How Are You Doing?

by Katy on March 13, 2010 · 28 comments

The Oregonian newspaper ran an article today that was titled Data Suggests Consumers are Consuming Again. This piece was partially based on sales from a local RV show that’s been experiencing more than double the sales compared to last year.

A Buyer was quoted as saying:

“So many people are out of work and the economy is so bad,” said Wilkerson, who’d just made friends with another couple buying the same model at the show. “But we had made this plan, and we’ve been working for this goal.”

And it’s not just the recreational vehicle industry that’s seeing a boost in sales:

“Bolstering the optimism, a report last week showed that the nation’s retailers had posted their strongest sales since late 2007, with nearly every major chain showing robust results.”

It seems to my non-economist mind that those with money and stability were holding off from large purchases last year, as the economic outlook was downright frightening. But things have kind of stabilized, (even if it has plateaued at a low point) and consumers who were not affected by unemployment are opening up their wallets once again.

However, unemployment does continue to be high here in Oregon, (11.8% in January, the most recent statistic I could find) so the news is not all rainbows and unicorns. The people I know who have been out of work are still out of work; and The Oregonian itself just did another round of layoffs, which included some very popular columnists who I would have considered to be immune.

No one is immune.

But do increased sales without relief for the unemployed add up to an upswing? The paradox of thrift tells us that we as consumers must spend, not save in order to support our economy. But if you’re worried about paying the mortgage, it makes no sense to spend those precious dollars.

I do feel that all of us have a responsibility to spend our money in a deliberate manner. To support the businesses that we want to survive. To vote with our wallets, even if it’s just a few dollars here and there.

Have you experienced a lessening of economic fear and a loosening of the purse strings? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

carol March 14, 2010 at 2:18 am

STILL UNemployed! I was always thrifty, but now i watch EVERY penny. Pretty much just spending on absolute necessities. Even my diet has changed. I am buying and eating MUCH healthier now. I rather spend the money i have on HEALTHY FOOD ITEMS. QUALITY instead of pre packaged junk. More fruit and vegetables more basic food and home cooking, smaller portions too. This time unemployed has given me a new perspective. I have had the time to finally clear the clutter in my home (which helped me to see the wasteful spending i was doing, including TOO MUCH stuff from the thrift shops) . Its not a bargain if you really didn’t need it.
I think a lot of people will see just how much wasteful spending they were doing before and will be changed by it forever.


Tina March 14, 2010 at 4:01 am

I am a “fortunate” person? I am spending more money than I have ever spent in my life. This is due to the fact that I am working more and earning more than I ever have in my life. The “earning more” part is great; however, the “working more” part rather stinks! Ive always been quite frugal but now find myself spending money on many things that I normally would not in order to save time and energy 🙁 So I guess I fit the category *Loosening My Purse Strings* even tho I do not like it one bit. Yes, I do know I’m lucky to have a job….just wish it would allow me a life.


NMPatricia March 14, 2010 at 7:28 am

We moved from Salem, OR and it is a bit of nostalgia to read about issues of Oregon, Fred Meyer, etc. It shocks me that the Oregonian would lay off Marge Boule. For me, it would have been as if an era changed. The comment of the column in the paper was right – she did it with class.

The economy may be getting better for some people, but I sure don’t see it, personally or in my community. In New Mexico, unemployment has hit an all time high. So, I wonder for whom it really has gotten better.


Molly On Money March 14, 2010 at 7:30 am

Its sad that when we have less fear about our economic future we are going back to spending. I’m all for less fear (over just about anything) but I wish, as a society, we would find a more positive outlet on what we do with our money than spending it on ‘stuff’.


Lisa March 14, 2010 at 8:17 am

We have loosened up towards spending, though we are a frugal family in even the best of times.

We needed to have our deck replaced and started getting bids over a year ago. Right about that time, the news about the banking industry hit, and we decided to wait it out, just in case. We didn’t think it was prudent to use some of our liquid assets right at that time.

