Recession Mama

{May 24, 2009}   Back to the Basics

–by Carla

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today’s guest writer is Lydia, a friend from way back. She was a teacher of mine at the University of North Texas. We always called her “Aunt Lydia” back then, mainly because she was young and cool just like we were. She likes to say, “One of my claims to fame is that I taught Carla everything she knows about studio television…. which may explain why she pursued a career in radio…” Ha! We stayed in touch a bit over the years and reconnected recently. I found out that she is a big fan of saving money (love her!) and is now a big fan of RM (love her more!). So here is “Aunt” Lydia, in her own words:

In Proverbs it says – “The debtor is slave to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)  Anyone want to stand up and testify?  How many of us have felt like all we do is pay bills and wonder how we’ll do it again next month?  How many of us would like to know we have some money tucked away for a “rainy day”?  How many of you guys and gals have little ones that you’re worried about funding their college education? 

I love the RecessionMommas site, so in the spirit of cost cutting, I’m going to discuss some of the principles I learned from Dave Ramsey – the author of THE TOTAL MONEY MAKEOVER and host of radio and television.  Dave’s advice is going to sound eerily familiar to those who actually listened to their grandparents on occasion. 

1. DON’T SPEND MONEY YOU DON’T HAVE.  Simple and to the point.  It also means we have to be mature (yikes!) enough to save up for something we want, not just run out and charge it.   

2. GET RID OF THE CREDIT CARDS – I know, I know!  For those of us who got our first credit card when we were in college, the thought of living without one sends a chill down our spines!  I have managed to cancel and cut up all but 2 of mine.  (One card gives me points!)  Seeing that when I started the “Dave Plan” I had about 8 cards, I have definitely made progress.  I pay them off each month, but that still goes against “the Dave Plan” because we do tend to spend more $$ when we charge things rather than forking over the cash. 

A side story (ADD kicking in) – I recently called Discover card to cancel my account with them.  They had sent me one of those lovely letters telling me they were raising my interest rate for no reason other than they wanted to.  So, I took the opportunity to sever my ties with them.  

When they transferred me to the correct department, the guy tried to talk me into staying with them.  No prob, it’s his job.  But, he keep warning me that my FICO score was going to drop, that I’d been a customer since 1988, since I pay off my card each month it really didn’t matter what the interest rate was… What finally got me laughing was when he said “We’ve had a very long relationship…”  I told him, “Relationship? It wasn’t like I was going to invite you to my wedding.” Ha! 

I tell you this story not only to amuse you, but to show you that the credit card companies will try to persuade you that the worse thing in the world is to cancel their card.  Always remember, these are the same companies that instantly slap you with late fees and jack up your interest rate if your payment arrives 1 minute after 12pm the day it’s due.  Relationship my big fat, errr, toe! 

  1. MAKE A BUDGET – it’s not as horrible as it sounds!  If you will plan your spending each month, you will spend less.  A quick way to get started (and to figure out where you are bleeding cash) is to write down everything you spend.  It’s shocking how much stopping at Starbucks, or my personal favorite, Dunkin Donuts, a few days a week actually costs!  Buy the coffee at the store and make it at home.  It saves lots of $$!


Dave Ramsey says to spend your money on paper before you spend it for real.  For those of us “free spirit” “creative” types, that can be a little hard to do.  Try drawing doodles in the margins to illustrate all the money you’re going to save by doing your budget. J 

4.  BECOME A WISE SAVER AND INVESTOR.  We all need an “emergency fund” in a savings account where we can get our hands on it.  You must be wise about your definition of an “emergency”.  Sorry ya’ll, but Nordstrom’s shoe sale IS NOT an emergency…. 

Investing can be a bit intimidating, at least it was for me…  I kept thinking, “If I screw this up, I’ll be eating dog food in my old age!”  However, we can’t let fear keep us from educating ourselves and just doing it.  Our biggest asset is TIME.  The younger we are when we start investing, the longer the magic of compound interest works for us.  For those of us who aren’t quite so young, it means we need to be even more intense. 

Ok, this is enough for now.  I will leave you with the SEVEN BABY STEPS that Dave Ramsey teaches – 

BABY STEP 1 – $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund

BABY STEP 2 – Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball (see website for details)

BABY STEP 3 – 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings

BABY STEP 4 – Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement

BABY STEP 5 – College funding for children

BABY STEP 6 – Pay off home early

BABY STEP 7 – Build wealth and give!  Invest in mutual funds and real estate. 

For more info on Dave Ramsey, see 

BIG thanks to Lydia for being our guest writer today!


