Five Things Worth Paying For In A Recession

Just because the economy is imploding doesn’t mean you should entirely freeze your spending. The Wall Street Journal brings us a list of five things that are well worth their price, even in a recession.

  • 1. Pay For Expert Advice: Google can’t replace your lawyer, tax advisor, or financial advisor. Open your wallet to professionals who are familiar with your particular situation.
  • 2. Pay To Reduce Debt: Now isn’t the time to take on more debt, and that’s what happens if you stop paying off your existing obligations. Debt also affects your credit score, making other financial services more expensive, so stick to your debt repayment schedule and work with creditors if you need extra help.
  • 3. Pay Into Your Savings Accounts: Keep saving for your future by continuing to take advantage of employer matches while they still exist.
  • 4. Spend On Yourself: It’s ok to spend on yourself, but only for things that have a substantial impact. We also think it’s important to keep giving yourself little gifts here and there to help maintain your sanity. Just don’t overdo it. Think chocolate, not diamonds.
  • 5. Pay For Some Things You Can Do Yourself: Keep focused on the big picture and figure out which spending is actually worthwhile. Sure, you could shovel the driveway, but if your hip’s been hurting and your 60th birthday is around the corner, give the teen next door $50 instead.

Scrimp to Save More Than Money [The Wall Street Journal]
(Photo: Jezz)


Edit Your Comment

  1. nybiker says:

    I know they’re just throwing numbers around, but I’ll take the $50 and I’m no teenager.

    • bohemian says:

      @nybiker: Heart attacks and back injuries are not cheap. The $50 may be far cheaper in the long run.

    • Chongo says:

      @nybiker: man, I used to only get 10 bucks!

    • Pink Puppet says:

      @nybiker: I’m just boggling at the ‘fifty bucks’ concept for shovelling! My neighbor bakes me brownies or a cake if I get her driveway and sidewalks when I do my own.

      Of course, they are really delicious brownies.

    • TaterTom says:

      @nybiker: Most appropriate first post ever. Unless that driveway is ginormous, anybody I know would try to turn a 50 spot down out of courtesy, twice even.

      I don’t know if I’m just that good of a neighbor or what, but then again, if you’re pushing 60 and need your driveway done and can afford it, throwing that out there shows the necessity of the situation and WILL get it done. I think it boils down to being a neighbor. Plenty of people enjoy and respect privacy, and asking for such a favor can be an awkward situation, but knocking/calling and stating right out of the gates that “I’ll throw you a fifty-spot to get me out of my driveway” shows the respect and need at the same time.

      A neighborly person would do it, but courteously turn down about half that much. At least in my little world of proper etiquette, which I deem to be fitting with the times, yet maintaining certain old-school values.

      • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:


        I live in Southern California, so this is moot, but having grown up in New York….

        As a teenager, you betcha I’d charge. We used to LOVE it when it would snow. We’d get together (three of us) and go house to house, shoveling driveways & walkways, and make $20 per house. At the end of the day (again, when I was a teenager and could go at it all day long) we’d go home, chill out in my friend’s basement, pass around a joint, and split up our hard-earned money. Usually around $100 each, which as a teenager, was a lot of money for a day’s work.

        Today, if I still lived in NY, and my neighbor offered me $50 to shovel him out because he couldn’t do it himself, I would accept his offer, shovel the driveway, and then tell him to brew me a fresh pot of coffee and that he can keep his fifty. IT wouldn’t be about the money, it would be about being a neighbor. What goes around comes around, and one day I may be the one who needs help from a neighbor.

        And, I love a good cup of fresh coffee, especially on a cold day. Which, here in SoCal, iss when it dips below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

    • Liz11685 says:

      @nybiker: I used to have to do the driveway for free! And my parents wonder why I moved where it doesn’t snow.

    • KCChiefsFan says:


      You could get 50 dollars to shovel your neighbors driveway….if you live in Martha’s Vineyard.

      I used to get 10 per driveway from my neighbors (about 3 houses in total usually) and I only got that because we had a snow blower, and they needed their driveways done before they went to work. Fifty for one driveway would be like…the dream.

