Empty-Pocket Plays

The trade-down trade is on.

We've already recommended a series of companies that work during tough economic times: Ralcorp, the private-label cereal maker (you know, the supermarket brand that you probably never considered purchasing until now), Cash America, the largest pawnbroker in America that also has a big payday-loan division, and on Wednesday Family Dollar, the largest dollar-store chain in the country.

You can come up with these on your own. The way to think about it, if you're not cash strapped, is to imagine a place you would never, ever conceive of shopping at, in the seediest part of town, or a lender, like Cash America, that you think it would be crazy to borrow from because the interest rate they slap you with would make even a loan shark wince. I don't know if collection agencies like Portfolio Recovery Associates work, given that there's less and less for them to collect, but you get the general idea.

If it makes you vomit a little bit in the back of your throat, you're probably onto something!

Cliff Mason is the Senior Writer of CNBC's Mad Money w/Jim Cramer, and has been that program's primary writer, in cooperation with and under the supervision of Jim Cramer, since he began at CNBC as an intern during the summer of 2005. Mason was the author of a column at TheStreet.com during 2007, which he describes as "hilarious, if short-lived." He graduated from Harvard College in 2007. It was at Harvard that Mason learned to multi-task, mastering the art of seeming to pay attention to professors while writing scripts for Mad Money. Mason has co-written two books with Jim Cramer: Jim Cramer's Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Richand Stay Mad For Life: Get Rich, Stay Rich (Make Your Kids Even Richer). He is 100% responsible for any parts of either book that you did not like.

Mason has also had a fruitful relationship with Jim Cramer as his nephew for the last 23 years and will hopefully continue to hold that position for many more as long as he doesn't do anything to get himself kicked out of the family.

Questions for Cramer? madmoney@cnbc.com

Questions, comments, suggestions for the Mad Money website? madcap@cnbc.com