Recession Mama

{October 8, 2009}   I’m No Superhero

by Heather

If I had to be a female superhero for one day who would I pick?

I can tell you right off the bat that it wouldn’t be Wonder Woman. Sure she looks super cool deflecting bullets with her gold cuffs, lassoing creeps and  kicking bad guy booty while wearing a strapless body suit and boots. But her outfit is too revealing and the most likely to have a wardrobe malfunction. She must have some serious glue holding up that top and a killer bikini wax. And please… who can change clothes just by spinning around in circles?

Photo may be subject to copyright

Photo may be subject to copyright

At least Supergirl wears sleeves and a skirt. That’s doable. Sort of. I imagine it gets a little chilly flying around the city in that get up… not to mention the challenge of not looking windblown.

Image courtesy of Toon Zone

Image courtesy of Toon Zone

Then there’s Xena: Warrior Princess. This goddess wears leather, carries a sword, rides atop a beautiful horse and goes Medieval on unsavory types. She need only magic and muscle to topple the evil doers. Also, I’m pretty sure she can crack coconuts and skulls with those thighs.

Photo from

Photo from

I love these super ladies. But their outfits and supernatural skills are completely unattainable. So I must choose another type of super hero. That would have to be women who manage to balance work, school, family, relationships… whatever consumes their lives.

I’m no superhero mamas and papas. I don’t always manage the kids, their school, husband, college, the house, the renovation, the rental property with style and grace. In fact, most of the time I look like a dog chasing its tail. Round and round and round I go. I’m extremely sleep deprived and often over caffeinated.

No fooling. I’ve got a lot on my plate AND I’ve probably bitten off more than I can chew. So something’s gotta go!

Obviously the kids and husband will stay put. Besides I love them more than anything in the world including chocolate. We can’t sell our additional properties, so I will continue to juggle them. And I just started another degree so I plan to stay the course.

That leaves book club, exercise, grooming routine, mom’s night out, eight hours of sleep and TV.

Reading feeds the brain and exercise keeps my brittle bones from turning to dust… so they stay. I’ll continue to slap on a little “war paint” and brush my hair. I’ll have  girl’s night out during school breaks. Sleep is necessary, eight hours is a luxuary. So I guess that leaves TV.

I have pretty much ditched it. I’m so far behind on my shows that I may never catch up. But I haven’t really missed it. In fact, I’ve discovered how much time I used to waste on watching “crap.”

Sure I’m going to keep tuning into my “favorites” like Mad Men and Dexter. (recorded and watched later) Don Draper is too yummy to give up!

Mad Men AMC

Mad Men AMC

But no more  live TV, new programs and getting involved in mindless reality shows (sorry Housewives of New York).

Starting a new degree, writing a blog, managing three homes and a family is hard work. But I feel fortunate and blessed to be so busy.  It’s forced me to give up foolish junk, get organized and manage my time better.

I’m not a superhero…. not even close. I’ll leave that to the professionals. Besides I don’t think my pony tail and yoga pants would make a very sexy superchic outfit. All I can do is try my best with the time I’m given.

However, I have to admit it would be nice to have a few “superpowers.”

“Wonder Twin Powers activate…. in the shape of dinner and paid bills!”

“Wonder Twin Powers activate.. in the form of happy-to-take-a-bath-and-go-to-bed children.”

Sigh…. Maybe in another life and comic book.

(check out the Wonder Twins cartoon below)



–by Carla

Let’s talk about Recession Mama for a second. I just want to make sure we’re all on the same lovely, virtual page. The three of us (and we’re all pretty hot, by the way. Have you noticed that? I’m just sayin’…) call this website a place where we can “whine about our dwindling dime”. Those words are actually written down somewhere on this page thingy. Anyway, that’s what we do a few times a week…we dish, we gab, we blab, we get it off our (totally hot) chests and we move on. We never said we were here to live super frugal lives, where every penny is accounted for and no mistakes are ever made. Hello…have we met? Hi, I’m the one who was making really decent money and didn’t save a dime of it. I ain’t preachin’ any sort of financial rescue advice. I do, from time to time, have totally hilarious stories about what an idiot I am in the kitchen…so those are fun. Ok, now that we’re all on the same page…

I’ve fallen back on some of my old ways, y’all. I haven’t been cooking as much and we’ve been eating out and shopping more than we should. So to help me get back on the road to saving, I enlisted the help of the amazing women in my mom’s group and asked for their money saving tips. I’ve only been doing this “on a budget, stay-at-home mom” thing now for 6 months…but these women have been doing the Supermom thing a whole lot longer. 

Today, I’ll start with tips on entertainment.


Several are loyal to Netflix, others raved about Redbox and Blockbuster Online. Here’s what Rachel, our group organizer, wrote about BB: “We can rent 3 movies online at a time and also exchange them in store for movies so we don’t have to wait and we get free in-store rentals a month for only 29.99 a month.” (I can’t tell you when I last rented a movie, so I’m clueless on that front.) It basically came down to being able to rent the most movies with the fewest strings attached.

