Take the Handbag, Leave the Cell Phone

Looks like the bad economy has forced us shoppers to give up handbags and facials. That's according to a recent survey by BIGResearch for the National Retail Federation, which wanted to find out what consumers have parted with since the economy started tanking.

We've also cut out satellite radio, specialty clothing, high-end cosmetics and maid service. But keep your hands off our Internet and cell phone service. Those are the top two things we can't live without. We're also keeping a firm grip on cable TV, discount clothes, hair cuts and color, fast-food meals and new shoes.

The survey also revealed that women have a firmer grip on cell phone service than men, while men can't seem to part with nice dinners out. And people between the ages of 18 and 34 find it easier to give up hair cuts and color than people in the 35 to 54 range. (Hellooo, gray hair!)

We've tackled this issue before in Shop To It. My husband and I took an ax to our expenses at the beginning of December, cutting down our dry cleaning bill and wiping out some nice-to-haves like Blackberry service and Netflix. It's been a little more than two months and I've missed having the ability to check my e-mail from my phone but there's no love lost in having a movie sit on top of my DVD player for weeks on end.

What have you cut out of your budget? What have you missed the most and what was easily forgotten? How much have you been able to cut from your budget?

By Tania Anderson |  February 10, 2009; 12:00 AM ET General Interest
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The column on "cutting back" doesn't cover all the bases. Not by a long shot. Sure, most of us won't be giving up haircuts (yet...), but we will pause a week or so longer before visiting the barber. And most of us are hesitant to completely eliminate Internet services, but surely many will be opting to pass less for slightly slower speeds. Gym memberships never seemed worth the money anyway, except for, perhaps, the compulsives among us. And cable TV has various levels of service. Cutting back on some of those is far more likely than simply snatching it out of your home entirely. As for dry cleaning: those without jobs need less of that. What I'm saying is that the column tended to look at expenses with a black and white attitude, when various shades of gray seem to be the correct call. I know that makes a simple chart and graph a little more difficult to accomplish, but it's better to find a realistic answer to the questions of cutting back than the simplistic ones generated by the Washington Post.

Posted by: MikeJameson | February 10, 2009 8:10 AM

Wouldn't it make more sense to cut out land line service instead of cell phone service? What a silly poll.

Posted by: subwayguy | February 10, 2009 8:32 AM

I was surprised how little we miss our satellite radio service. Both our units died simultaneously back in November and Sirius/XM (whatever they are called these days) was very difficult to deal with. As a charter subscriber with Sirius, I was surprised at how indifferent they were when we placed our account on hold. We revisit it every month but are leaning towards complete cancellation.

Posted by: mallemployee | February 10, 2009 9:24 AM

It seems ridiculous to have to choose only one. The writer said they had cut down in multiple areas, as have I. Not just eating out, but also entertainment, clothing purchases, and travel plans. I probably don't miss the clothing that much, but I do miss not being able to go to dinner and a play when I want to. Normally we go on two vacations a year, this year it will be only one.

Posted by: ehardwick | February 10, 2009 10:25 AM

I have been living within my means this whole time and haven't cut anything.

I guess the caveat is that I get about 2 haircuts a year anyways, don't color, don't like shopping much, love to cook, am an outdoors-minded person, and tend to be the designated driver so I don't drink when I go out. And yes, I still have fun :)

Posted by: capecodner424 | February 10, 2009 11:28 AM

I haven't cut out anything. Of course, I don't have a gym membership, cell phone, cable, satellite radio....

I have a landline for the internet connection and to make overseas phone calls. I do need another car but I am buying used and paying cash.

Posted by: rukidding4 | February 10, 2009 1:16 PM

I've already cut out most of those things, assuming I ever had them in the first place. And the things that I still do have been cut down. For instance, vacations are down to once every two or three years instead of every year.

Posted by: magicdomino | February 10, 2009 1:46 PM

I didn't have most of those things to begin with. I'm one of those people like MikeJameson who are mostly cutting back. What "extras" I have are aimed at saving time.

I'm cutting back on impulse purchases (a calculator in hand while grocery shopping makes a big difference), and I've taken a second look at the luxury items with an eye to getting the most bang for my buck. How frequently do I use it? What do I really get out of it? Just what changes if I do without it?

It's amazing how much money is wasted on little things.

Posted by: cb11 | February 10, 2009 3:21 PM

The easiest big-ticket item for us is cutting out an "exotic" vacation and sticking closer to home or just going to the beach for a week. The biggest change, however, is trying to get my wife to understand that "it's just $x" is a path to disaster. When I showed her that she spent about $200 last month on "stuff" she was shocked and realized that 3/4 of it she really didn't need.

The biggest challenge now is to temper her spending on things for our oldest daughter's wedding that is 18 months away. Last week she wanted to buy a couple of bridesmaid's dresses off Craigslist for $75-100 each to see how the style would look on people in the wedding. Isn't that what dress shops are for? I don't buy the argument that they are special order and this is actually saving $100s.

My youngest daughter, 17, was pretty depressed when she opened her W-2 which showed that she grossed over $9000 last year (she is a hostess at a nice restaurant - I was stunned) and realized that her bank account had around $3000. She had no idea where nearly $5000 went.

Posted by: skipper7 | February 10, 2009 3:56 PM

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