Whining helps when budgets ail

Articles
December 02, 2008

People short of cold cash to ease their daily strains often appreciate a warm shoulder to cry on, even if it belongs to a faceless stranger. Better still if comforting comes with straight talk to sharpen one’s spending habits, and links to resources that could help alleviate money struggles. Welcome to social networking on the Web with a twist: a place to vent and get good advice on coping in today’s difficult economy. Certainly, online media columnists have dispensed money-saving tips, and couponing and shopping websites have steered people to bargains for years. But when this fall’s financial meltdown converged with relentless retail pricing games, financial journalist Jill Andresky Fraser had enough and the EconoWhiner.com blog was born. Her inaugural tale was of her own frustrating attempt to make sense of six prices and multiple pack sizes of cauliflower at stores within blocks of each other in Manhattan. If she had trouble figuring out her best buy for the time and money spent, she reasoned, millions of others do too in triangulating their purchases of household essentials and more. “As Americans attempt to perform cost-benefit analyses of their needs and behaviors, they are whittling pennies from cable bills only to squander dollars on gas driving miles to discount stores, or on coupon-spurred splurges for non-essential items like Cheez Whiz,” related a recent New York Times report.

People short of cold cash to ease their daily strains often appreciate a warm shoulder to cry on, even if it belongs to a faceless stranger. Better still if comforting comes with straight talk to sharpen one’s spending habits, and links to resources that could help alleviate money struggles.

Welcome to social networking on the Web with a twist: a place to vent and get good advice on coping in today’s difficult economy.  Certainly, online media columnists have dispensed money-saving tips, and couponing and shopping websites have steered people to bargains for years.

But when this fall’s financial meltdown converged with relentless retail pricing games, financial journalist Jill Andresky Fraser had enough and the EconoWhiner.com blog was born. Her inaugural tale was of her own frustrating attempt to make sense of six prices and multiple pack sizes of cauliflower at stores within blocks of each other in Manhattan.  If she had trouble figuring out her best buy for the time and money spent, she reasoned, millions of others do too in triangulating their purchases of household essentials and more.

“As Americans attempt to perform cost-benefit analyses of their needs and behaviors, they are whittling pennies from cable bills only to squander dollars on gas driving miles to discount stores, or on coupon-spurred splurges for non-essential items like Cheez Whiz,” related a recent New York Times report.

Ms. Fraser’s blog attempts to shake the irrationality out of seemingly rational shopping decisions like these people make every day. The blog delivers price comparisons from a network of grassroots sources that interact with her, plus other helpful advice. It also serves as an outlet for people to complain “about a mess we didn’t create.”

Some of her plain-day wisdom, straight from the blog: “Venting your emotions and sharing your experiences is the key to staying sane in a crazy economy.  Frustrated about something? Just let us know….Live in the moment. Forget the way things used to be. Enjoy what’s possible….Remember your spending limits….Spend time in parks, not parking lots.”

Older consumers may recall how much worse the Depression was, when soup kitchens helped people survive, when five families lived together under one roof, and when resourcefulness stretched dollars that were quite rare.  Thankfully, we’re a long way from that today, yet blogs like this are a comfortable ‘meeting place’ for people feeling the pressure.