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I have never ever used any of these companies. We’re so lame here at my house. We were so into working and working all the time that we rarely went to the movies and if we did rent something, neither one of us would be able to stay awake for the entire thing. Don’t we sound like really fun people? Our new, trimmed down lifestyle really has slowed things down for us, and it is such a positive change, I think. I can’t speak for the husband. His stories are his to tell. But I like things slow, especially with 2 little ones to raise. Maybe we’ll actually rent a movie one of these days and quite possibly be able to stay awake for the entire thing.

As for my bump in the road, thankfully all I have to do is remember what’s most important: those 2 tiny little blessings named Donald and Dean. (They’re extraordinarily handsome, by the way, in case you didn’t already know that). They’re still adjusting to our new, trimmed down lifestyle, too. Toddler Boy still says the old housekeeper’s name from time to time. Happened just this morning. The morning after the dream I had last night in which I was actually mopping…


Got the hint, God. I mopped today. I’m hot and sweaty but it felt awesome and now my floors are clean…ish.

By Katy

Almost every girl thinks their mama is the best, don’t they? Well, here at Recession Mama, we think our mothers are special, too. Carla and Heather are mamas, so I’m letting them take a little break today. Happy Mother’s Day to ya’ll! And I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned from my mama.

My mom is the best negotiator I know. She truly embodies the notion that yes, you too can negotiate anything. She’s also a great bargain hunter, when it comes to stuff she really wants. She’s not the coupon-clipping type, like my amazing friend Sarah. And you definitely won’t catch her making her own detergent, like Carla’s friend, Connie. She’s definitely a fashionista, so does that make her a recessionista in this economy? Perhaps. But before I put any labels on her, let me just tell you about her mad “priceline negotiator” skillz. Yes, I meant to spell it with a z. It’s that amazing.

My mom is one of those negotiators that can make you want to give her everything, and then throw in the kitchen sink! You also walk away LOVING her. After a day-long tough session of car buying, the sales guys will say to me… “Isn’t she adorable? Isn’t she cute?” CUTE?! You just practically gave this woman the car for FREE, and you still think she’s cute? Now, that’s talent. She’s also negotiated where no man or woman has, I believe, gone before…at high end stores on Rodeo Drive. And I’m NOT talking about buying $100K worth of stuff. If you’re spending that much cheddar, I do think Chanel, Louis, and Cavalli might be able to cut you a break. Well, maybe not Louis. Did you know they NEVER have sales?

So, how does my mama do it? She doesn’t think there are any secrets, and I do think it’s best to watch her art in action…here are a couple of my own observations:

  • My mama is fearless. Sales people can smell your fear from a mile away, and it’s easier to say no to someone that’s hesitant about asking for what they want.

  • My mama kills them with kindness. She asks with a smile on her face, and if they, at first, say no…she doesn’t seem angry or irritated, in the least bit. (She just tries again a little later when the sales person’s guard is down.)

  • My mama is always prepared to walk away. Even if she really wants whatever she’s negotiating, you would never be able to tell. She acts like there’s nothing she needs or wants, and we’ve walked away many, many times. Now, this one takes a lot of maturity. Some of us (I won’t name names) still act like we’re two and we throw tantrums when we can’t get what we want or when my mama walks away in the middle of a deal going south.

  • My mama knows when to stop. She would be great at “The Price is Right”. She has a figure in her head, and when a sales person reaches it, she knows when to take out her nicely negotiated, never-pay-full- price-I’m-pretty-sure-it’s-designer wallet.

–by Carla

So I’m talking to Katy the other night, chatting it up, talking about wedding stuff, talking about fabulous L.A. things (because quite honestly, who wants to listen to a tired 30-something mom drone on and on about spit-up, poopie diapers and baby fat…come on…seriously)…so of course I try to live vicariously through Katy…wishing I’d been a tad more like her in the $$ department, but hey, onward and upward. Anyhoo, she fills me in on a super posh get-together (at least that’s how it comes across to me) where the topic of this blog came up. She said her friends and friends of friends (or am I embellishing that last part a little…?) said they loved it, thought it was funny and so forth…but they were talking about it AND talking about $$. Hearing that made starting this little labor of love worth the blood, sweat, tears and a currently developing hunchback. Let’s go ahead and talk about money…that’s what we’re about here at RecessionMama. And this is coming from someone who was raised to “never discuss finances”. The three of us here at RM wanted to start a national dialogue about what used to be so taboo and it seems to be catching on, just barely one month into this experiment.

OK then. If you have a pulse, you’re probably a more than little tired of the gloom and doom we’re getting blasted with every single day…not just about the economy, but about everything else going on in the world. Same here.