    • Anitra says:

      @nybiker: Normally, I’d agree that seems like an awful lot to shovel a driveway. As a teenager (about 10 years ago), I’d get $10 – unless I was doing it for my parents, in which case I’d be lucky to get $5.

      Today, as Massachusetts is getting hit with the blizzard from hell, well on its way to dropping 2 feet of snow in a 24-hour period… heck yeah, I’d pay $50 if it meant I didn’t have to go out there myself.

    • ScottRose says:


      All I would get for shoveling the driveway was a hot chocolate from my mom.

      Nowadays I get a back-ache and an eyeroll from the wife when I get snow on the hardwood floor.

      Sucks getting older.

  2. sicknick says:

    A couple things:

    First, for some of us it’s not about chocolate vs diamonds, it’s buying an ounce of regs for 100 bucks or mids for 140 instead of chronic for 60 an 1/8th.

    Another point: 50 bucks to shovel the driveway? Where do you live richie rich? The going rate in my neighborhood is 10 bucks and that gets the driveway shoveled PLUS all the dog crap in the backyard from a St Bernard and a Rottie cleaned up by the friendly neighborhood homeless dude.

    He’ll do any little yard job for 5 bucks. Awesome.

    • krispykrink says:

      @sicknick: lmao! Gotta agree. Last time I shoveled a driveway the going rate was $5-$10.

    • tbone13 says:


      always go for the chronz. we aint in hs no mo.

      • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:


        Besides, here it is LEGAL, so you can go into a store and pick out almost any level or variety of chronic!

        Ahhh, I love California.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @sicknick: I agree. The only person that pays kids $50 to shovel the driveway is that odd guy living across from the playground with the elaborate video setup.
      Happily, it’s California, so performing the chore shirtless isn’t much of a hardship. Although we’re puzzled: what snow is that guy worried about?!

    • arl84 says:

      @sicknick: Sorry but you’re paying WAY too much. Where do you live?

      • sicknick says:

        @arl84: just outside of Detroit.

        Thats going rates around here, and not just from one source. Honestly, last time I bought elsewhere, in San Jose, CA, my buddy had a script and it was 60 bucks for 1/8th of ROMULAN at the local dispensary. That was 2004 though. Things may have changed.

  3. dragonpup says:

    $50 for shoveling?! Wow, now I feel old when $10/day was the normal. :-(

  4. C.S.M. Technophile says:

    I feel as if the price for shoveling has gone up exponentially in that past few years, I’m only 21 and was lucky to get $10 a driveway + sidewalk + car.

  5. Michael Belisle says:

    I’ll throw out stocks as another thing that should be on that list: Buy American. I Am. [NY Times]

    Sure, Buffet just issued a mea culpa, but it’s still good advice.

  6. The Bigger Unit says:

    Well, if you live where the money in that picture is from…$10 to shovel a driveway is a freaking bargain.

    • wardawg says:

      @The Bigger Unit: A friend of mine backed his car out of his garage without looking, got it stuck in a snow drift that was twice the height of the car. He spent the rest of the day shoveling the snow back out of his garage to free his vehicle.

    • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

      @The Bigger Unit: and where is that money from?
      i found a note that looks similar to that recently… a 10-whatever note, printed in some non-latin lettering (possibly Cyrillic?)

      • rdwarrior says:

        @Gstein: Are you serious? The money is from Canada. It even says Canada on the $20 in the middle.

        • hindenpeter83 says:

          @rdwarrior: I’m surprised you saw that. I wonder how old the pic is, those 20s have been out of circulation for a number of years now (most of the bills pictured are current though)

  7. kwsventures says:

    I disagree with #1. Most people, if can easily do their own taxes and handle their own investment accounts if they do a little research. Neither is hard. Most “so-called experts lost lots of money for clients in the past year.

