Signs of the times

lindy_444_2009July 10, 2009

Just some observations ... what have you noticed?

Around here, I am seeing lots of vehicles parked in front yards with "For Sale" signs on them.

When I grocery shop, strangers share their coupons with me.

DH, who is a general contractor, has noticed that the few residential customers who are doing repairs/remodels these days will not take off from work to meet with him during the day. He is going to look at jobs at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., after the customer is home from work. Fear of losing their jobs if they take off, we guess. Or just not wanting to risk it.

What do you have to add?

These are interesting times ...


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Honestly... not much has changed around here.

We did not have the 'bubble' so nothing burst.

The number of foreclosures in the Pittsburgh area is DOWN for a second straight year.

Restaurants and night clubs are packed.

We went to a locally produced musical, and the house was at 85% on a Tuesday!

I called a landscape company to do some work and they are booked through the end of the year...

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 4:06PM
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I was at the grocery store the other day and noticed many people walking around carrying a handful of coupons. They'd stop and organize them, hold a coupon and then walk down the aisle to find the item. Maybe I've just never noticed before but it seemed like a lot of people were using them.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 7:54PM
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I've also noticed a lot of stuff out along the road for sale - heavy equipment, boats, cars, etc. I've also noticed less rush hour traffic. And I'm noticing store shelves stocked with many more store brands and fewer name brands. Target has also removed all their salon brand hair products and expanded their Suave section. The hair salon is at least half empty when I go there and it used to be packed. My handy man is now so busy he can't get to my stuff for months - he used to be available within a week or two. On the other hand some contractors I know say they are keeping busy but projects are smaller, lower priced jobs - not so many of the extravagant high end jobs - and some of them used to do exclusively high end projects.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2009 at 10:18PM
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I live near Pittsburgh, too. Last week we went out to eat in the city on a Tuesday nite, and the restaurant was packed. Sometimes, I think I am the only person in the grocery store who uses coupons, but I have always used them.

I do think housing sales are a little down in the area where I live; the township is raising their millage due to this (they were making a lot of $$$ on real estate transfer taxes, but not this past year). The more expensive houses are sitting, but the reasonable ones are still selling. We never had a housing bubble here.

People have always gardened in this part of the state, and this year is no exception. My mom has so many zucchini, it takes up an entire weekend to make zucchini bread to freeze. People will also be canning soon.

As far as cars and contractors, I have no information on how those businesses are doing. I would bet the car sales are down, though.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 8:54PM
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Not much change around here that I see except worried people who put their money in the stock market.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 10:51PM
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Our handyman/carpenter is busy. With the cost of lumber down, he has been doing lots of deck and porches. We had a 6x20' front porch put on. It cost about half of what it would have cost in the past.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 10:56PM
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Oh golly, where to start?
The Ace Hardware/Lumberyard that my contractor always uses has a "Going Out Of Business" sign out. I saw semis taking away the plywood bundles last week, and this week all the trucks the business used to deliver materials with are parked out front, for sale.

Our rent-to-own situation on our old house fell apart. The house that we contracted to sell two years ago for $139,000 is now worth less than $100,000. The woman renting-to-own cannot buy the house even if she wants to spend all that money - the house could not appraise for the contracted price. We don't have the money to sell the house for the price it is worth now. DH is now employed again, so in six months we may be able to sell the house for $100,000 if we put his entire paycheck toward paying down the mortgage.

The house across the street sold for $160,000 two years ago. The guy defaulted and the bank has sold the house again for $67,000.

Our county is laying off a few hundred people because revenues are down so much. County employees are getting 6 unpaid days off this year. Our state employees are getting 6 unpaid days off just this summer. The unemployment rate in May for my county was 16.2%. The June rate for Michigan was 15.2%. Michigan is no longer providing dental care, vision care, chiropractic, hearing aides or podiatry to Medicaid recipients.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2009 at 11:44PM
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Here in Mass, I notice that restaurants seem to be advertising more, and offering more deals.
The local liquor store seems to be keeping less inventory.
When gas hit $3, people idled their cars less often when they stopped someplace briefly.
When gas hit $4, people drove less and drove slower. I remember the first day of $4 gas. I was out walking the dogs at noon. Usually, I'd see 30-40 cars at that hour. I saw less than 10. With gas under $3 again, we're back to our old ways.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 10:37AM
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I need to have some repair work done on my house. I've been calling to get estimates. Everyone has come out to give me an estimate the same day or the next day. All can start work within 2 or 3 days.

2 years ago, I had to wait a week or 2 for an estimate and a couple of months for the work to actually be completed.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 7:43AM
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I see lots of "for sale" signs in cars.

Swim Team was smaller this year at our neighborhood pool. I think more parents couldn't afford the fees.

