spending

beach-water-palm-trees-island-200“Staycation” may be the buzzword of the recession thus far, but that doesn’t mean everyone is spending their holidays at home. With cheap Caribbean deals around and a surge in house-swapping, it’s seeming like the biggest post-recession change isn’t how much we’re traveling so much as where we’re traveling to.

Destinations like Hawaii, Mexico, and the Disney amusement parks all report that they’ve been hit hard by the downturn, even while the cruise industry and campgrounds report record numbers of tourists. We took a closer look some of summer’s most popular destinations to see what’s hot (and not)–so you can see where there might be bargains, or too many recession travelers.

Hawaii
Worldwide economic fears have diminished Hawaii’s tourism industry, with the state experiencing its lowest month for tourism in 18 years back in April and hotel occupancy rates dropping to 75 percent…

band-aid-red-cross-200In a recession, health can become a much bigger issue. We get more stressed out, we have less money to spend on keeping ourselves healthy, some people have lost our healthcare coverage and many of us have more time to obsess about whether that new freckle might in fact be skin cancer.

That’s why we were psyched to find FierceHealthcare’s list of 15 free healthcare iPhone apps. Yes, some should be on a list of Apps Your Hypochondriac Boyfriend Shouldn’t Have…

money-tape measure 150The downturn has forced everyone to give something up, whether frivolous or substantial.

Sacrfice isn’t necessarily bad. When we’re forced to make choices, we end up reflecting on what’s most important to us and why. We may relinquish unhealthy things: I have one friend who’s not smoking anymore. And when I asked one fashionable man what he was giving up in the recession, he though for a moment, then said, “Complaining.”

Here at Recessionwire, we’ve done Recession Concessions, an occasional series about what people are giving up—and what they’re insisting on keeping. One woman has been indulging in Starbucks even as everything else goes out the door. For me, it was the cleaning lady (HBO, dry cleaning and clothes got the ax). Now ShopDebtFree.com, a debt-free (i.e., cash-only) shopping mall, has released a consumer survey on on what people are still spending on, even as the downturn has forced them to cut back. This isn’t about rent or health care, but the less necessary expenses. Turns out, massages are out, but pets are in. Almost half of the 1,200 respondents are still going to restaurants, and 33 percent are still traveling. But that’s just a sign of how much we’ve all pared back–it means 67 percent are not

brad-pitt-on-bed-150We want to look like them, dress like them, travel like them, but there are plenty of celebrity habits you don’t want to follow–especially in a recession. Jennifer Lopez reportedly doesn’t let her children wear an outfit twice, and some of the getups cost more than $1,000. Celine Dion used 6.5 million gallons of water at her Florida home a couple of years ago. And Lindsay Lohan—well, we advise you not to emulate her in any economy.

But some celebs have budget-friendly advice to share. After all, many of them were broke once too. It’s hard for mere mortals to follow the most common penny-pinching practice–get stuff given to you for free–but these are some savvy tips.

Brad Pitt: Luxury Bedding for Less
You always knew Brad would be good in—oops, I meant on—bed…

zipcar-new-york-mini-150Mom always told you to share. But it turns out her advice might not always be best—at least, not when it comes to saving money during a recession.

According to the Washington Post, companies with a business model based around the concept of sharing are faring well lately, with car services like ZipCar seeing a 70 percent bump in membership since last year and the book-swapping website BookMooch increasing its membership roster by 30 percent.

While sharing sure sounds recession-friendly, we couldn’t help but wonder if it works out as well for the people doing the sharing as it does for the companies themselves. To find out, we’ve did the math on some of the most popular sharing-based businesses.

HANDBAGS
For a monthly membership fee of $5 to $15, sites like Bag Borrow or Steal and From Bags to Riches let users rent handbags for months at a time. But membership fees aren’t all users have to pay, since actually renting the designer purse can cost an additional $20 to $200 (or more!) per month…

sushi tuna rollMost of the time, I believe that fresh food is best—like just-pulled-off-the-tree or yanked-out-of-the-water fresh. That’s why I like shopping at the farmer’s market. At the same time, for full disclosure: I have been known to test the boundaries of food freshness, more out of sheer laziness than frugality or a sense of adventure.

According to the Egg Safety Center, eggs will keep for five weeks past the expiration date with “minor loss of quality.” But let’s say late one winter night there’s nothing in the fridge but a three-month old carton of eggs. Trust me: Go hungry. DO NOT fry them up and eat them.

That said, somewhere in between just picked and mildly poisonous you can find some amazing food bargains…

stack-of-books-textbooks-150Remember college? The late night study sessions, the lack of responsibility, the keg parties, and—best of all—all the stuff you used to get for free. (Or at least, it seemed free.) Who knew prescription medications and gym memberships would be so expensive in the real world?

You don’t need to re-enroll to take advantage of the many discounts given to college kids. Many universities offer reduced (or free!) services to alumni and non-students, too, assuming you’re willing to work out in a gym surrounded by 20-year-olds. Some of what you can get from campus…

stick-figures-working-150These days it might not be easy to find the cash to pay all your monthly expenses, from rent to membership fees. Yes, you can negotiate for lower rates, but there are also ways to create your own discounts—with a little labor.

According to the Times, many landlords have started shaving hundreds off rent for tenants willing help out with tasks like changing lightbulbs and taking out the building’s trash. But these “super-tenants” aren’t the only ones getting discounts on their monthly costs. Across the country, more and more companies are letting their favorite clients handle work exchange for taking money off the dues and fees they’d otherwise be paying.

And why not? Everyone’s a winner, since the company gets a free service and the customer gets a discount on dues. Wondering what kind of businesses are up for letting you volunteer your time in exchange for a better rate? A few ideas:

Landlords
Whether you volunteer to pick up packages for other tenants or work as a weekend handyman—there’s no limit to the services you can offer to take over for your building’s landlord…

price-tag-shopping-150At this point, we’ve all heard about bargain shopping in the recession—the budget buys, the sample sales, and the deals we can’t wait to see pop up. But what about the things that never make it to the sale rack? Are we just supposed to do without?

In short answer: No. At least not according to “experts” like personal shopper and stylist Jill Markiewicz, who tells Forbes that “buying a few expensive pieces that you truly want” can actually save you more money in the long run than picking up “a bunch of discounted items” at sample sales all over town.

Of course, Markiewicz’s ideas of necessary buys included Hermès bags and $115,000 Porsche Panameras, which don’t really fly for those of us living on Planet Earth.

So what types of purchases are worth splurging on and paying full price, even during a tight economy? As they say, you get what you pay for, and some areas can’t be scrimped on, no matter what kind of economy we’re living in. Here are a few…

shopping-bag-and-money 150If the recession hasn’t obliterated your non-essential spending altogether, how do you determine whether you can afford the fancier restaurant, the better suit or the weekend away? Most personal finance metrics take a monthly view on budgeting — how much money is coming in minus cost of regular monthly expenses (rent, utilities, groceries, etc.). Whatever is left over is usually recommended for savings. That’s when your own math comes in — of the amount left over, how much can you spend on the better life? And that’s between you and your conscience — or, uh, your personal budgeting philosophy.

But My Two Dollars has another view, one that while clever and perhaps effective in keeping spending fantasies in check, may also induce more guilt and a sense of burden: Tallying the number of work hours required to cover the cost of desired purchases. Here’s how it works: Say you earn about $50 per hour. If you’ve got your eye on a $38,000 BMW, that would cost you in cash, after taxes, about 1,000 hours, or 25 weeks of work ($50 x 25% taxes = $38/hour) — and that’s without laying out for food and shelter. Ouch…