A few weeks back, I asked people to tell me how they were saving money and why. As an incentive, we gave away a Container store box filled with $100 worth of items from the retailer.
More than 50 people responded, and while we picked our prize winner randomly, Jamie Wilkerson's reason for saving was typical of many that we got: a life-changing event. In Wilkerson's case, it was marriage and a job layoff.
Wilkerson, an accountant, and her fiancée were already evaluating their joint financial plan when, two months before the wedding, he lost his job at Sprint.
They became serious about cutting costs and switched providers for their phone, cable and Internet service. The moves saved them a couple of hundred dollars. She joined a coupon circle to save more at the grocery store. And she tried to simply buy less and think more carefully about purchases.
"It was like the worst possible timing," said Wilkerson, 30. "When I was sending in our wedding announcement to the newspaper, I wanted to say, 'You can view the groom's résumé at. ...' "
Robby Wilkerson found a job four months later, just as his severance pay from his old job ran out. But Jamie Wilkerson says frugality has taken hold of the Cary couple, and they continue to look for ways to save money.
The messages from others were similar. Newborns, early retirement, layoffs or less pay, divorce and college costs were the incentives for many. Elizabeth O'Brien of Raleigh said the country's financial problems were behind her family's belt tightening even though they had not been directly affected.
The O'Briens eat at home more and decided to teach their children to play tennis rather than pay for lessons.
There were big cost-saving measures - cancel the house cleaning service, cut the cable - and smaller ones. Most folks are coupon clippers. Many are consignment shoppers and yard sale divas.
Everyone said they are slowly building savings and getting out of debt. And while many said their efforts are a work in progress, everyone seemed committed to keeping it up.
Jill Hughes of Cary says saving money is too much fun to stop: "I love seeing what I've saved. ... I love dressing my daughter in a perfectly adorable outfit that cost me $4 secondhand."
Staff writer Sue Stock contributed
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