    • Anonymous says:

      @kwsventures: hah, strongly disagree… how could any of those experts lose money for their clients? The value of everything that is worth anything is subjective (always changing)… 1)The stock market crashing was predetermined, 2)The fact that the banks and the government in the US would eventually have to pay for their irresponsibility was predetermined, 3)The value of property has always been volatile, again the general public should be aware of this fact…. I am sick of people not taking responsibilty for their own actions. When dealing with any of these professionals there are laws that state that the client/annuitant/customer has to sign and date and acknowledge any and all agreements. Frustrating!!

    • JeffMc says:

      @kwsventures: I was coming to say this same thing. Has anyone’s financial planner earned their fees in the past year?

      • metsarethe... says:

        @JeffMc: Understandable but a good financial planner can help you effectively manage your losses with respect to your taxes. I would argue they may be more important in bad years than good depending on how complicated our tax situation is

    • N.RobertMoses says:

      @kwsventures: Given the recent track record of these “financial planers” not dealing with them would probably be a prudent thing to do.

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @kwsventures: Maybe, but a good lawyer is worth the money (or as my lawyer says, “I love it when people try to do this stuff themselves, because then they have to pay me a lot more to fix it than it would have cost to do it the first time”), and while many individuals can do their own taxes, if you run a business or have a weird situation, a good CPA is worth it too.

      Obviously be smart about what you can and can’t do, but for what you can’t or shouldn’t do, spend the extra to get good help. Bad help is worth less than no help, usually.

  8. chiieddy says:

    If you’re a good person, try knocking on your elderly neighbor’s door and offer to do it for free. You’ll likely get cookies or PIE in addition to good will and karma, which beats $10 any day.

  9. Coles_Law says:

    6) Move to a neighborhood where they pay $50 to shovel the drive.

  10. b612markt says:

    Also: Renters Insurance!

  11. Mr_Human says:

    Wow, an article in the WSJ on how to spend more money. The nerve!

  12. Xkeeper says:

    I’m half surprised pets weren’t on this, considering the Consumerist’s infatuation with cats :)

    • bohemian says:

      @Xkeeper: We started buying a better quality more expensive dog food. Finally after years the dog quit shedding undercoat all year long. The hair problem was probably the reason the motor in our vacuum finally died and we are now using fewer of those hair pick up roller refills.
      The dog is probably healthier too, hopefully lowering the vet bill potential.

      • Julia789 says:

        @bohemian: Here is a tip I learned for dealing with lots of pet hair:

        Twice a year, take your vacuum cleaner to the local vacuum repair shop. There is usually a little old man in a tiny shop who will disassemble your entire vacuum, clean the hair and dirt out, replace the belt, and reassemble it for about $10 or $20.

        It will run like NEW with greatly improved suction, and with this maintenance it will last nearly forever. Plus, the little old man is thrilled to have the business.

  13. Trai_Dep says:

    I’d gladly live thru two Depressions* if it meant my cats would sit still long enough for me to lard them up with that much moolah.

    * Which, considering the 22nd Amendment and the DNC’s gift for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, wouldn’t be completely out of the realm of possibility.

    • ZekeSulastin says:


      It’s been less than two months since Obama was elected and you’re already hoping he could stay in longer than two terms?

      The Internet wonders why some people, conservative or not, worry about a seeming cult of Obama. Thanks for proving the point of allegiance by charisma rather than by trend of action.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @ZekeSulastin: What did prancing unicorns and everlasting rainbows do to you in your childhood that made you say such a thing?

        @varro: Like any proper dom/sub relationship, cats only emotionally scar their owners out of l-o-v-e.

    • varro says:

      @Trai_Dep: Most of the money ends up *inside* the cat, with pricey cat food that the cats will only occasionally eat.

    • Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

      I remember when that old fool Reagan said he was going to spend his post presidential years lobbying for the repeal of the 22nd Amendment.
      never happened as he was senile not only then, but the day he was born!