So, we are now willing to spend money on those things that we feel are truly


Kris-ND March 14, 2010 at 9:27 am

My state never really had a recession. We have lived in a recession-proof bubble I guess you could say. I don’t *think* our unemployment rate ever got above 4.4%. Because the economy is so robust, even McDonalds has to pay a pretty high salary(they have even offered a 300.00 sign on bonus if you can believe that…lol) that just naturally means more money flowing into the local economy and trickling down.

We have had some lay-offs from big national and international companies, but that is about it. I don’t know anybody in my world up here who has lost their job or has had their pay or hours cut, but the bulk of my family lives in Southern California, so I definitely have had family members who have lost their job, or almost lost their home, and my husband’s family all live in Michigan, which is an economic disaster zone.

My state is a petri dish that illustrates exactly how being thrifty vs spendthrifty(is that even a word?? lol) makes a huge difference.

Our state economy has many things that have made it a bit immune, but the BIGGEST difference by far, is the culture of thrift that has existed since the beginning of time here.

The Native population were thrifty in everything, from using every part of a deer or buffalo to sharing all resources in the community, thus avoiding everybody having to buy or make the same thing. If only one person in the community needs to go to the trading post with their furs and buy cooking pots, then the other members can free up their furs and buy other needed things to share.

That tradition doubled down when the white settlers started coming. They were mostly Russians, Germans and Norwegians, who were already thrifty by nature. Because this is a young state, it isn’t that many generations to carry that attitude of thrift down, thus the lessons are still pretty fresh.

ND tends to live level vs living large. The housing market doesn’t swing high or low, and people are frugal by nature, so we have a very low sub-prime and foreclosure rate.

If I didn’t have family in two of some of the worst state economies in the nation, I wouldn’t really understand how bad things are elsewhere.

Every day I pray for this country to rebound, but it gets discouraging to see how long I have been praying for the re-bound vs praising the rebound 🙁


Lisa March 14, 2010 at 9:42 am

In Arkansas jobs and money are still scarce for a lot of people. Most are conservative by nature so have managed to get by, but the number of people using food stamps and food bank services continues to increase. I haven’t loosened my purse strings. Nor has anybody else I know. Here, I just don’t see that the economic situation has improved. I’m glad that it’s rebounding in other areas.


Jennifer (It Ain't Meat Babe) March 14, 2010 at 10:04 am

I was holding back for a while, but when it was clear things were going to be all right in our household I started paying down my debts instead of spending money on consumer goods. I just started thinking about the position I wanted to be in if there was another crisis, or if our household income dropped, and I want to be ready for that sort of thing with minimal debt. So yes, spending more, but not on “stuff”. On debt repayment.


foo March 14, 2010 at 10:04 am

Still unemployed (two years), still not spending money on anything but food, gas for the car, utilities, and jobhunting expenses. Recovery my shiny metal ass!


Katy March 14, 2010 at 10:16 am

So sorry to hear about your two years of unemployment, but happy to see your “Bender” reference.

He is an inspiration to us all in these uncertain economic times. 😉



Kris-ND March 14, 2010 at 10:11 am

I’m sorry foo. I hope you are able to find a job SOON!


Tammy March 14, 2010 at 10:43 am

Unfortunately, I was one of those people who experienced the 29% interest rate as a result of a late credit card payment. This when I had taken a 7.5% pay cut or the year 2009. I got that 7.5% back this year, but I’m digging as fast as I can out of the HUGE hole that 29% adds onto an already big number. So, I am spending less now than ever in my life – every available penny is going to debt reduction. It is amazing what one year can do to overall debt – and frightening. I have learned my lesson though – I will NEVER get into debt again (beyond my mortgage). So, I fully anticipate that my spending will never go back to what it was before – and I’m glad for that.


Kristia@Family Balance Sheet March 14, 2010 at 10:48 am

We are self-employed and right now business is okay, but it can always be better. Because we are self-employed, I always feel like we are living on the edge to begin with. One bad month can set us back for several. We are always cautious with our spending, in times of good and bad.


