Belt Tightening

Posted by Katherine | November 29, 2008 – 5:44 am

On the economy front, this week brought the Citigroup bailout and the addition of Paul Volker and Austan Goolsbee to Obama’s new Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Meanwhile, across America, people and businesses are cinching their belts.

Adrian Lai in NYC spotted this “Recession Sale” on the streets of the Big Apple:

Recession Sale
[thedrun / Flickr]

Kate lives in coastal New Hampshire with her husband and two small children. Until recently, she worked in an ER doing psychiatric crisis assessment. Then she got laid off due to budget cuts.

No health insurance after 11/30.

Checks for the current pay period, accrued vacation, and one extra week. […]

Five weeks before Christmas, kids who need food and health insurance, a husband who is just as close to his doctorate as I once was to mine.

There might be a better word for how I’m feeling right now than “failure,” but I can’t come up with it.

Stogie, a “professional grouch” from the Bay Area who loves cool jazz and good cigars blames the Dems for the failing economy. He and his bank account have taken a hit:

I feel the economic decline personally. The appreciation in the value of my house over the past eight years is now gone. The house is worth about what I paid for it. I always figured I’d sell it for a good profit and use the money to move to a saner locale than California. That plan is kaput.

The company I work for is losing their ass in this economy and so cut back my hours from 40 per week to 24. They continue to hemorrhage money and I’m fairly certain my 24 hours will be cut back to zero soon. I am looking for other work but it’s a tough market.

Marie from Portland, Oregon, is mother of three and wife of a stay-at-home dad. The economy and her 401K are “stressing [her] out,” and she’s worried about her job. She’s in charge of publications for an environmental consulting company that just had its “first-ever massive, all-in-one-day layoffs.”

When I say “massive,” I have to put it into perspective. It doesn’t compare with the scale of what financial, manufacturing, or high-tech firms experience. But massive for our employee-owned, founded-in-Oregon, people-oriented company. Yesterday around 1% of our workforce was laid off. […]

I have faith in the leaders of our company; I know that they had to take drastic action to protect the firm during this difficult economy. Just 6 months ago we were in a period of massive growth, and now our outlook is flat. As our incoming CEO said recently, “flat is the new good.” […]

Now that the dust is settling and we who are left have learned who is now gone […], we have learned that we are all at risk. All we can do is work as hard as we can, play well with others, and do our best to be valuable employees. And deal with the survivor guilt.

Kara is a “thirty-ish” teacher in California, and she and her self-employed husband/partner count on her paycheck for reliable income and health insurance. They’re worried that Kara might lose her job and have been thinking pre-emptively about how to mitigate the fallout:

[W]e discussed, last night, what I would do if I lost my job - in kind of a humorous way because that was the only way we could muster the topic. We also talked about the cutbacks we have recently made so we won’t feel blindsided *if* or rather when the other shoe drops.

We stopped the LA times (boo hoo), Netflix (super boo-hoo) and I phoned AT&T to ask about a few unexplained charges and got them to change our long distance plan, resulting in a $30.00 monthly decrease. I would also like to share with you that I am no longer using my $25 a bottle shampoo and $25 a bottle conditioner and this is probably where I feel the tightening in the belt the most - on my head, resulting in tangles. OUCH.

Today, instead of Starbucks I stopped at 7-11, where I purchased a grande size coffee, pack of gum, some hostess crumb doughnuts and 2 packs of gum all for 5 bucks. Usually, I make coffee at work but today I needed a treat. Oh and I bring my lunch to work, every day - usually last night’s leftovers.

Twenty-two-year-old Abby has been following the economic crisis on the radio on her way to and from work. She gets free room and board from her parents and feels “SOOO sheltered from this crisis.” She wishes she could do something to help other people.

In addition to feeling powerless, I also feel the urge to SAVE SAVE SAVE, and the selfish notion to make sure that I am financially secure in the future. I’m sure that a lot of people feel the same way, and that’s really sad. Because when times are tough, it’s even more important that we help those in need.

I’m going to really keep that in mind while doing my holiday shopping this year and try to consume in a way that will help others. Maybe I’ll buy my family an animal from the Heifer Project instead of traditional gifts. Or maybe I’ll make sure that I buy fair trade wares. I’m not sure yet, but I want to do something unselfish. I’m open to any and all suggestions.

A healthy pre-New Year’s resolution.

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