program offers the Wall Street Journal for just 3,300 miles. If you calculate the value of miles at one cent each, that means you can get a full year of WSJ for $33—which is basically amazing. The regular price right now is $441.

But don’t get mad at us if there are restrictions, like offers for new subscribers only, or delivery only to the continental U.S. As always, check the fine print before you buy.

graduation-sign-150I am a secret self-improver.

There is a stash of relationship books in my apartment, tucked where my boyfriend is unlikely to stick his nose. One of my favorite vacations ever was to Canyon Ranch, where I spent five hours a day running between yoga and cardio workshops (and hoped nobody saw me in the bongo class). Over the past several years have enrolled in French, Chinese, guitar, tennis, and cooking classes. No, I still can’t cook. Thanks for asking.

One of the bummers about being unemployed is that I don’t have the dough to finance my “personal growth.” And even though I like the idea of being an autodidact, I don’t have the discipline to teach myself stuff from books. But these days, you don’t need money or good study habits—there are plenty of classes available for free, both online and in person. In fact, I’m now tempted to spend the next few months in my own personal summer school. Feel free to crib my curriculum…

wedding_hitchhikersYes, times are tough but let us not forget that love carries on. Case in point, that growing stack of wedding invitations you have thumb tacked to the calendar. If it seems as though everyone you know is suddenly getting married this summer, that may very well be the case. Wedding season is officially in full swing and just because you’re counting every penny, don’t discount the fact that you’re still required to send a gift for every invitation that comes your way.

While Brides.com suggests that the average amount of money to spend on a wedding gift is $100, the rules of etiquette may be broken on account of a bad economy. If you don’t have quite as much cash to give this year, you can still say “I do” when it comes to being a good wedding guest.

Give your friends a gift that doesn’t have an obvious monetary value. In other words, resist the urge to write them a check in the amount of $94.25 even if it shows that you’re down to your last dollar…

shopping-bag-and-money 150One of the first things I gave up when I lost my job was buying clothes. Since I only needed jeans and t-shirts to wear around the house and a few suits for interviews, I didn’t have a valid excuse to shop. But, within a few months, I was itching to refresh my wardrobe. The weather was warmer and I wanted to add some color to my closet. So I decided to bend the rules. I called my friend Frances, who’s also unemployed, and asked her to join me for some shopping—thrift shopping. D.C. isn’t the most obvious place to find cool clothes, and I wasn’t sure if we’d find anything worthwhile, but at least for the afternoon it would be a distraction from the job hunt…

beach-towels-hat-suit-150

As if getting in shape for summer weren’t enough pressure—now you have to figure out how do you pull together warm-weather looks that are fashionable, flattering, and affordable. If last year’s bikini is too stretched out or your swim trunks are faded beyond recognition, consider these 10 resources for finding a perfect beach wardrobe while still staying financially afloat.

Old Navy: The ultimate resource for beach items that are fresh, bright and, most of all, cheap. Their men’s swim trunks in solids and prints are only $15. Mix and match separates and one-piece swimsuits for women are all under $20; kids’ swimwear is a steal for less than $10 an item. And who can beat flip-flops for five bucks?

Swimoutlet.com: Prefer doing laps in the pool to lounging the beach? This site has more athletic-style swimsuits…