  14. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i’d have to say spending money on maintenance is worth the most to me.
    keep the car maintained, the washer, dryer, fridge and a/c-heater running in top condition and your repair and power costs will be offset

    oil change: $30.
    new engine: $700- god knows how much

    fridge door seal: $15- $20
    cold air leaking out around a bad seal can really run up the power costs to run it and result in wasted food

    a/c – heater air filters: $5
    keeping them clear keeps the unit from having to run harder to pull the air through. last a/c unit i had to price was $700

    • varro says:

      @catastrophegirl: Disposable furnace filters – 99 cents at Fred Meyer. Just changed one today.

    • cmac says:

      I agree with keeping your appliances maintained, but I’ll have to say that I’ve saved a ton by Googling before calling for a repair service. I’ve made 3 minor repairs for <$30 total, instead of the ~$300 it would have cost to hire someone.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        @cmac: oh yeah, i have replaced so many worn out dryer belts for myself and friends. costs less than $20 and takes about half an hour to do. there’s plenty of instructions online for how to do that, replace your fridge gasket, clean the drain on the dishwasher, etc.
        with pictures.
        the internet is your DIY friend

    • MaytagRepairman says:

      @catastrophegirl: I just installed a low-flow shower head this weekend for about $14. I was expecting disappointment but it actually works well! Can’t wait to see what it saves.

  15. CreativeLinks says:

    Apprently the number 6 thing to do is cover you cat in various currencies.

  16. RodAox says:

    I find that booze is missing from that list and consumerist should be ashamed of it. Best investment of my life is a fifth of jack Daniels after my 401 took a nose dive

  17. N.RobertMoses says:

    That cat is rolling in hard currency!

    Speaking of hard currency, what about buying gold coins?
    Would that be a good thing to buy now or would it be too expensive in a recession?

  18. framitz says:

    These all sound like things to benefit Wall Street, NOT YOU and I.

    • varro says:

      @framitz: Especially “work with creditors if you need extra help”.

      Or file Chapter 7 bankruptcy and get rid of all of the debt, or Chapter 13 and get rid of a lot of it.

      Remember, that “extra help” from the creditors will turn into a 1099-C and tax liability next year, while Bank of America or Capital One will get a write-off.

  19. Islandkiwi says:

    What about investing for the long haul? It’s like salmon, right? Everyone jumping out of the market means it’s a good time to swim against the current and buy, right?

    Yes, some of us will be eaten by bears. But some of us will get to the lake and spawn like there’s no tomorrow.

  20. Keter says:

    Food/water. Shelter. Clothes. Heat. All else is negotiable. The five things listed above are WAY up on Maslow’s Hierarchy – WSJ again proves its ridiculous degree of separation from realities of the average citizen, who can’t afford an attorney under any circumstances, would be laughed out of a financial advisor’s office (if not escorted out by security), and must cross their fingers and pray each year at tax time. Savings? What savings? Maslow’s Hierarchy again…you have to make enough money to pay for basic necessities before you can save – or borrow. When they write about paying down debt, they didn’t have paying down arrears on utility bills in mind. And you have to be able to have at least basic food on the table every day before you can indulge in chocolate. And I promise you that there are a lot of real Americans out there who would think they’d hit paydirt if offered a snow-shoveling gig for $50, and they would take it in a heartbeat. (I might move north that money, myself.) These are the same folks whose DIY accomplishments often include minor self-surgery as required because they don’t have health insurance and “make too much money” to get public assistance for health care, but nowhere near enough to pay for it out of pocket.

    @RodAox – pass the bottle, will ya? ;o)

    • Anonymous says:

      @Keter: I agree. I thought the list would be like. 1) Rent/Mortgage, 2) Food, 3) Transport (Public), 4) Heat and 5) Electricity

      With, you know, tips on how to scrounge free wireless and live without water.

      Also, of the five they chose, without any sort of real prioritization, that’s meaningless. Do I save or pay down debt?! Is it really more important to pay an independent advisor than my credit card?

      This list is poo.

      • failurate says:

        @XenaCabarn: People struggling with basic comfort and survival are probably not the target audience of The Wall Street Journal.

