Recession Mama

By: Heather

Mamas and papas as I’ve mentioned before I’m a guilty shopper who hates malls and searching for bargains. I like to get in and get out. But a girl has got to cover herself, so I hit the stores once again. 

lady shops

Anyway, the 20 something year old sales lady obviously didn’t think much of me when I entered the boutique wearing my Johnny Cash inspired outfit. A black t-shirt, and black Target purchased yoga pants that I cut off because they were too long. My outfit was spotted with lent, string, dog hair and various kid-related leftovers. 

 In a way, I can’t blame her for being a little snooty. I was also sporting what looked like an electrocuted squirrel on the back of my head. Bushy, wild and sorta frizzy. I happen to call it a pony  tail. (my only option after going to bed with my hair wet.)At least my handbag was nice.

I hadn’t planned on shopping. But I was dying from the heat in my “all black” outfit and decided that maybe it was time to get something that wouldn’t make me melt in the hot Texas sun. Besides, the stores were right next to the muffin shop and I definitely needed to stop there.

I asked the sales chickie if she had anymore Izod polo shirts. She just cocked her head to the side and looked like a confused Labrador.



“A what?” she said.

“An Izod. You know like a golf shirt with a little alligator on the front.” I explained.

“OOHHHH. But.. um … I uh..  hold on.” She mumbles while disappearing behind a velvet curtain.

Is she going to consult the Great Wizard of OZ I think to myself. 

She re-appears to tell me that they haven’t carried those in “some time.”

Clearly I need to visit this store more than every other year.

“Oh well. I have a few minutes. I’ll just see if there’s anything else that’ll work.”

I stress the word “work” because at my age you just want to find something that covers all of your jiggly parts and shows off your good parts. Finding it in your size and color is a bonus. Finding it in your size, color and on sale is a miracle.

I start by scanning and then checking prices. So far, so good. The shop is near the local University, so it’s stocked with somewhat reasonably priced clothes. I want a bargain! But realize I might as well ask for the moon.

 I feel “too old” for the trendy clothes after asking for clarification on whether some of the items are shirts or dresses.

“They’re dresses… but really it depends on who you are and how you want to wear them.” she says.

The “dresses” she’s referring to could only be worn if you’re one of the following:

A) young, thin, pretty, not wearing underwear and don’t mind showing your goodies

B) are a toddler wearing bloomers with your name embroidered on the butt

I am neither one of those.

“I would wear them as shirts.” I confirm.

“OK. I’ll see if I have any of them in large,” she quips.

Thanks for the confidence.

I grab the mediums and hope for the best. She ignores me while I try on the clothes. I decide she’s getting paid by the hour and has zero compassion for the fashion clueless.

I pull, tug, squeeze, zip and slide into the items one-by-one. One makes me look like a kangaroo w/ ruffles, another like a table cloth, the rest will require the constant camouflage of a spray tan.

I consider having one of the on-sale “dress-shirts” altered, but decide it’s not  worth the extra cost.

I finally leave with one shirt and two tube top bra things to wear under my clothes. (a lady needs to keep the “girls” harnessed y’all.) I struck out the sale items. There’s a reason they’re on sale. Nobody wants them.


I move on to the next store and buy a pair of flip-flops (in my size and on SALE!) and a REAL dress that meets my requirements. It’s work, dinner-with-friends and church appropriate. Plus it’s in my budget.

I also  get excited when I discover that a pair of earrings, I’ve  admired for sometime, are 50% off.

I’m done in less than 30 minutes and feel pretty good about my purchases. I make a mad dash to the muffin shop to get my iced tea and treats for the kids and hurry home.

Ahhhh. Now I can give my tired, old, hacked-up Johnny Cash yoga pants a break. At least for one day! But my “squirrel-tail” pony tail still needs some help.



Katy Sez: My friend, Sarah, doesn’t look like someone who clips coupons, right?


I mean she’s cute, blonde, and outgoing! She’s also really great at cooking, crafts, and throwing wicked awesome parties. So, why does clipping coupons have such a stereotype attached? Well, let me have her explain how she got started doing something that normally you think cheap old ladies do.

By Sarah

I’ll come right out and admit it: I am a coupon clipper. I carefully cut them out of newspapers and magazines, I print them out from the Internet, sometimes I get them in the mail. Go ahead and chuckle, roll your eyes at me, have your vision of a shuffling old woman in a housecoat and let me know when you’re finished… Now think of the money that I have in my wallet that you don’t! I don’t claim to be an expert clipper, but I’m happy to share a little bit about what works for me.

My coupon use didn’t start with the recession; I’ve been doing it for years. I didn’t inherit the habit from my parents either, although I come from a family of bargain hunters. My mother was only an occasional coupon user during my childhood. However she is/was frugal and fastidious about knowing which grocery store had the best produce prices and which one had lower prices on dairy, etc. Once a week we would zip from store to store for the different bargains to stock the fridge and pantry. My father wasn’t a devoted coupon clipper either, although he was quite the deal hound. He loved a store called “Canned Goods Plus,” which sold – canned good, plus some other stuff. It was a dimly lit building next to an Ames department store and most of the goods were dented or on the verge of expiration (Christmas candy in July, anyone?). For him it was not about stocking the pantry, it was finding odd items for cheap. He ended up cluttering the house with things that we didn’t need – which didn’t actually save money at all, but what I learned from his spending habits is a whole different ball of wax.

During college I wasn’t much of a clipper either, you don’t find that many coupons for ramen or macaroni and cheese in the USC student newspaper. It was post-graduation, when I found myself jobless and completely confused that I started clipping coupons. I needed a task that made me feel like I was contributing to the household beyond cooking and cleaning as my roommate kept us afloat financially. Buying the Sunday Los Angeles Times and poring over the deals offered by manufacturers and local stores was like a research project, figuring out how to stack weekly specials with coupons that were good for months in order to get the most bang for our buck.


Now that I’m employed and more secure, I still savor the weekly clipping ritual. About once a week, usually on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I will settle in at the kitchen table with the newspaper, my scissors and beaten-up purple plastic coupon organizer (gotta get a new one) and go to work. Flipping through the circulars, I’ll cut out coupons for products that we use regularly, both familiar and unfamiliar brands. Sometimes I’ll clip a coupon for a new product, if it sounds really interesting or useful to me. I try to avoid clipping a coupon just because it seems like such a good deal! I learned that lesson when I found myself tempted to buy things just because I would save money on them – not because we needed or really wanted them. It’s easy to fall prey to that temptation, whether it’s for a high tech cleaning gadget or fancy gourmet chocolate. I’m not against splurges, but doing that regularly cancels out any concept of frugality. Saving $2 is great, but if you weren’t going to buy the product originally aren’t you still spending more money than you need to?

I learned to be open to different brands as well. Just because your mother always used Best Foods mayonnaise, that doesn’t mean you might like something else for which you have a coupon. You’ll never know unless you try and since you’re trying to save money, it’s the perfect time! However, if you find a brand that you love, don’t force yourself to buy an alternative just because you have a coupon. We always buy Cottonelle because that’s what my roommate prefers and I’m not about to argue about it. I just check around to see which store sells it for the best price and stock up when we’re there. Similarly, I prefer Fair Trade coffee, for which there are rarely coupons, so I’m sure to get it when I’m at Trader Joe’s because it’s consistently cheapest there.

Tomorrow: Now that you’ve got all these coupons, what do you do with them?

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.

et cetera