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gas prices

Many of you are working hard at frugality because you have to. I'm no exception. I'm tightening the belt more than ever. My readers talk about how they sometimes wish there were a "frugal fairy" who granted wishes. She could wave her magic wand and let them choose one area where they didn't have to be frugal. I want to share some of their wishes with you, so you know you're not alone. While luxuries are always the first thing to be cut, it's interesting to note that the majority of the wishes aren't terribly fancy. There are tons of people feeling the pressure from the economic downturn. With hard work, humor and hope, you'll get through it.

DRIVING: Many miss going for a drive without thinking about the high cost of gas. People are limiting leisure drives, and most are combining errands to save money. Many retirees had hopes of traveling but are finding themselves staying home much more often. Some readers have long commutes that are killing their budgets. Some are rethinking trips to garage sales because of the cost to drive to them. Several readers are paying more for gas than they are for food.

FOOD: This is one area almost everyone wishes they could splurge on. Dining out has become almost nonexistent, and people are finding it increasingly difficult to keep a low grocery budget. They're pulling out their frugal recipes, stocking up during sales, planning their vegetable gardens and streamlining their meal plans. Many wish they didn't have to look at prices, make hard choices and calculate the best buys. Some are tired of trying to make something out of nothing, too. Gourmet recipes have become wishful thinking, and they want more recipes with cheaper ingredients so they can stretch their meals. Some wish they didn't have to pack a lunch every single day or feel guilty about not wanting to cook sometimes. They simply want to stop wincing at their receipts and not have to justify each purchase. They'd like to invite guests over more often, too.

HEAT: Sad as this is, many people wish the magic fairy could make utilities cost less. They're tired of being cold and always bundling up -- or sweating during the warmer months. When the choice is between food, gas and heat, the thermostat is being turned way down.

ENTERTAINMENT: People are cutting out trips to the movies as well as extras like vacations, concerts and theater. Many are relying on the Internet, movie rentals and library books for home entertainment. Some folks are setting their main hobbies aside for cheaper alternatives and wish they could afford craft supplies.

CLOTHING: Money simply isn't being spent on clothing. Most of my readers are making do with what they have or buying clothing secondhand or on sale. Some feel guilty for not providing new brand-name clothing for their kids.

REPAIRS: Home repairs are being put off, which will result in higher costs later. Some people wish they could afford a new roof or to replace appliances. Instead of replacing them, many are going without. Microwaves, dishwashers and dryers top the list.

GIVING: People want to give more, but don't have enough for themselves. People are giving more homemade gifts. Some readers simply wish they had more time to give to their own family.