Deb March 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I have let go of the fear, it was actually effecting my overall health, mental and physical. My heart was breaking for my fellow Americans. I had to let go of the pain and fear.

I do know people who have lost jobs, some who have found new jobs, some whose hours were cut back, most of whom have returned to their full time hours. It’s been a wild ride for sure.

Husband and I are fine. I am in healthcare, my husband is in high tech/telecommunications work that can’t be outsourced and is actually working a lot of overtime. We have fairly secure jobs. We have padded the Efund, and are now paying down all consumer related debt. Our ccard debt will be gone in July. WOOOHOOO!

We are spending moderately more, but not much. Mostly on much needed basic home improvement projects for the tiny, fixer upper house we purchased. We did purchase a second hand camper for a steal (very desperate seller) – it’s much cheaper to stay in our camper during our staycations than to stay in hotels & have to eat out. Hubby uses it for work travel as well and pockets the per diem.

We are blessed, I take nothing for granted. No, we will never ever return to careless spending.


Random Thoughts of a Jersey Mom March 14, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I consider our family lucky! Jersey has unemp rate of more than 10%. It’s still bad everywhere. Hopefully the economy will improve by next year…

I’m still learning new ways to spend less money so am very interested to read your blog.


Mrs. B March 14, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Well…with one kid in college and the other one going later this year…I am not spending one more penny than I have to. I am also leary of the “good news in consumer spending” people. The back side to this will be inflation. I want to stay debt free and be able to pay the bills, buy food and be able to pay for the college tuition. There won’t be any belt loosening around here for the next 5 years.


Ada March 14, 2010 at 6:15 pm

My husband and I are each blessed with stable jobs. We were lucky to stumble across good financial advise early in our marriage. Now our only debt is a mortgage we are working to pay off . We have a full 6 month emergency fund in place. I feel very comfortable going part-time in a couple months to spend time with our new baby. We are very fortunate. I do have family and friends that have had difficulty finding good jobs. I don’t take for granted our blessings.


Karen March 14, 2010 at 8:02 pm

I lived in Lake Oswego for 4 years in the early 90s, so am sad to hear about the Oregonian’s cuts. But the newspaper business we grew up with is going by the wayside all over the country.

Newspapers thrive on ads and when the ads (and spending) go down, papers are stuck giving even old time employees buy-outs and cutting their jobs. This is part of the thrift paradox too: we have to maintain some spending or else most businesses will go under.

I think it was Jefferson who said if given a choice, he’d choose a newspaper over government any day. We are losing so many great papers, and it’s really sad.


magdalena March 15, 2010 at 4:21 am

No, still unemployed, and no prospects for several weeks, even months. Churches are tightening belts and not hiring, making do with temporary employees, looking for non-stipendary priests, and so on. In the end they will be hurt even worse, since it’s not the Sunday service that is the main part of a minister’s job – it’s the home visits, the pastoral care, the funerals. And if parishioners don’t get those things, they stop contributing and the church closes.

On that gloomy note…I finally had to spend when I had a small amount of money come in.Our clothes were actually wearing through and had to be replaced, with secondhand purchases. So I guess we haven’t contributed much to the economic recovery.

My concern is that we are spending to recover. Look, it is this simple: We have to produce to have a true economic recovery.


Queen Lucia March 15, 2010 at 12:03 pm

My husband and I have both kept our jobs and the economic crisis has helped excelerate our frugal ways. We’ve been paying down debt (we’ve never had a lot and now we have less) and being more diligent about saving, so in some ways it’s been good for us. But this week we have to get a small car loan to replace my car and it’s giving me some fits. I was hoping my car would last long enough to finish paying my student loan and then save, but it wasn’t to be. I’m trying not to let it get me down – we still won’t have the debt load that many people have – but it’s hard!


