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Photo by: whitetiger8370

When I say times are tough, it’s not exactly news. My family, like a lot of others in North America, is not only  frightened of investment losses and impending layoffs, we’re already feeling it. Since money is sparse, my parents and I have decided to “cancel” Christmas. No gifts!

My mother is a supervisor in a large corporation’s travel department. She oversees corporate travel and their clients include an ailing North American car manufacturer, a bailed out American bank and an investment bank that filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Business in 2009 isn’t looking very good and there’s a real chance she’ll get laid off in the new year.

Knowing this, my parents are trying to save money just in case. Mom’s near retirement, but not quite ready for it. She doesn’t like the idea of not doing anything, especially if early retirement means less desirable health coverage.  In efforts to save money, we agreed we wouldn’t get Christmas presents for each other. While others may find this a terribly sad, I’m actually looking forward to Christmas this year—more than other years. Two less gifts to buy means less time in a crowded shopping mall. That means more time with loved ones.

Your two cents: I know we’re not the only family approaching the holidays differently. Are you and your family changing your holiday spending habits this year?


Photo by: Stopdown

Maclean’s latest cover story, “Living On Less” takes an optimistic stance on the troubled economy. The writers Colin Campbell and Jason Kirby suggest that a frugal life could very well be a healthier and happier life—especially for Generation Y.

For a younger generation, a shift of this kind may prove more painless. In fact, their values and attitudes toward money, work and the environment may be helping to drive the change. Eric Meerkamper is a partner at the youth research marketing firm Decode in Toronto. More than having a house and a nice car, he argues, young people value having balance in their lives. “They still want more but not in [terms of] accumulating things necessarily,” he says. Money is important, yes, but work is seen more as “an enabler to living a full life,” he says. Smead, the author of Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty, believes people in their 20s, have come to realize they won’t have the same standard of living as their parents, resulting in lower expectations. In short, he says, “they’ve got a more realistic view of the world economically.”

I found Meerkamper’s interesting since I’ve read more negative views of my generation. Those of us in our 20s are often described as materialistic, confident and although tech-savvy, we’re awfully ignorant of the world around us.

Earlier this month, The Guardian asked “The generation facing its first recession. How will they cope?” Writer Tracy McVeigh described 18 to 27-year-olds as “dream consumers” and writes:

The average Generation Y-er does not know the difference between a credit card and a debit card, according to a Bank of Scotland survey, and, while two thirds know the price of an Apple iPod Mini (£179), three quarters have no idea what a pint of milk costs. One in eight thinks that ‘in the red’ means being embarrassed. They each have 800 illegally downloaded songs, and one in 20 spends more than £100 a month on mobile phone bills. Many never read newspapers and two thirds do not vote.

If the credit crunch becomes a full-scale recession, no one will get a bigger shock to their aspirations than this pampered, techno-savvy generation.

Obviously, there are exceptions to every blanket statement. I think that despite some debts, most of my friends fit under Meerkamper’s description. We’re also folks who do our own grocery shopping, follow current events and we all voted in this month’s federal election. Unlike the young people interviewed for McVeigh’s article, we’ve all graduated from university and are employed full-time. We also have different views on money than we did five years ago. I like to think it’s just that we’re older and wiser, but is McVeigh right and we are the exception?

What do you think? Based on the 20-somethings in your life, do you think we’ve got a more realistic view of the world economy or are we about to get the biggest financial shock of our lives?

Photo By: acnatta

Frugal Dad shares the story of an American family that slashed its weekly spending from $660 to under $110. It’s a pretty impressive cut in expenses. In the video (MSNBC), Ellen Roberts, the mother says the key was just knowing where all her money was going:

“You just spend so much money on frivolous things, it adds up. You don’t understand how it adds up until you really see the numbers.”

It seems pretty simple, but even I’ve been surprised by how much more conscious of my spending I’ve become since recording where my pennies go.

Lesson learned: You can’t know how much money you spent, if you don’t write it down.

I’ve still got about a week of recording before I create a proper budget.Judging by my numbers so far, I’m not sure I could live within the budget of the Roberts’. Although Ellen admits she’s going back to getting professional pedicures,  I’m extremely impressed by their ability to spend under $110 for the entire family. As an individual, do you live happily under $100/week? Could you? Could you cut your spending in half?

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  • Photo By: gromgull

    My mother likes to boast that we have a really close relationship. We do, but we also disagree on a lot of things: music, bottled water, people. But more than anything, we disagree on how we spend money.

    A few weeks ago, we argued over the purchase of a new umbrella. My mother’s method of consumption is: buy many for as little as possible. She suggested I go to the dollar store to purchase one for $1. Although they’re guaranteed to break easily, she’d rather spend $10 on 10 cheap umbrellas.

    I love the dollar store. Dollarama is my go-to place for tin foil, party decorations and even drinking glasses. But umbrellas are different. If I learned anything while living in Hong Kong, it was that a quality umbrella is one of the most important things you could own. Through typhoon wind and rain, my trusty Eddie Bauer umbrella was my best friend (thanks to Dana who sent it to me).

    With that in mind, I argued that spending $15 on a good quality umbrella that will not break is a better choice. Mom thinks that’s an unwise financial decision, especially for some one in debt like me.

    I know that spending $1 now is a much smaller expense than spending $15 is now, but is it really saving money overall? For me, spending 10 dollars for 10 umbrellas is not only a waste of time (imagine making numerous trips to the store just to buy a new umbrella every couple of weeks,) but it’s a waste of resources.

    When we all should be trying to reduce our ecological footprint, I think buying 10 umbrellas and throwing out nine) over buying one good umbrella, is bad for the earth. Also, one of my goals for 2008 is to declutter. The idea of having multiple umbrella carcasses in my apartment is a lot more annoying, stressful and unnecessary than purchasing one superior product for a few dollars more.

    I haven’t actually bought a new umbrella yet. But I think this is an important debate regardless of what you’re buying. It goes without saying that there are times when quantity trumps quality, like when the quality is barely distinguishable (eg. generic drug brands). But what are your standards? When is it worth paying more?