Jussara Bierman, 24, has turned an old joke into a budding recession business. The Aucklander noticed more restaurants and bars struggling to bring in the crowds, while her friends were staying at home rather than risk wasting money on hit-and-miss nights out. Bored at her architecture job, she was searching for a new business idea when the rent-a-crowd concept came to her.

InviteMe, officially launched last week, is a recession match-maker, bringing together cash-strapped crowds with downturn-hit venues. It's free to join. Venues pay a per-head fee to publicise their event by email to the members, who number almost 1000 already and are aged 18 to 80. Businesses can pay extra to target a particular demographic group, or recruit people for market research. Members get regular invitations to events, free or discounted drinks and other freebies, and can earn money in focus groups.

"The main feedback from our members is that living in Auckland can be really isolating and with everyone relying so much on texting and social networking it's hard to meet people in the flesh," says Bierman.

Recruitment consultant Neil O'Gorman, 30, attended the launch. "Being invited out to different places, getting drinks for free, meeting people for free, sometimes you even get paid to go out. What better evening than being paid to go out."

Formerly working in real estate, O'Gorman has had to tighten his belt.

"I need to watch my pennies, especially in these sorts of times. You've got to be careful in what you do, where you go."

Austerity chic. The New Frugality. Thrifty hedonism. Glossy recession spins will never efface the greed-fuelled folly, herd-like stupidity and moral vacuums behind the credit crunch. But no one likes misery.

In good times, the compulsively frugal disdain the laissez-faire, sybarite spendthrift for being profligate, self-indulgent, planet-trashing and wilfully self-sabotaging. The spendthrift deem their frugal peers unbearably tedious, self-flagellating Calvinist wowsers. But come the recession, and a kind of truce has been struck.

The problem is, for those of us accustomed to spending until the ATM turns us away, stretching the budget is a big stretch. Which is why lawyer and journalist Catriona MacLennan has written Survive the Crunch: What Kiwis need to know to survive the recession.

Out this week, the book contains hundreds of tips to make more, spend less and protect what you have. Some advice is obvious but often ignored. Some advice assumes a level of organisation and self-discipline that not everyone has - for example, the promise of being able to draw up a budget in less than an hour relies on you having kept receipts. The sheer breadth of information, delivered in a calm, practical tone, means most people will find something of relevance.

MacLennan, an animal lover with two cats and seven guinea pigs, even includes a chapter on saving money on your pets (examples: make your own dogfood; if you can't afford a dog, volunteer as a dog walker for the SPCA).

MacLennan says people who recoil from budgeting would be surprised at how easy it is.

"It sounds really boring and horrendous, but until you know where your money is coming from and where it's going, you can't take control," she says. "Some people think budgeting is a curb on their freedom, but if you're in debt you don't actually have a lot of freedom."

MacLennan believes the economic situation will worsen before it improves. Prepare yourself for the long haul with eight of her best tips for living well and having fun in a recession.

1. Give up one small frittering expense that you can do without
MacLennan quit her coffee habit when she realised the $20 a week she was spending on coffee added up to $1000 over a year. Over a 30-year mortgage, that's $30,000 - not counting compound interest.

"I'm a fitness junkie, so if I had to give up the gym that would hurt, but I found I don't miss coffee. When I have one now, it feels like a treat."

She's not advocating monkish asceticism. After all, small luxuries are all that's left for some of us. She just asks that we get strategic. Not all frittering-away expenses are created equal.

"If you give up some of the little things that you don't get that much pleasure from, you could save for something bigger, like a holiday or a house, things that you really want."

The book lists 22 ways to quit frittering. Among them:

- Consolidate your landline, mobile and internet bills and check at least twice a year that you're on the best plan for your usage patterns;

- Swap magazines with friends so you only have to buy one instead of several;

- Join the dinner party revival and save money on restaurants while having a good time with friends.

2. Swap instead of buy
From glitzy London clubs to Mt Albert lounges, the swapping trend has become a permanent fixture of recession society. Also known as swishing, the basic principle is everyone brings stuff they don't want any more - clothes, DVDs, books, cosmetics - and exchanges it for other people's stuff that they want.

Some swaps are highly organised, with a strict system for assigning value, but the swaps Sarah MacKay runs are more relaxed.

"I say: Whatever you're willing to not go home with, bring it."