        • varro says:

          @failurate: But they’re a secondary market – old Wall Street Journals make excellent Bush Blankets (covering you while sleeping outside after you’ve been evicted/foreclosed on), and they burn well in oil drums to provide heat.

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @Keter: You forgot sex. If you can’t pay for yours with a good personality and/or cooking skillz, then for goodness sake spend the extra $$ for quality!

  21. Onion_Volcano says:

    when the pensions fail, wet cat food will go up in price as it flies off the shelves. It’s not that bad if you heat it up and use some garnish.

  22. Robert Francis Corrigan says:

    I know the Canadian Dollar has taken a beating (for no apparent reason) but to shower your cat in money doesn’t seem too cost effective. And the going rate in Canada for shoveling is 10 bucks unless you have a REALLY big ass driveway.

  23. Canino says:

    I’ve found one of the things worth paying for in a recession is something you were going to buy anyway but that is now cheap or cheaper (assuming you still have the money of course).

    I’ve picked up a good deal on a truck and an absolute steal on a repossessed boat in the past few months. Also great deals on used shop tools.

    One thing that isn’t dropping in price: firearms.

  24. flyboyJ says:

    and then there’s my father in law who says … “you can’t spend your money when you’re dead, might as well go out in debt …”

    I have a feeling that’s going to bite me when he dies …

  25. wardawg says:

    Actually to me the most impressive part of this article is that the old style $20’s still appear to be relatively crisp. I used to handle a lot of cash in my old job, most of the older 20s I got were falling apart.

  26. TheTriarii says:

    For $50 give me a call and I’ll shovel your driveway.

  27. MitchV says:

    This article came out of the Wall Street Journal – of course the writer’s audience is paying people $50 to clear a driveway!!

    Sorry… I’m not interested in taking recession survival advice from *anyone* who would write an article and not recognize that $50 for clearing a driveway is unreasonable.

    How about this advice – SPEND LESS THAN YOU MAKE!! Imagine the wrench that would throw into things if the government and general population had to follow THAT rule!

  28. Sifl says:

    In all honesty, I think there’s another item missing from this list… that is also pretty darn important.

    Life Insurance.

    I may never use it, but in this screwed economy, it’s worth the small amount a month [less then the driveway shovelling] to know that if something happens and I go to the hospital, I’m covered and they send me money to cover my bills and expenses. [Which actually adds up to a bit more then I get paid daily after taxes if it’s something small and just over double if it’s bad]

    Definitely worth paying for in a recession. Especially when a bad accident can sideline me for a while. :( [Crosses fingers that nothing happens]

    • floraposte says:

      @Sifl: Sounds like you’re talking about health insurance, not life insurance. And if you do, I’d agree.

  29. wagnerism says:

    #6 – Shotgun shells.

    What good is having anything useful or of value if someone can just take it from you?

  30. Major-General says:

    I guess Tax Cat’s wisdom falls under number 1.

  31. bodah says:

    I never skimp on toilet paper.

    You buy the cheap stuff, and you will regret it.

  32. prodpoke says:

    fifty dollars to shovel a driveway?1/!/!

    and back where i live, they do it for ten hahahaha

  33. Jevia says:

    Why shovel, that’s what snow blowers are for.

  34. ZoeSchizzel says:

    Here’s my list:
    1. Don’t skimp on trading your expert advice for another person’s expert advice. I’ll reformat your hard drive after a viral hit, and you’ll fix my dryer after the the heating element goes out. I’ll dogsit your dog for a weekend, if you’ll finalize my will. I’ll do your taxes if you’ll take a look at my car’s air conditioner.

    2. Spend money on yourself — buy health insurance if there’s ANY possible way to afford it, get your teeth cleaned, don’t ignore suspicious skin spots, buy and wear sunscreen, “splurge” on nutritious food, and for heaven’s sake use birth control.

  35. picardia says:

    Right now, all my cash is going toward paying off student loans, maintaining an emergency savings fund and — theater tickets. This is probably the last year I’ll live in New York City, and because I’m moving someplace cheaper, the likelihood I’ll ever be able to see theater this varied and this good again is very low. So it’s a worthwhile indulgence for me. (Also, these days, it’s a lot easier to get bargains on tickets.)

