Recession Mama











By Sarah (Read yesterday’s post where Katy introduced the lovely Sarah.)

After I accumulate a pile of coupons, I sort them out in product categories so that I can file them. Everyone’s organization system is different and my roommate says that mine is like an alien language (which says a lot because she can read four different languages). For example: Coupons for baked goods and ingredients for baking are filed under “B,” whether it’s bread, brownie mix or flour. However, sugar coupons are filed under “S,” because who would look for a sugar coupon under “B?” And coupons for butter and margarine are under “D” for dairy, since that’s where the cheese and milk coupons are and those items are usually near each other in the store’s refrigerated section. In my mind it makes perfect sense… You just create a system of organization that works for you and stick with it!

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Whenever I can, before I go shopping, I look through the shopping list and pull out the coupons that I think we may use on that trip. I put them in the front of my organizer and make a mark next to the item on the list, to remind myself that I have a coupon. It makes a big difference, instead of standing in the aisle, trying to find that frozen vegetable coupon that you thought might be in there. When I have plenty of time, I’ll even rewrite the list so that the items are organized according to the layout of the store – it makes a shopping trip quicker and easier. As you shop, pull out a coupon as you put the corresponding product into your cart. The last thing you want is to be that woman who gets up to the check out and pulls out her fistful of coupons to figure out which coupons she’s using. That’s frustrating to everyone involved, from the staff to the other shoppers.

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I usually shop at the same Ralph’s store location, because it’s close to home, they have pretty aggressive pricing, a relatively diverse selection and they double the value of my coupons! They no longer double any coupons over a dollar, but every little bit counts. Since I’m a regular shopper and have a Ralphs Rewards card, I also receive coupons at checkout, for products that I’ve bought previously or for related and/or competitor’s products. Those go into my purse, to be either filed away or tossed, depending on whether they’re useful. Bringing my own reusable bags to the store helps to get more coupons as well, since I receive Rewards points for each one. Those points are later returned to me via mailed coupons for dollars off my next grocery purchases. As they say, it’s not just good for the earth; it’s good for your pocketbook.

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Sometimes, when clipping, I set coupons aside for friends that I know would use them, such as diaper coupons for my newly frugal twin-bearing friends. I don’t offer coupons to people who don’t already use them, because I don’t want to intimate that they need to save money or to blatantly announce my spendthrift ways. (I suppose that these posts are tantamount to that – oh well!)

Maybe it’s not for everyone, but I get a tremendous satisfaction when I look at my receipt and see how much money I saved with the coupons I brought to the store. There are plenty of people who save MORE money with coupons than I do, to a nigh professional level. Actually, there is an Association of Professional Couponers, of which I am not a member. (Yet…) This woman saved 97% on a recent trip to the grocery store! My coupons save me between $5 and $50 at the grocery store, a bit less at Target or a location that doesn’t double coupons. I definitely feel that the time I invest in clipping and organizing coupons is well spent, beyond just the dollars that remain in my pocket. It keeps me aware of new products, marketing, food trends and helps me keep track of exactly what kind of food and household products I’m eating / using. It may take me a little longer to shop than some people, but that’s OK with me. I’ll even stop and offer them a spare coupon so they can save on that box of pasta they just picked up!

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{April 25, 2009}   “My Cheap Dad”

By Katy

I was inspired by Carla’s post on where we get our financial sense. I have common sense, I have hopefully some sense of reality, but financial sense? I’m not sure that’s part of the recessive gene pool. If so, I am definitely swimming in the shallow end. But let me first go wayyy back…back when I was a very, very little girl and everyone said I looked like my dad…

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Well, unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of my dad to show you. But trust me…this is sort of a cuter little girl version of him. Now, when I got older, everyone said I looked just like my mom, which made me happier (since I am a girl…I really didn’t want to resemble my father, who is a man). As for learning from my parents’ financial acumen, well…you tell me how much you’ll learn.

First, my mother. My brother has always said, quite seriously, that the two of us were born in a mall. My dad says he’d be a much richer man today, if it wasn’t for her and her old LOVE of shopping. She would take us to the mall, even when we were sick and home from school! (Cool, right? Well, not if you’re running a fever and could care less about looking at ladies’ shoes.) Nowadays, she’s not such a bigger shopper. Instead, I think her retail therapy has turned into a fitness fanaticism. I admire the way she’s turned it around for herself though, and boy, do I wish I had her amazingly toned arms!