By Katy

Beverly Hills Courthouse

Beverly Hills Courthouse

After I wrote about recession-proofing a marriage and, more specifically recession-proofing a wedding…I got a lot of mixed reactions. So I sent some e-mails to wedding vendors who were looking to get my business (and had e-mailed me first). I told them that I was possibly considering getting married next year, instead of this year because of the recession and that I wanted to have more money saved up. I was hoping for a few e-mails offering me some deals. But instead, here’s a more typical response from the ones I got.

“I do understand your dilemma that you posted at the bottom, about whether or not to get married this year and the deals. Something else to keep in mind – a lot of properties go through annual pricing review and prices often increase a bit at the beginning of each new year. Mostly to go along with the general increase of the cost of goods.”

Yikes! That’s obviously what I don’t want. Another “vendor” who had spammed me with e-mails had this to say about a wedding…

“Katy, with homes prices finally within reach, interest rates at 4.5%, $8,000 buyers tax credit and our cash back rebate of thousands of dollars – why not elope or at least modify wedding costs – and set a goal to buy a home together sooner? I invite you and your fiance to meet with us for a free homebuying plan.”

I don’t know how he got my e-mail, but dude, I already own a home…an awesome loft in downtown Los Angeles. (If you actually read this blog like I asked you too, you would know that.) On the other hand, eloping IS something I’ve considered. (Although, my mother might not like that, since I’m her only daughter and the ONLY one of my generation to get married.) And that’s kind of how another wedding vendor felt about the possibility of my fiancé and I eloping:

“I cannot tell you how many times I hear that and I understand your feelings. It’s a personal preference if you want pictures with Elvis or pictures with your flower girl…? We have a great location that can’t compare to the desert – we’re the beach! Great weather, beautiful sunsets – what more could you ask for! Let me know if I can help and we’ll see if we can pull something together for you.”

Hmmm…what does the desert have anything to do with it? And to be honest, I like Elvis better than flower girls. I won’t be having any of those in my wedding. If I elope, it will be at the Beverly Hills Courthouse. And I think I can safely say that Elvis has definitely left that building.

{April 9, 2009}   Recession Proofing a Marriage


Today’s Oprah was all about recession-proofing marriage. Is that even possible? Now, I’m not married, but I am engaged. Since we all know that couples fight mostly about money and sex, my fiance and I have extensive discussions about finances. We’ve even gone to pre-marital counseling. Now, I’m a realist.  I’ve had to be, and although our financial picture has not changed that much recently, we are closer to each other now, more than ever, in this recession.

Before I worked freelance as a TV producer, I didn’t really know much about money. I racked up credit card debt in college, like a Freshman adding the inevitable 15 pounds. Looking back, I laugh because I think my best friend Ryan and I thought we were rich! We took cabs, instead of the subway. We ate out at nice restaurants a LOT. I mean we were going to Ye Waverly Inn before it became a celebrity hotspot with its own Vanity Fair blog! Now, I even worked my way through college with THREE jobs, so you’d think I learned something about the value of money. But it’s difficult when no one ever wants to even approach the subject.

So how did I learn? Well, essentially by getting laid off for the first time in 2002. I was a news anchor in D.C., and right before the country went to war, this company (which will not be named) laid off the entire news staff. But their questionable decision was my path to a new world — the world of television and entertainment. I loved it. My first job was on a style/fashion type show, and if you know me…that’s always been one of my passions! I know designers like a 6 year old boy knows Hot Wheels. After two years working on that show, the network decided to move it to New York City, and that’s when I began to realize the importance of networking. I also figured it was necessary to have some savings. Now, I was still living with my parents then, and they will always support me. But it was time for me to get my own financial situation under control.

My first step was to figure out how to get rid of my credit card debt. I transferred everything onto a 0% card, and I applied anything extra out of my paychecks towards paying this card off. I, eventually, even transferred my student loan onto a 0% card. I don’t know if that’s a wise move these days because financial experts always tell you not to move your money from secured debts to unsecured ones. However, this really helped me.

My brother also helped. He consolidated one of my student loans with his, paid it off, and I just paid him monthly (without interest). (My brother is really the financial guru in the family. I hope to be him one day.) Soon, after paying off all of my debts, I started saving, and I now have roughly a year’s worth of expenses saved up.

Now, here’s the dilemma. My fiance and I have been engaged for a year now. We wanted to get married this August. But with the recession, we’d like to have an even bigger emergency savings because my savings would only cover me. If we were both out of a job, it definitely wouldn’t cover him. Most of you are probably thinking this is a no-brainer. We should just wait to get married, right? Well, not so simple. A lot of wedding locations, florists, photographers, etc. are offering deals THIS YEAR. And I’m a sucker for a bargain. So, to get married or not to get married. That is the question. And…just in case you were wondering. The question is NOT to have a cheaper, lesser wedding. I’m all about getting the BEST for LESS. I just need some help. ~Katy

et cetera