Austerity Chic

How novelist and performance artist Mike Albo gets by in lean times.

BY Mike Albo

January 05 2009 12:00 AM ET

Are you reeling from the recession? Join the club. Here are four penny-pinching tips:

(1) A jar of Marshmallow Fluff for $1.49 makes a fine dessert.

(2) Squeeze lemon juice into your tap water and it will taste high-end.

(3) Don’t blow your wad on pricey porn. Try XTube for a cheap thrill.

(4) Predrink and pre-eat before going out so that you don’t overspend.

I always resort to these tactics when I realize I don’t have a cent in my HSBC account, which is often. Maybe I’ll actually stick to them this time, during our new financially calamitous age.

Then again, I always say this to myself. Every year, no matter how little I have, I end up living beyond my means, bitterly learn my lesson at tax time, and then swing back to my penny-pinching tips before starting the whole cycle over a few months later. I’m like a chicken with no short-term memory, pecking at an electrical fence until it’s fried. Or maybe I’m just American.

You’d think I’d act differently by now. I’ve been in my own personal recession for the past 18 years. All the way through the dot-com ’90s, when people were making millions for creating websites devoted to pets and shoes, I was poor. After 9/11, when we headed into our “let’s go shopping” era and Juicy Couture jumpsuits were considered “investments,” I was still frequenting Salvation Army stores. Even during the housing boom, when anyone could get a loan—including dead people—I could barely get a MasterCard.

Tags: Business

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