Our relatives and acquaintances (notice I did not say friends), who rubbed our noses in their many fabulous material possessions all these years, have no plans to retire. Both spouses have to work full-time to keep up the payments on their beautiful, newly redecorated homes, furniture, cars, RVs, cruises, wardrobes, vacation homes, etc., etc. I am so glad that we never yielded to the pressure to keep up with the Joneses. - A reader
If you do a sequel, you could consider adding the following: 1. For every purchase, ask if it is a "want" or a "need." 2. Can you live without any of the designated "needs"? 3. Postpone all "want" purchases for 48 hours and then re-evaluate as to their desirability. 4. Create a daily log/diary and record every purchase, no matter how small, for two weeks. 5. Label each purchase with a "W" or a "N" and have a friend/family member evaluate the selections. 6. Total each category of expenditures and multiply by two for a monthly budget. 7. Substitute half of the "wants" spending with deposits into a savings account or investment. I teach these principles to my students to help them combat the Madison Avenue barrage, which we all must endure." - Gary, college economics professor
I also got e-mails from a few readers who expressed frustration that they couldn't find the prepaid phone deal with Verizon Wireless that my family has used for years. Phone plans do change, but there definitely are cheap prepaid plans out there.
Readers told me about the Cingular Go phone and the prepaid plan from Tracfone. Here's the experience of one reader:
"I was provided with a free small flip phone from Cingular, and I pay $25 for three months and 100 minutes with long distance and no roaming. If I renew before the three months is up, the remaining minutes roll over. They have a one-year plan that has even more savings."
One final note: As I was wrapping up this column, my daughter Caitlin, who is a high school senior, called me during lunch to say that her economics teacher had distributed a handout to the class on being frugal. Glancing at the paper, Caitlin was shocked to see that it was a copy of my column. When she blurted out, "That's my mom!" all her classmates suddenly began intently reading the column that they might have otherwise pitched.
Hey, whatever it takes to get the word out about being frugal is A-OK by me.