  36. fatcop says:

    7. A properly stocked emergency kit stashed away somewhere safe where it won’t be tampered with or pilfered from including at least the following:

    * Flashlights(preferably 1 for each family member)/w batteries. Crank up ones good too.

    * At least 2 cases of bottled water per person(preferably more).

    * Battery powered radio(preferably with weather band) w/batteries. Crank up one good too.

    * Medical supply kit.

    * Clean empty containers to store water.

    * Non-perishable supplies of food.

    * Extra blankets.

    * A box of ammunition for every firearm you own

    * Several tarps

    * Pads of paper, pencils, etc.

    * Half a dozen rolls of toilet paper(trust me).

    * Stuff to keep kids occupied (games, books, etc). Stuff to keep you occupied (books, etc). Bargain book rack at the book store good place to get them on the cheap.

    * Binding material (duct tape, rope, wire, etc)

    * Lighters, matches, or some way to reliably start fire (keep some non-treated steel wool in a ziploc to aid in this. Also remember your 6 rolls of TP)

    This is just a starting point to what you should have in your emergency kit. Tailor it to the situations you may encounter, such as tornados in the midwest, hurricanes on the coast, etc. My emergency kit has all of the above and more and is stored in one of those metal double door cabinets in the basement to keep everything dry and errant critters out.

    • fatcop says:

      @fatcop: Also forgot to add a few hundred bucks cash. Can’t get at your money if your banks power is out.

    • Natalie Rodriguez says:


      Living in Florida, I have to definitely agree. We’ve never had things get so bad as to have to use the food or medical supplies, but the books/flashlights/etc. are definitely useful.

      Also! If you are a pet owner, be sure to have supplies for them in the emergency kit! We usually have dry food in a plastic jar for my kitties, and plenty of extra water.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @fatcop: Your list, while admirably comprehensive, has nothing in the Defense from Zombie Hordes category.

  37. DoubleEcho says:

    I’ve found that now is the perfect time to start doing renovations that you can tackle yourself. I’m finishing my attic, and electrical wire is the cheapest I’ve ever seen it – $150 for a 1000′ roll of 12/2, when a 250′ roll was almost that amount a couple years ago. Also, I got a great deal on drywall and all the accessories, and with some help from family we’re getting it done.

    My hope is that fixing up the house now will pay dividends later when the housing crisis eases, and I can sell my house for a decent price instead of less than what I paid for it. I’m kind of lucky as housing prices in our area have only gone down about 3% or so.

  38. maruawe42 says:

    First off paying an”expert” to do what? Most things can be researched on the internet,Usually on a .gov or .org website and you understand more of the answer, I worked as a consultant for two years and except for law rules and income tax,the library or the internet had the answer that was needed.
    secondly reducing debt can be done on your own I got my debt to zero in two years by paying off the principle.
    Third you should always pay yourself first each month.
    fourth “do without”it won’t hurt you.
    last but not least older people need exercise as much as younger people. I’m 66 and do all my own chores.. And I have a friend that’s 90(yes ninety)and works every day a little slower but still builds shelves, a patio, tv stands,even a camping trailer using only solar power……
    Why do people not realize that they usually are their own worst enemy, I cannot understand the “me” generation
    that have to have the newest , the best, or whatever.
    Save for what you want, Pay in cash,have no bills except for electricity,water ,rent or mortgage payment..
    you will be surprised at how much you can have and do.

  39. WorldHarmony says:

    Number 5 is a bit unrealistic. After the sixth time paying $50 for someone to shovel, you could have bought a snowthrower. I’m guessing you live in a place where it doesn’t snow very much, and that you are not worried about saving your own pennies.

  40. meechybee says:

    Two words: Health Insurance.

    Two more words: Use it.

  41. Omir The Storyteller says:

    Anyone want to help me go into business? I’ve been thinking for years that given the state of the economy there’s eventually going to be a place on supermarket shelves for Alpo Helper.