So in doing my research for today’s post, (…sitting on my deflating yoga ball in front of the computer which is set up in the breakfast nook inside a computer armoire because we have a small house and Toddler Boy already broke one printer…and the kitchen chairs are too high and my abnormally long torso is too long and I end up hunched over, slowly dooming myself to a painful, cripply end…)

And yes that's a paper plate. It once held brownies.
And yes that’s a paper plate. It once held brownies.

I went ahead and called on my good, good friend, Google and typed in “Recession Fun”. You’re welcome. I’m honestly up to my ears with talk of swine flu and recession lately and I never ever want to be a Debbie Downer and THAT’s why I went on my latest little Google excursion. I was comforted when I came across this little item from our friends across the pond. It’s so nice to know we’re not alone in our new found national frustration and boredom. Plus it’s always nice to see words like “pint” and “pub” and “favourite”.

The long and short of the article: it’s cheaper to park your tush at home and/or find things to do around town that don’t cost much if anything at all. And the little things are making a comeback, too. Cooking (omg), growing your own veggies (omg), baking your own bread (omg), and so on. But if sewing is really making a comeback, I’m doomed. The last time I saw a string dangling from my blouse, I whipped out a lighter and singed it.

But this is fun stuff: cooking classes, learning to sew, playing board games. Why not. My brother and I were talking the other day about how different it was when we were growing up and how I hoped to allow my sons to grow up in a similar fashion: playing outside until the sun started to set, riding our bikes all over the neighborhood, just being kids and playing. So in a way, this new, trimmed down lifestyle of mine will most likely lead us in that direction because I’m guessing a good, pre-owned bike (that sounds fancier than “used”) is a hell of a lot cheaper than all of those video game gadget thingies that we don’t yet have because the boys are so little.

And here it is, Friday. The weekend upon us. Very cool. I was finally thinking it’s time to head out to see a movie, because it’s been two pregnancies since that happened…and now there’s swine flu to worry about. Maybe I’ll just rent a movie. It is cheaper, after all. Ahhh, RecessionMama Carla just made herself smile, thinking of all the dollar signs and sick days I just saved myself. Whew…..

And now for some totally unrelated fun on a Friday, someone please tell me what’s wrong with this picture…


Puhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhlease! Didn’t we learn ANYthing from that hot sauce commercial?

{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…


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.

{April 19, 2009}   We Can Make Our Own, Thank You

By Carla

Just a couple of days ago I talked about how I had started to see the connection between saving money and saving the environment. After all, there’s no plastic tub to throw away when you mash you own potatoes and stop buying the packaged stuff. A little later that day I read a post from my friend Connie, who just started her fabu blog called Join the Green Side

Connie is the original Super Mom. She has 3 gorgeous girls, ranging in age from 3mo to 5yr, plus she’s a full time student. (Connie, you’re makin’ the rest of us look bad…)  She actually made her own laundry soap recently and documented it, taking pictures along the way. You’ll need to go to her blog to see the amazing pics. I’ll let her share her story for us here. 


Okay, this is by far the neatest thing I’ve done in a while! I found a recipe for homemade laundry soap online and thought I’d give it a whirl! I did it today, and took pictures as I went.

hot water
1/2 bar of Ivory soap

1/2 cup washing soda

1/2 cup borax

Step 1: Grate the soap. I used our cheese grater 🙂

Step 2: Put the soap into a large pan or pot, add 6 cups of water. Turn heat to medium.

Step 3: Put 6 more cups of water to boil in a kettle or pot.

Step 4: Bring grated flakes and water to a simmer, until flakes are dissolved.

Step 5: Add 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/2 borax, stir until mixed well.

Step 6: Pour this mixture into a large bucket. I used a 10-quart bucket.

Step 7: Pour in the 6 cups of boiling water (from step 3) into bucket. Add 1 gallon +6 cups of warm water. Stir until mixed well.

Step 8: Let mixture set for 24 hours. This allows it enough time to cool off and gel. You will notice that the soap begins to separate from the water, and that is normal. You will have to stir it (or shake if you use a container with a lid) before using it. Use about 1/2 cup for each load of laundry.
Because I just made this today, I haven’t used it yet. I tell ya this, though, my kitchen smelled very nice and clean today! I’ll update on how it works later this week.
Here is the cost analysis: I estimate that a container of laundry soap from the store costs around $13-$15. These are the ones that hold around 150oz (like Tide) to 170oz (like Costco’s). I may be off a little on price for name brands, but we usually buy Costco at about $13.
The homemade batch made a 10-quart bucket full. There are 320 ounces in that 10-quart bucket! Nearly 200 more ounces than Costco’s! And, the price for making a 10-quart batch of homemade soap? Approximately $11. So, you can either pay $13 for 170oz, or $11 for 320. Hello!!


 I don’t know if I’ll be making my own soap anytime soon, since I should work on actually making food for now, but it really is pretty cool to know that it can be done…easily.

et cetera