Now back to my dad. I was always joking, that someday, I wanted to produce a TV sitcom, called “My Cheap Dad.” When I told him this idea, he was actually super thrilled! He bragged to his co-workers that his daughter wanted to write a TV show all about his CHEAPNESS! Obviously, the man revels in the 100 ways he likes to hold onto a buck. Let me just give you a few examples…when I was still living at home (and that really wasn’t that long ago), he would follow me around the house. As soon as I left a room, he would turn off the lights. OK you’re saying to yourself, what’s wrong with that? We should be conserving energy. Should we also turn off the lights when I just left the bedroom for two seconds to grab a towel or hairbrush from the bathroom? And should he turn off ALL of the lights when I was still sitting in the living room?!? Um, hello? I’m still in here…sitting in the dark now. And what’s ironic is, today, he would be considered a forward-thinking “environmentalist.”

Next, forget about going to restaurants with my dad! He believes that a $5/person meal is an average priced meal, and that anything that costs $10/person or more is a super fancy, highly expensive restaurant. Um, I truly believe the man is still living in the 1970’s. And when I say $10 or more…I really just mean $10. He doesn’t really do “more.” And the tipping scenario…oh I think I’m going to get in trouble for this one. Remember how, on “Friends,” Rachel’s dad was a tight tipper? And how, when Ross tried to leave more money, her dad got super angry and accused Ross of thinking he was cheap? Well, that’s exactly my dad. His idea of a good tip is 10% for lunch and maybe 15% for dinner. At Chinese restaurants, it’s worse. I think it may be a couple of a bucks for lunch (no matter what our check comes out to be), and maybe 10% for dinner. His favorite dinner-time restaurants are mostly buffets, especially the ones where he gets the senior discount (not sure if he always qualifies) and also he has a fistful of…coupons. He loves buffets mainly because you get to eat as much as you want, and he only has to tip a couple of bucks, even at dinner. But let’s just get something clear. If you’re not a big eater, like my mother or even myself, he does not like to take you to his favorite restaurants because well frankly, my dear, we did not eat our damned worth!

I could go on, but I’ll spare you all of the details and hope that someday, I will have a TV sitcom called, “My Cheap Dad,” so you could really see how cheap he truly is. I think he got his “cheapness” from his mother. But to really think about it, I don’t think I could call her “cheap.” She has money. After all, my father grew up with a chauffeur and a nanny. But my Nana is actually someone who values money over people. She is someone that this recession is shaking its fists at (with full force)! She has actually said, out loud, that she wants to be buried with all of her money! Well, good luck with that dream!

So…to go back to the point at the beginning of my story, where I told you that I was definitely swimming in the shallow end, financially, I think you can finally see my point.



By Katy

Recently, a comment on a recent post was misinterpreted, and when I started to explain what I had meant, I ended up with writing almost an entire blog post. So I thought I’d share my discussion:

In a comment to Carla’s recent post, I wrote: “The recession is helping us all slow down!” And here’s what a reader wrote: Can’t say I agree with you on this. This is from my own person observation with friends and family: People who have lost jobs or had their salary cut back back up to 30% are now working TWO jobs to make ends meet. They have done away with conveniences such as the cleaning lady, yard guy, etc. and are doing that themselves, too, in additional to large number of additional hours worked. People that still have jobs are working long and harder than ever. Salaried folk are getting to work earlier, staying later, etc. all in hopes of keeping their job. Hourly people are working “off the clock” trying to keep their jobs. With layoffs, the people left at companies have had their duties increased beyond what they can physically do in one day and are totally stressed trying to get it all done. I know I haven’t slowed down. I’ve gone from a job that was manageable at 8-9 hours a day, to working 10-11 hrs a day and working at home after that and on weekends to boot.

Let me, first, digress for just a moment. I am not trying to “defend” what I said, or argue. We, Recession Mamas, love our readers! I am personally humbled when I meet friends or hear from total strangers that they’re reading this blog every day and that they can relate and are glad we’re trying to help each other out and tell our stories. I’m happy to hear a friend, recently, tell me that instead of being depressed or wallowing in this recession, this blog feels very “hopeful” to her. So this post is in no way going against what a reader wrote. I just want to make sure I’m conveying the idea that I believe that what this recession has taught ME, personally, is that love is important and that work should not define who I am.