At the end of the school year, there were A TON of fights at my sons' middle school. This is a school were there hadn't been a fistfight for 5 or 6 years and suddenly there were fistfights every day. My middle son was disgusted by the other boys fighting, so I made an appt to talk with the principal. She told me her theory was...the economy. She said many of the boys getting into fights had one or even both parents unemployed, and she thought things were tense at home. The boys were acting it out at school. It made me so sad.

I took DS #2 to Music Go Round today to get a bass guitar for his birthday. It's a buy, sell, trade place for musical instruments. It is BURSTING to the seams! We could hardly walk through the store! I think it's a good time to buy musical instruments beacuse so many people are selling them. We got a STEAL of a deal on a really sweet bass for him!

Surprisingly, I have seen LESS garage sales this summer than normal. I would think there would be more garage sales. I don't know what's going on there!

Another surprising thing is enrollment at the neighborhood private schools hasn't declined at all. There was an article in the newspaper last week showing all the schools & their enrollment. It hasn't dipped at all. (my kids go to public school but I thought this article was interesting).

As for me personally, I am taking the bus to work, trying to prolong the life of my car and only use the car for family driving.

We have always lived very frugally so we haven't really had to make too many changes. DH is getting a lot less hours at work - his income is down about $8-10K for the past 2 years. We have adjusted, no more eating out, etc. But we still have a few little extras, like swim team for the boys, music lessons & musical instruments for the boys, boy scouts camp and church camp for them this summer, etc. I adjust by spending less on food, buying all our clothing at thrift stores, not splurging on makeup or accessories, etc. Music and sports for the boys mean more to me than new clothes & stuff like that. I've also quit coloring my hair. It looks great just the natural brown (it had been so long since I'd seen it!) and it's saving a ton of $ to not get the coloring services, just haircuts!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 11:13PM
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My youngest son is at Cub Scout camp this week - it started yesterday through Saturday. When his 2 older brothers went, there were 250 boys there. This year, there is only about 100 or 110. It is very dramatic how empty the camp is! It costs $125 and I guess many people just can't do it this year.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 5:03PM
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Summer camps are definitely emptier. With camps running between $140(golf) - $565(university lax), there were much fewer kids at camp. DS1's travel lax team had fewer kids tryout. The league fees are $640 per kid plus travel expenses for out of town tournaments.

Our area did not experience a housing bubble, but I think people are reining in the discretionary spending a bit because of the general feeling of economic unease.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 8:23AM
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I no longer have the story in front of me, but the Chicago Tribune had a story on North Shore homes listed at over a million dollars, comparing first half 2008 and 2009. In one town the number of homes sold up to end of June in '09 was half that of the '08 first half. The homes brought 95% of list earlier but only 75% of list today. Time on market went from around 250 days to well over a year.

What struck me most was that sellers were 'immune' to reality. They still thought their homes were worth boom prices.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 1:02PM
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Another sign - my 2 younger sons are at a day camp this week where they get a bus that takes them out to a farm in the country, then brings them back every afternoon. It's really an oversized van - seats 15. In past years, you had to sign up in February because the spots went so fast. This week, there are only 7 kids signed up! This is a dramatic sign of the times. I signed my sons up in February, assuming there would be the normal wait list. The director told me today that I could have signed them up Monday if I wanted since they are so empty this summer.

With camps, is it that so many parents are out of work and don't need daycare? For kids younger than 13, if the parents are working they still need some type of daycare.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 9:56PM
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It seems to me that I see lower speeds on the highways. Maybe people are trying to save gas? I don't see as many goofs gunning it, then slamming on the brakes at the next red light. (Maybe repair shops will have fewer brake jobs!)

OT: I also see very few 'two footed' drivers recently. Maybe that's dying out as people who learned to drive only stick stop driving. (You can identify a 'two-foot' from behind because the brake lights flash on and off while the car is in motion. The driver's left foot is touching the brake pedal.)

A house on our street is under contract. It's a teardown -- a 1950's ranch on a desireable one acre lot. The owner was too slow getting it listed and missed the boom. It started at a little over one million two years ago. Last list was $599,000. It *could* have sold for nearly a million in 2006-07. It's still a nice little house, but the value is in the land.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 2:51PM
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Another sign, there seems to be less volunteers out there. Maybe more moms feel like they have to bring in an income and don't have the time. The USTA LG&T Challenger Tennis Tournament is this week and DS1 and I have been volunteering. DS1 is volunteering as a ballrunner. I've been assisting with setup, drying off the courts, and helping to supervise the ballrunners. This is the 17th year Binghamton has hosted this tournament.

There were far fewer ballrunners this year and it felt like there were fewer volunteers in general. The ballrunners were working skeleton crews of sometimes only 4 to a court, because they were stretched so thin. The majority of the ballrunner's parents have been dropping their kids off and not staying to watch matches. I heard one parent tell his son that he needed to go into work, but that he'd try to be back by 2:30. On a Sunday. I think people are scared about job security and are working longer hours and volunteering is seeing a drop.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 10:34PM
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