Reader's Advice: Stop Buying Lattes

Some say the solution to Americans' debt is quite simple.

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When I suggested saving money by taking bubble baths instead of splurging on more expensive indulgences and hosting movie nights for friends instead of paying $10 for theater tickets, it unleashed a torrent of E-mails, many of which were critical about just how decadent Americans' spending habits have become.

"Since when did we become a society that needs common-sense advice spelled out for them?" wrote Stephen Johnson of Brandon, Miss. He says he and his wife own two cars, two motorcycles, and a home, all of which they pay for with their salaries, which adds up to around $5,500 a month, including his military pension and disability pay from his years in the Navy. He says they follow a basic rule: Live within their means.

"We do not live with the misplaced sense of entitlement that seems to have gripped the rest of the nation," he says. They purchased a house they could afford to make a 40 percent down payment on, for example.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wylie of New Jersey wrote to tell me that I seem to be part of the problem, since I have admitted to splurging on coffee and kitchen gadgetry. "Isn't the point of fiscal responsibility to not buy unless we need it? And to save?" He says I should cut down on those lattes and buy my kitchen gear at discount prices on eBay.

I see his point, but the prospect of buying someone else's used soufflé dish doesn't quite have the same appeal to me as getting a shiny new one at Crate & Barrel. I think that as long as I plan my purchases in advance and buy only what I can afford (a new soufflé dish every few years, not every week), then I don't have anything to feel guilty about. Plus, having a well-stocked kitchen lets me follow another money-saving technique: cooking at home.