Downsizing -- and enjoying it

John Mark and Lauren Wendler.

Lieutenant Colonel Soo Lee Davis.

Tess Vigeland: So let me get this straight: First we had the debt ceiling crisis. Then the S&P downgrade. Followed by stock market mayhem. And now earthquakes and hurricanes all in one week.

Feeling like things are a tad out of your control? Well as we like to preach in this time slot, take control of the things you can control. For lots of Americans over the last months, if not years, that's meant a serious financial downsizing. Not always easy, but do-able. So for inspiration, let's hear from some folks who've done it.

John Mark Wendler: This is John Mark Wendler from San Diego and I'm an accountant.

Lauren Wendler: I'm John Mark's wife, Lauren, and I'm a nurse.

John: Lauren and I have been married for three years and we had student debt, and we were going out to dinner almost every weekend and pretty much spending frivolously. But we really had that moment there where it was like we have this certain amount of money that was going to get us through. So we decided to take a few steps like cut cable and go out to eat a lot less and those types of things in order to get by.

Lauren: Some of the things that we've done to downsize our lifestyle: I've gotten into cutting coupons and following a lot of the blogs that have tips on how to save money and I think I've redesigned the way I think of making meals and that's definitely saved a lot of money for us. And then also, we went from a two-bedroom to a studio loft. That also helped us get rid of a lot of extra stuff that we had.

John: I don't know, we're kinda getting excited about spending less money on things. You don't realize that a lot of those things that you had been doing before, you can live perfectly fine without. And especially with the space, going from a two-bedroom, two bath to this studio loft closer to where I work. Now I can walk home for lunch, and so that's saving money too. I know I work with people who go out to eat every single day. So that's where I would say quality of life is increasing, just by having less stuff and having less things to worry about.

John Mark and Lauren Wendler in San Diego.

And here's Soo Lee Davis, a lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Army Medical Corps in San Antonio. She's single, no kids and decided to completely overhaul her money habits.

Soo Lee Davis: I was spending in an unconscious manner before. I enjoyed buying new cars. I probably never drove anything older than a car that was about four years old. Liked to live in nicer neighborhoods and sort of the trendy and hip areas, and those typically are a little bit more expensive.

So I recently returned from Afghanistan and I don't know if it was a function of just getting accustomed to living a bit more austerely and simply or watching the world economic crisis unfold. So I've had a conscious decision now to have an emergency fund that's fairly robust. I've kept my car, I haven't made any major appliance purchases, like new TVs. Although, certainly that's very attractive. I go through a litmus test: "Do I need this or do I want this?"

Actually, I don't find it was difficult at all. In fact, it was very liberating. I do feel like I have more control. I did share with some folks my plans to take vacation in San Diego this weekend. And rather than rent a car and stay in a nice hotel room downtown, I decided to stay on a military base and I'm renting a bicycle. So they thought that was pretty silly and a little bit overly frugal. But I just think it adds to the vacation experience. It's like an insurance policy, and it's a freedom from worries of the unknown.

Soo Lee Davis of San Antonio.

Lieutenant Colonel Soo Lee Davis.

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