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Saving money in a serious way means big changes, changes that force us to confront fears: fear of ridicule by peers, fear of becoming "one of those people" (or your parents!) who lived according to a certain philosophy, e.g. "I never thought I'd be one of those people who buys used clothes." or [insert behavior phobia here].

Of course the kicker is that when financial ruin stares you in the face, it often becomes the trumping fear that makes all other considerations silly and moot.

On a personal level my wife and I both lost our jobs within a 12 month span, and we had a baby. Big scary changes we had to make:

1) Sold 50% of our cars. So yes, we went from a 2-car to 1-car household. I now frequently take the bus to work. My wife walks about town to do errands. It is not all gravy, because we have to communicate more and coordinate trips. If our car dies, we could be stranded somewhere (yes we have roadside assistance) and be further inconvenienced ... but at least so far the reality is not so scary after all.

2) Cancelled cable TV. We have rabbit ears. Think people don't notice THAT when they're sitting in your living room? It becomes a conversation piece quite often. Social ridicule fear engage.

3) Embraced an extreme lifestyle change a-la The Compact, for an entire year. To wit: "Borrow, Barter, or Buy Used". We attempt to do all of these things rather than buy anything new. It is a challenge and we are not always successful, but just having that as a goal changes your lifestyle in a big way.

Since the holidays are in full swing, we've experienced a few interesting things:

* My wife gave birth to our first child two months ago. We've had to (and been glad to) accept donations of clothing, gifts, and the like. Now imagine how difficult it is to purchase no gifts in return for *anyone* over the holidays -- we sent only holiday cards this year, and we felt guilt because of it.

* Having to listen to our friends go on and on about their awesome skiing vacation. Feeling like they live on another planet...

* Having *everyone* know about our situation and the lifestyle choices we were making (we were written about in a newspaper article).

* Having a conversation with friends that begins "She lost her job ... and I lost my job ... and we had a baby ... and our car broke down ... and realize you are A) some kind of walking cliche and B) starting to see a look of fear/pity in your friend's face and C) that you are actually chipper and upbeat, and these things no longer matter to you, and will turn out OK ...

Still, due to the bad economic times it is easier now to come clean about your financial straits, because so many others share the pain.

I guess my point is that big changes are only scary for awhile. It seems as if you are about to fall off a cliff, but in reality it is more like stepping off the curb.

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