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Thrift-conscious say goodbye to cars, cell phones, other luxuries

  • Story Highlights
  • iReporters are giving up small luxuries to save every penny they can in 2009
  • Kyle Aevermann is selling his car, and others are cutting down on driving
  • Robin Savage tried to give up her cell phone, but it was "complete torture"
  • What are you cutting from your budget?
  • Next Article in Living »
By Rachel Rodriguez
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(CNN) -- Everyone's trying to cut their budget this year, from the White House to big corporations to ordinary citizens. For many Americans, this means making big changes and going without things to which they've become accustomed.

Matthew Colver and his wife plan to cut back on vacations to save money over the next year.

Hilary Ohm says cutting back driving can save hundreds of dollars a month on fuel costs.

For some, the economic downturn means saying goodbye to that icon of American prosperity: their car.

"What am I cutting from my budget? Something sad ... my car," said college student Kyle Aevermann, who is trying to sell his Nissan Sentra.

Aevermann is having trouble finding a job and knows that selling his car will save him money in multiple ways. Not only will he no longer have a car payment, he won't have to pay for gas, insurance or maintenance. He estimates that gas and insurance alone cost him around $3,000 a year.

"For a college student, that's a lot of money," he said.

Aevermann plans to use Zipcar, a short-term rental service, when he needs to drive, and to walk everywhere he can.

"Stores are only a mile away. I have legs. I can walk; I can ride my bike," said Aevermann. 'Bye bye car'

Another person doing a lot of walking is Hilary Ohm. She's cut her driving down as much as possible since losing her job in October. She no longer drives to work, of course, and since she lives in the small town of Colville, Washington, she's able to walk to go shopping and meet up with friends.

"I have found that walking into town every day is a great way to get exercise, meet people and get to know my community better," said Ohm, who carries a backpack to town with her so that she can do the grocery shopping.

She suggests that people who are looking to save money consider moving to an area where most stores and other destinations are within walking distance. "Think about how much gas you use each month. It adds up."

"I haven't filled my tank since the middle of December, and I still have about half a tank," she added. It recently snowed in Colville, leaving her car covered in about a foot of snow, but Ohm says she could have just as soon left it that way until spring. 'I drive less than 20 percent of what I normally would'

Many others are cutting smaller entertainment luxuries, such as restaurants, shopping, vacations and cable TV, out of their budget.

Matthew Colver and his wife love to travel -- they generally go somewhere on vacation three or four times a year -- but in the next year or so, they'll be staying closer to home.

"My wife and I were talking about ways to cut back, and she said we take too many vacations. In fact, we're getting on a plane to Hawaii tomorrow," he said. "I like taking lots of vacations, but we've got a lot of bills, so that's where we're going to cut back. We don't have as much money to spend."

Colver says their 2009 vacations have already been planned and paid for, but in 2010, they'll probably only plan one. 'The one thing we can do is just stay closer to home'

Johni Redd says she's saving thousands of dollars a year by cutting premium features out of her cable and phone services. She still has cable and a cell phone, but has gone down to the basic level of service for both. She also got rid of her land phone line.

"I had way too many features on [the cell phone]," said Redd. "I had gotten into excess consumerism. And did I really need 150 channels that had nothing on them?"

Redd also moved closer to work to save on gas money. She estimates that her total savings from all these cutbacks will be close to $4,000 a year. 'I cut some bills'

Gina Bock and Jill Pearson are saving by cutting back on all sorts of little luxuries, such as shopping and eating out.

"I don't shop anymore ... I really love to shop a lot, so that was the hardest," said Bock, who lost her job three months ago. "My groceries are limited. I only buy bread, milk, cereal." 'Giving up most everything'

"Cut backs have come in the form of many things, from not eating out nearly as much, to price checking at the grocery store, to no more nail salons or high-end hair salons," said Pearson.

She and her husband own a construction company, and she says business has been slow since the economic downturn. "Basically, we have cut back on things that are unnecessary. We used to just buy something if we wanted it, now we don't. We have everything we basically need, so we are cutting back on the discretionary spending."

And when Pearson's husband needed a haircut, he even asked her to do it herself instead of going to a barber.

"No worries, he was very pleased!" she said. "It turned out great." Getting by with less, but still enjoying life

Others tried to give up expensive luxuries, only to find that these luxuries had become essentials. Case in point: Robin Savage, who decided to give up something many in the Information Age cannot do without -- her cell phone.

Fed up with hidden fees and high prices, Savage let a friend take over her Blackberry and service plan. The adjustment proved difficult. After only a few days without her phone, Savage said she was going through "complete torture."

"They say cigarettes are addictive, but I'm telling you, I think cell phones could be just as bad," she said. "I'm actually losing sleep over it." 'I feel like I am going through major withdrawal'

In the end, the hundreds of dollars Savage said she would save turned out not to be worth it. After just five days without her phone -- "the longest days of my life" -- she gave in and got it back. She said an incident where she went to the wrong restaurant to meet up with friends and then couldn't reach them was the last straw.

"It was like being in another world," she said.

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