MacKay, 36, lives in Whangaparaoa north of Auckland and works in sales and marketing. She estimates she picked up more than $300 worth of clothing and makeup at her last clothes-swap.

"Not only does it save you money, but it adds a bit of variety to your wardrobe. It's a way of getting the girls together for a fun night that doesn't cost any money."

3. DIY cleaning products
Don't be sucked in by the neurotic suburban TV ad mum fending off microbial nasties with luridly coloured cleaning products. Join the eco-frugal trend for harnessing the natural detergent powers of vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and water.

Recipes abound in women's magazines and on the internet. Rubbing your chopping boards with a lemon will kill the bacteria. For a cheap fabric stain-remover, rub a paste of six tablespoons of baking soda and half a cup of warm water on to colourfast clothing before washing. Lemon is a natural bleach, squeeze on to white linens and clothing and dry in the sun to bleach away stains. Remove grease from oven tops by wiping with a sponge or paper towel dipped in white vinegar. Pour vinegar into your toilet to clean and deodorise.

4. Shop savvy
Do your supermarket shopping in the evening to take advantage of end-of-day discounts. "Best before" means just that: food is generally still safe to eat but past its best. It is "use-by" dates you need to observe strictly.

Make loyalty schemes work for you. Many credit card accounts run point schemes that can be converted to airpoints or shop vouchers. Provided you pay off your credit card every month, you can make money from these schemes, even allowing for fees.

Buy in bulk, but only if you know it won't go to waste. If you have a cheap local grocer, buying small top-up amounts frequently, which you use fully, may work out more cost-efficient. One-third of the food bought by shoppers in the UK is thrown away without being eaten.

5. Lower your heating thermostat by just 1 degree, and you will save about 15 per cent on your heating bill
Don't go cold, but if you can comfortably lower your thermostat the power savings are surprising. In winter, heating can account for more than half of the power bill.

Check out www.consumer.org.nz for a free calculator for working out what size heater you require for the area of your rooms. Use timers to switch the heat on when you need it.

6. Grow a balcony garden
Want to join the vege gardening fad but don't have a lawn? Dig a balcony garden and impress your guests with fresh parsley, sage rosemary and thyme.

"Gardening doesn't have to be a big production," says MacLennan. Hardy herbs include parsley, chives and rosemary. They smell good, too.

7. Do a house-swap or house-sit when you go on holiday
The idea of strangers living in your house may seem offputting, but internationally hundreds of thousands of people are swapping houses for free holiday accommodation, or for security and pet care at home while they're away.

HomeExchange.com, a leading international home-swapping service, has 24,000 members with more than 27,000 houses (many have more than one house posted). More than 250 listings are in New Zealand, up more than 25 per cent from last year.

President Ed Kushins says the recession is fuelling a rise in interest, as people look for cheaper ways to holiday. It's not uncommon for friendships to form between swappers.

Every second Christmas, a couple from Christchurch stay in the Lower Hutt home of school development manager Sally Selwood while she holidays at a bach. Explains Selwood, 56, "We saw it as a way of covering some of our holiday costs, but we were also concerned about the cat, who doesn't generally like catteries."

Elsa the spoilt Burmese gets to stay in her castle, the Christchurch couple get free accommodation, while Selwood saves on cattery fees and has the security of knowing someone is minding her place while she's away.

"The bonus for me is the woman is a far better housekeeper than I ever was so my house is always far cleaner when I return than when I left!"

8. If you're facing redundancy, get your boss to help you find another job. Or, take the opportunity to do something you've always wanted to do
Redundancy can be shocking, stressful and feel like shabby treatment after years of loyalty to a company. But today, redundancy stories are becoming as ubiquitous as property boasts were two years ago. If you have a generous redundancy payout, MacLennan suggests using it to change direction.

Aucklander Brodie Jones, 49, had worked for electronics multinational Philips for 23 years when his technical support role was made redundant last December.

Now he's doing up houses with his builder/developer brother.

"I've managed to turn it around into something better than I had," he says. "It's a satisfying job, where you can see what you've done. When you finish the day you're very tired, but it's not like the corporate environment where you've got stress. Everybody sees me and says, man you're tanned, you're so relaxed! I was just in visiting Philips and everybody seemed to be jealous. They said, I wish I had the courage to do what you've done'."

Survive the Crunch, Catriona MacLennan, HarperCollins, $24.95