So here’s what I started telling this dear reader (shortened and altered slightly):

I didn’t mean “slowing down” in terms of work. Believe me! I always seem to have two jobs, and even before this recession I’ve always worked long days. When I’m not working, I volunteer. In college, I had three jobs. For a long period in my younger life, I worked 7 days a week — Monday through Friday at a local TV station, and weekends, I worked at a local radio station. So, I would never be the one to say that we’re slowing down, in terms of work. What I really meant was slowing down and seeing our lives in a real way…that it isn’t all about money…that what really matters is love (or as the Beatles say)…”all we need is love.” In fact, my fiance and I thought we might fight MORE because of the pressures of not having two incomes, at certain times this year, but instead…we’ve gotten even closer. So, although I’m a practical girl who grew up with a Grandma that told me…Love doesn’t buy the bread…I slowed down just enough to see that love and support help get you through the tough times.

All You Need Is Love

"All You Need Is Love"

Let me now expound on that. Before this recession, I truly saw a lot of my relationship with my fiance, financially. I don’t think I really realized this, until the recession hit. I was always thinking about equality in our relationship, also in terms of how much we made, how much we contributed to paying for needs and wants, and thinking that whoever made more money should get the right to have more say in the relationship. It took this recession before I realized that this was all crazy! Oprah’s show, “Recession Proofing a Marriage,” started a provocative and stimulating discussion for us. Would a marriage survive if one person lost his or her job? For one couple on the show, it didn’t seem to be good news. After the husband lost his job, the wife moved out and took their child and her parents took her in. They also wanted her to get a divorce from the now “loser” husband who couldn’t provide for his family. The wife admitted that she expected her husband to be in the driver’s seat and always saw her role as passenger. Using this analogy, one blog reader asked if they were in a car and her husband had a serious injury or couldn’t drive anymore, would the wife just sit there and let the car crash and risk their lives? Or would she step up, take over the wheel, so that both of them could live? (I think this is worth mentioning because it’s how I feel about a good relationship.) So, after watching the show, my fiance and I were appalled at the woman and her parents! What?! Just because the husband lost his job, he also has to lose his wife and no longer be a father to his own child anymore? How and why does money define us so much?

When my fiance and I first started dating, he told me that his biggest fear was not being able to provide for his family. I think this is a big fear for a lot of men, but no one had ever said it out loud to me. While dating, money was never much of an issue. But when we decided to get married, we started talking about finances since it’s the #1 thing people argue about. We soon discovered, to my dismay, that we have extremely different financial situations and very different ways of handling our personal finances. We started to argue quite a bit over this “new” discovery because although I have never dreamt about the fairytale wedding, I HAVE dreamt about a better financial picture. Well, after the recession hit, and my “steady” gig of almost a year and a half ended (really long for television, I may add), I started to “slow down” and see my fiance in a radically different way. No longer did I see our relationship in terms of how much money we made. (And yes, it was partly because I was no longer bringing in any money besides unemployment.) He was the one who went to work every day, and I was very unproductive (for about two weeks, then before I got another gig, I decided to start volunteering.) But while I was out of work and unproductive, my fiance never once said to me…”Hey, sweetie…since you’re not working right now, do you think you could do more around the house?” Instead, when he came home after a very long day at work (usually 10-12 hour days), if I hadn’t made dinner, he would just roll up his sleeves and do it! He was supportive (told me everyday that I deserved a vacation after working so much in the last year or so), kind, uncomplaining (Well, he never really complains about much. I just had not noticed before.) All of a sudden, he turned into the man of my dreams, and I didn’t even know what those dreams were made of before! And although I used to be super cynical and agreed with my Grandmother that “Love doesn’t buy the bread.” I, now, see that Love may not buy the bread, but it definitely helps you to get through the hard times together. It also helps that I slowed down and really saw what I am grateful for…my health, my supportive family and friends and their good health, my loft (a roof over my head), nice and fun neighbors, no debt and a year’s worth of expenses saved so I can eat and sleep at night, and most importantly, a partner in life who makes me laugh and gives me love and support. I think he will make a wonderful provider for his future family, and I am so lucky he found me.



{April 13, 2009}   Recession Re-invention
The view from the roof of my loft

The view from the roof of my loft

Since Heather, Carla, and I launched this blog, officially, a week ago, I’ve gotten some questions and concerns about my work status. (Even my own mother has said she didn’t realize how many times I’ve been laid off and how incredibly depressing it is!) Well, let me assure everyone that I am working on a show, and I am not here to depress anyone. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m hoping to help and get help with living WELL in this recession.

