09/07/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

"The Worst May Be Behind Us": 15 Ways to Cut Back Anyway

President Obama says the worst might be over, the market is rising and unemployment has stabilized. But for many, it will be a long-haul back to recovery.

I've had a roller coaster financial life: well-off (early) and scrappy and single (later) and everything in-between. It started in childhood, as my father was a professional gambler who rarely did well, but there were years when he must have hit the daily double big-time. As a kid I lived in a mansion with marble floors and a buzzer on the floor in the dining room to call the help -- but barely any furniture. Consistency was not a word I understood.

I married my high-school sweetheart and we innocently spent his ample inheritance on travel and a grand house, and it was loads of fun. When I got divorced I got the house, and I made enough to get by as a freelance author, and corporate writing instructor. And sometimes I wound up in relationships with well-off men. (I always insisted that I was looking for brains.) So I've lived in penthouses featured in the front pages of papers, and tooled around in a series of foreign roadsters that turned heads and engendered thumbs up as I cruised past -- top down, hair blowing.

And then I'd be back on the bus. And was ok with it -- grateful for the former good times, but living within whatever my means at the moment.

When I married for the second time it was for love, and we were doing alright. I felt I had achieved a comfortable balance. And then he died.

The headlines say the recession is just about over (except for those of us suffering); I just had to sell my New York condo at a loss, and have been on austerity for six months with my fixed income in the toilet. But I figure that no matter what happens to the market, by cutting back I've learned better habits.

Here are fifteen of my easy cutbacks -- add some more of your own and you'll be surprised how easy it is to save, no matter what your means, now or later -- whether the recession ends or not:

  • Manicures but no pedicures, or neither-- do it yourself;
  • Cut and color your own hair (I'm getting compliments);
  • Eat out rarely, eat at reasonable venues, and bring food home when you do;
  • Clean house for exercise;
  • Rent movies;
  • Avoid packaged, precooked food, and focus on cooking fresh veggies, legumes, grains and fruits;
  • Buy in bulk;
  • Limit wine to one glass a night (and find good wine under10 a bottle);
  • Read the news online, and focus even more on blogs like Huffpost;
  • Take a time-out on clothes shopping (jeans and a tee are fine as a cut-back uniform);
  • Use public transportation whenever possible -- or bike or walk;
  • Drink tap water versus bottled;
  • Read library books rather than purchases;
  • Avoid drycleaning;
  • Drink coffee at home -bye bye Starbucks.

I have an overall plan to be sensible as needed, and to treat myself well each day with simple pleasures, such as picnicking with a view or listening to favorite music. I can make do with less. I'm especially aware that I have more things than most people on this earth, and I can certainly enjoy a good life with or without luxuries. (Yes, being comfortable is best, but hey, it's not always possible.)

In short, whether or not my fixed-income increases again or whether the recession hangs on, I'm damn lucky I'm plucky, and damn grateful it's been a long, interesting ride.