Sierra Black March 15, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Our household income has actually gone up a lot in the past year as I’ve started working for money again and my husband has picked up some additional teaching responsibilities.

I’m not spending more, though. I’m paying off debts accrued during the years I was out of the workforce and playing catch-up with my savings.


Susan Lee - FL March 16, 2010 at 4:57 am

I refuse to contribute to the mess by consuming more. This has been a wakeup call for our family to pay off ALL consumer debt and be a cash only family. This situation WILL happen again and we don’t want to be casualties. It’s time for a return to our Great Grandmothers’ attitudes about thrift, money, spending, saving, self-sufficiency, growing some of our own food and keeping money under the mattress! I’ve lost trust in the big institutions and Mega-marts of the world and I’m done playing their game! I’m voting with my wallet by avoiding the big boys and buying local whenever possible. I’ll get off my soapbox now…….I feel better.


Dawn March 16, 2010 at 6:29 am

Working in health care has kept me employed-but I do not feel “invincible” to the chance of losing my job. I am a single mom, so I have to watch every penny. I have become more frugal over the last year (thanks to blogs like yours) and plan to continue it. I am “shopping my closet” and not buying any new clothes for myself (at least until my birthday, then maybe a new shirt or 2). For my children I will buy new clothes, but will probably set up a budget for the spring/summer wardrobe and let them spend it as they please, but when it is gone, it is gone.


farmer-girl March 20, 2010 at 11:20 am

last may when my nephew graduated, his older sister was sooo worried about losing her job, her house wasn’t paid for, student loans etc… my uncle was unsympathic, saying by her age (31) he’d been laid off three times and they should’ve had their house paid for. long story short, things are better now and they’re boat shopping! she lives in suburban Detroit and works in the auto industry. i love her dearly but wish she would evaluate things and see that her high maintence life style won’t buy happiness or security. when we were little we were eco-nuts. Now she works in the auto industry and i’m a small farmer… I grew up during the 80’s farm crisis. My family, food, and my community are important. What I drive and what I wear is not. (I did notice her DKNY sunglasses) (:


Julia March 22, 2010 at 2:21 pm

We are doing much better this year in that we finally sold our house in a snooty Seattle suburb and moved back to our old neighborhood in the country. Getting out from under a huge mortgage (the house was purchased at the peak of the market and prices are still falling so we’re very lucky it’s gone!) means that we are debt free once again. However, what my husband earns each month never seems like enough, even though our rent is much less than the mortgage payment was. My husband’s company has had a pay freeze for the last 2 years and just announced they’re stopping contributions to employees’ 401(k)s. I homeschool our somewhat “special needs” kid (hate that term but it’s good shorthand for now) and have health issues of my own, so putting him back in school and me going back to work is not an option. That said, we did just spend part of our tax refund on a treadmill to help with the aforementioned health problems and also for stress relief! We got it at Costco which is headquartered in a nearby town so that counts as a local purchase, right? 😉 The rest stays in the bank.


Julia March 22, 2010 at 2:57 pm

p.s. I forgot to say we got the treadmill new because our last one was used and it barely lasted a few years which made me so mad. We decided to get a new one and treat it well so it will last a long time. I just had to explain that, lest I lose my frugal street cred for not buying one at a thrift store or on craigslist ;-).


Katy March 22, 2010 at 4:56 pm


Worry not, your “cred” is intact.


P.S. I was just thinking about how I need one of the treadmill thingies.


Julia March 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Whew! Good to know I’m still a card-carrying frugal fanatic.
I gained 20 pounds in 2 years, starting (I kid you not!!) on my 41st birthday, despite the fact that my eating habits had not changed a bit. Aside from all health and aesthetic issues, being fatter stinks because it’s very un-frugal to have to bite the bullet and buy some “fat pants” etc. because my regular clothes would not fit. Sigh.
And treadmills come in very handy here in the soggy Pacific Northwest for eliminating the old “it’s too rainy to walk” excuse.


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