We’re all tightening our belts (in a literal sense, we can still dream about the physical kind) these days. Staying in is the new going out, we’re bargain hunting for grocery deals instead of doing all our shopping in the one supermarket and, according to Tesco, 60 per cent of us are now cutting back on eating out.

Consumer researchers reckon we’re putting off DIY jobs (yipee) and booking far less holidays (sob). You might find you’re even resisting your beloved’s charms these days, such is the effect financial worries are having on the marital bed. New statistics from Accord, the Catholic marriage care service, indicate an increase in the number of couples attending marriage counselling as a result of financial pressures and unemployment facing families. And the statistics speak for themselves: the only time since the 1960s that Ireland’s enumerated population declined was in the late 1980s, after the hardships of the recession during that decade and its aftermath (alright, I know you could put this down to emigration but work with me here people).

With one eye on our pocket, we’re all seeking out anything that will save us a few bob. Internet swap-shop Freecycle (where members advertise items they want to get rid of – free) has seen its membership double this year to 1.2 million.

But what’s a girl to do to cheer herself up in these penny-pinching days? Once upon a time, we would go on a shopping spree when we felt a little bit fed up. But who can afford that these days?

When it comes to fashion in these recession-driven times, you could try making your own clobber! You can now buy stitch-your-own Fairtrade dress kits online and they’re apparently a huge success, with their bestseller Stone dress kit flying out the door for £19.95. Okay, so it’s not exactly designer wear, but at least it would be a unique creation. Dame Helen Mirren recently admitted that she often prefers what’s on offer in second-hand shops to designer outfits and can still remember “how to work a sleeve”. And if it’s good enough for the Dame!

Whatever about purchasing a couple of cheap bits and pieces for the summer, what’s nearly turning my stomach is the thought of buying an outfit for a wedding I’m going to in a couple of months time. Doesn’t it feel like a mortal sin to squander a couple of hundred euros on a fancy frock that you’ll only get a couple of wears out of? Hell, yeah. Which is why I’m jumping on the latest recessionary bandwagon by heading to a dress exchange party in Kilkenny later this month.

First off a dress exchange party is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a party where you exchange dresses. Organised by Kilkenny based milliner Rebekah Patterson, this particular eco-friendly and recession busting night will allow you to make room in your wardrobe for new arrivals and exchange up to six of your pre-loved items at the same time. The garments you bring along will be categorised as high end or high street fashion and you’ll be given exchange cards reflecting the value of each item which you can then use to ‘buy’ other people’s dresses.

Rebekah, who has been making hats for nearly 20 years, is a firm advocate of recycling materials and garments to create a unique and individual look “We all have quality and designer items in our wardrobe that for one reason or another we’ve never really worn or are happy to get rid of. After all one woman’s pre-loved is another woman’s be-loved. In these cash strapped days clothes swapping is a fantastic eco-friendly way to de-clutter and acquire some great designer and good quality high street items without breaking the bank”. You said it, lady.

* The Dress Exchange takes place in Langton House Hotel, Kilkenny on 20th May from 6pm to 9pm. For full info about the event see www.dressexchange.ie.