I want to first explain that I have only been laid off (fo realz) once (the news job in D.C). But I’ve had to look for a new job about 11 times in the last five years. That’s because TV shows end. If I’m lucky, I’ll work on a show for an entire season or two because that show is doing well and has gotten picked up for an extra season . If I’m not lucky, or if I’m just working on a pilot, that show will end in a month or two. Believe it or not, even though I’ve had to look for work 11 times, I’ve only been out of work for only 3 or 4 months in the last five years.

Here’s what I’ve learned from constantly changing jobs:

  • I really enjoy it, and it’s not for everyone. I used to be commitment-phobic. Now, when other people (usually guys) say they’re commitment-phobic, they’re usually telling a girl that they’re not that into them. For me, from the ages of 22-30, I couldn’t commit to cities, jobs, OR boyfriends. During those eight years, I moved NINE times, lived in 8 different cities, and had maybe 8 boyfriends (well… I don’t know if I’d quite call them boyfriends but there I go again with not really committing to them). Well, you get the point. Being a freelance producer fits my personality to a tee. I am a super hard worker, but I do get bored easily. As a TV producer, I am never bored. I’m doing something different every single day. TV is perfect for the A.D.D. personality. And… since I am freelance, I always have the option of moving on to the next show. Now, Fiance, if you’re reading this… I am not commitment-phobic anymore. I have lived in Los Angeles for six years now, and I actually do want stability. That’s why I bought a loft a year ago. Having a mortgage is a BIG responsibility and makes me want to have more of a full-time job… but this is also why I’ve saved up a year’s worth of expenses and why I’m thinking of postponing the wedding. It’s also why I’ve paid off my credit card debts awhile ago, which takes me to the second thing I’ve learned…

  • You do need an emergency savings and not rely on credit cards. It’s too difficult to pay off those cards once you’re working again. And c’mon, when you’re working… don’t you want every penny to belong to you and not to some credit card company? The interest on those cards add up pretty quickly. If you charged a burger on a credit card and didn’t pay off that card for a year…you’ll end up paying something like $100 for that burger! Better be the BEST burger in the world, huh? (If you’re trying to get rid of c.c. debt, read my last post or check out Suze Orman’s site. She has a great system that helped me too.)

  • Network. It may seem like an easy thing to say, but since I’ve started working in entertainment, I have never gotten a job without being recommended by someone else. I’ve never just applied for a position and gotten it. I’ve landed a couple of interviews without knowing anyone, but eventually, they seem to just go with someone they know. And just in case you were wondering, networking goes both ways. If someone helps me, I’m more than likely to help them. I also love having mentors, and I love mentoring. But I don’t always know when someone needs a job so it’s important to put it out there. It’s really no shame to be out of work. Work is work. It shouldn’t be who you are. And if you think you’re not good at networking, take another look at how you network. It’s about establishing relationships, not perfecting small talk or winning a popularity contest. I like to network with good people whom I’d like to be friends with anyway, which makes it easy to ask if they want to go to lunch, have a drink, or send a resume to their boss.

  • Re-invention. This recession, for me, is all about re-invention. Madonna is the mother of re-invention, and it’s really the reason why she still sells out stadiums. With my first lay-off as a national radio news anchor, I had to figure out what I really wanted to do. Within the last five years and a dozen jobs later, I’ve had to learn and adapt to new technology and ways of thinking. I am learning all of the time, and reinventing ways of becoming a better, more efficient producer/writer. Now, I have also never understood people who complain about their jobs. I’ve always thought that if you really hated your job, you should quit. If you were laid off from a job you hated anyway, I think this is the perfect opportunity to find what you truly love and what you are truly meant to do with your life. It’s such a cliche by now that it’s always the most fulfilling to have a job that you would do for free…but it’s so true. Think of this lay-off as a blessing. If you have kids, you can now spend more time with them. If you’ve always wanted to be a stained-glass maker, you can learn how! I have a friend who went to massage school when she thought she was getting laid off because it’s something she’d always wanted to do. Several friends applied to law school, and another friend is starting her own business. Think about what you’ve always wanted to do. What do other people tell you you’re really good at? Write down your thoughts, dreams, fears, and goals. Put together a game plan, a business proposal, or just go for it. I’m trying it out, and I believe my dream and yours will all come true.



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