couple-learning-150Sometimes the stock market increases 15% year over year. Sometimes we bump up interest rates because growth and inflation and moving too quickly. And sometimes ordinary people buy unaffordable houses with strange loan products because the home is guaranteed to double in value (in a short, short time). That sometime is not today. While the country’s fiscal vitality is showing signs of a perk up (except for a certain symbolic flagship auto manufacturer, that is), us ordinary Toms are having a tough go of it.

Rather than cry in our Mad Dog 20/20, we can make our own fun. We don’t have to drop ducats on theater tickets, surf-and-turf specials, trips to St. Bartholomew’s or season passes to Six Flags to have a great time on a date. You can get creative and do something much better. This time around, learn a language together…

romance-date-dinner-man-woman-150First dates at Le Cirque and second dates in St. Barth’s are out (for me, and maybe you, they were never in, but you get the point). Everyone’s feeling pressure on their wallets, and so for a lot of folks, that means pressure on the dating budget. What are the dating experts advocating in the downturn?

Mainly: Be cheap and be wary. Be very wary.

We don’t really agree with the sentiment of “being cheap” – no one should blow their wad on a few casual dates, of course, but a relationship is an investment and “being cheap” might not be a great way to start. But who are we to say?

Here’s how the pros see it:

* Curb your dating. According to dating expert David Wygant, there are some compulsive daters out there…

marble-150This isn’t the happiest of news, nor all that new, but we thought it important to participate in the coverage of a report by cosmetics maker Mary Kay that shows an uptick in domestic violence related to financial woes.

From the study, in which 600 shelters were polled:

  • Seventy-three percent of shelter representatives attribute the rise in abuse to “financial issues.”
  • “Stress” and “job loss” (61 percent and 49 percent, respectively) also proved to be leading contributing factors in the reported increase in domestic violence cases involving women…

engagement-ring-150You both thought two months salary would last forever…but it never got that far. But just because your heart is broken doesn’t mean you have to break the bank staying financially afloat during this recession.

These days ‘the pawn shop’ is online. The site IDoNowIDon’ has seen record site visits and “a banner month for product sales,” says the owner. One ex-fiancee hawked her $30,000 five-carat, Bulgari-inspired engagement ring online and fetched $18,000 to help her pay off debts and start a new company…

Recession Dictionary Entry 150/n. Foodies who are low on cash aren’t just your ordinary brand of foodies: they’re “brokavores.” So says the brilliant new site Brokelyn, started by writer Faye Penn. A takeoff on “locavore,” someone who eats locally grown or produced food, a brokavore is “an obsessively cheap but highly discerning eater.”

ex. The brokavore sought out hot dog stands, pretzel vendors, shawarma trucks and taco joints for local delights.

map-world-globe-150Think your town has it worst? You could be right. But to be sure, there are a plethora of maps, lists and other round-up prognoses attempting to help you determine just how bad it is from city to city. Here are two of the latest.

AP: Economic Stress Map
The Associated Press has rolled out its Economic Stress Index, which uses basic economic indicators like jobs, foreclosures and bankruptcies to find heat maps of good times and bad. You can watch videos of real people who have suffered the downturn. But the map comes with a self-serious accompanying story that makes us ask, Really, is this necessary?…

barbecue-grill-150Here comes the sun, and we’re all dreaming of pearly beaches and swaying palm trees. Summer frolicking doesn’t have to be expensive: Here are a few ways to enjoy the summer without digging too deeply into your pockets.

Plan a potluck barbecue:

Fire up the grill and have your friends over for a barbecue extravaganza. Cut down on costs by having each person bring something. Assign menu items like main dishes, salads, desserts, beverages, along with stuff like napkins and cups to make sure you have enough of everything. Turn ordinary hamburgers and hotdogs into a special treat by creating a topping bar that boasts snazzy items like fruit salsa or unusual hot sauces. For an inexpensive dessert, cut peaches or mangoes in half and put them flesh-down on the grill; then serve with a scoop of ice cream.

Take a hike:

Some parks charge entrance fees, but lots of prime hiking spots are free. Grab a good pair of shoes and a few friends and take off on a nature-lover’s adventure. Your city likely has nearby trailheads that can be accessed for an easy day hike. Spectacular parks around the country that you can access for nada include Great Basin National Park on the Nevada/Utah border, the Buffalo National River in Arkansas (fees only apply to camping), and Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. There are plenty of choices for sturdy backpacks that won’t break the bank. At $75, the Teton Sports Wilderness 55 is a bargain, boasting a rainfly for the top and zippered side pockets…

hangers-150The dilemma: It’s spring, and you’re dying for the new look blossoming in fashion magazines and store windows—but you have very little money these days to buy anything.

This year, I had particular need for a wardrobe refresh. With my new book coming out (In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment and Motherhood), I was going to be touring the country giving readings. But since I work from home, my uniform generally consists of jeans, a T-shirt, and a comfortable pair of clogs. And like most people, my bank account is screaming extreme frugality much more than extreme luxury.

But transforming your look doesn’t have to mean spending an exorbitant amount—it just means getting creative. I called Samantha von Sperling, director of Polished Social Image Consultants in New York, for a little help. Von Sperling has produced style identities for celebrities, royalty, business executives and regular Joes…

Romantic LoverHistorically when a woman found out a man she wanted to date was unemployed, she would go running for the hills. But these days, with the recession affecting people in all professions, many recently laid-off men actually make very promising boyfriends. Chances are high that these men worked in law, banking, or another field that requires a decent amount of education, intelligence, and motivation.

While these men may fall into the dreaded unemployed category, they are still desirable, and maybe even more desirable than men who still have jobs. Here are four reasons why starting to date someone who’s been laid off can actually be better than someone who has to go to work every day…

globe-and-airplanes-150Is this really the time to be booking an oceanside suite, basking in Italian linen sheets, indulging in butler service on the African plains?

Actually, yes. We’re not telling you to spend cash you haven’t got. But if you’re lucky enough to have time on your hands and dollars to liberate, this is an exceptional time to travel in style. Prices have declined, upgrades are abundant, and even the hottest destinations are less crowded. A fantasy trip that seemed out of reach may now be doable, thanks to deals like these…