I have noticed some things in my neck of the woods that I haven't seen for many years...I equate it with the economy and the fact that people don't have as much money as they used to have. Among these observations: new furniture stores are going under and used ones are popping up. Second-hand cothing stores are ubiquitous. Ramen noodles are back in the stores! What have you noticed?
Yep, I'll admit it. I haven't eaten this many ramen noodles since I was in graduate school...
I'm in a rural area, and we do not have municipal trash removal, so people have to pay private haulers to remove their trash. In the past year or two I've noticed that it's become much more common for people to put still-useful stuff out on the lawn with a "free" sign on it rather than paying to dump it. We also are seeing more little produce stands, as people try to sell their extra garden produce, cut flowers, or eggs -this is a change that I love!
Among my fellow teachers, shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops has undergone an image shift from tacky to chic; we now share tips on where to shop and when the sales are. One of our English teachers started a paperback book swap shelf in the teacher's room, and that has been a nice addition. A friend has started a local buy/sell/swap facebook page, which is doing a booming business, selling everything from hamsters to pickup trucks.
During WWII, the US government encouraged people to reuse, refurbish, recycle, pay off their debts, and save, for the good of the country. Now this same government says that the economy continues to be in bad shape because we are doing those exact same things. Go figure.
I see people riding bikes to work. They are actually wearing work clothes and have a briefcase on their back. I live in Idaho, so that's sort of strange. In the greater suburban areas, people have moved close enough to their jobs that they can ride for a few days a week.
In my school, I have noticed teachers pooling groceries to make lunches. So, instead of buying the pre-made sandwich downstairs for 4.50 a piece, one person buys the bread a cheese for a week at 4.50, and the other buys lunchmeat at 4.50. Their mayo is already in the fridge. They cut costs by 80%.
I do the majority of my shopping at the Dollar Tree, a dollar store common up here. They have a surprisingselection of quality goods and the usual cheap stuff as well, but I can get (for example) just-fine tissues at half the cost of even Wal-Mart. Same with diced tomatoes. Soymilk, cereal, detergent, dish soap... all perfectly fine and much, much cheaper.
About the economy... I'm noticing many more people cutting their costs in certain areas while ignoring others. Example: cell phone. I use a prepaid service that piggybacks on one of the major networks, and I pay about thirty dollars per month. I don't use a huge amount of time, but friends are paying eighty to one hundred for only minimally more time and features. So far, no one has switched on my recommendation, but the same people will cut coupons and save thirty cents on mayonnaise like that's a huge deal.
I guess it all comes down to what you personally think you can spend. I know my limits and I try to keep my spending under control -- which is hard, because I love shopping, not even for anything in particular, just for stuff. It's the material mentality... the more things you have, the better things are, even if you're broke.
Ha! I guess Ramen noodles never really did go by the wayside, but I am noticing that now there are many more flavors and lots more space on the shelf for them. The same goes for Vienna Sausages and Spam. I'm getting a flashback to the care packages of my college days! :)
We, too, are baking our own bread. It comes out to about .42 cents per loaf when I use the recipe which makes two loaves as opposed to $2.00 at the store. It does taste better and smells great in the house1
We are also keeping chickens for our own eggs. We've canned more food this year than normal, and every time I am at the store I try to buy another bag of beans or rice so that the pantry is full enough to carry my family of four fo six months to a year if needed.
What else are you all doing?
One related thing I've noticed is that products are changing size, reducing quantity, changing packaging. For example, the stir-it style peanut butter I've bought for, let's just says years, suddenly switched from such density that I routinely hurt my wrist stirring it! to a lessened density like pudding. A jar that was charmingly sealed by two mint green strips of adhesive reduced to strips half as wide then to one strip. Paul Newman's organic chocolate chip cookies (tasting better than they used to!) have reduced quantity and stripped down packaging, i.e., no more home spun Paul Newman anecdotes telling the inspiration behind the cookie. Only one product that I use has retained the same packaging, quantity etc and raised the price to adjust for the economy--but--I can't recall now which it is!! While a shift to new emphases on goods and services available is occurring, a companion shift in cost is simultaneously occurring as businesses try to keep their products in the market and their companies alive.
Well, not to sound the knell of doom or anything, but we in our family are having to economise. We are making our own bread (which tastes so much better and smells great anyway) and also eating more of cheaper foods such as beans and lentils. We don't actually buy meat any more because of its expense, but to be honest, I am quite happy with this for other, greener reasons. In addition we are trying to just do two shops during the week as we find we spend less on food if we do this, so we try to plan our menus for the week. Anybody else doing this?
Along with dollar store equivalents, there are many more Advance Cash-types of store fronts - places that will give out loans in anticipation of the paycheck you'll be receiving next week, or whenever. Thanks be to God, I've never had to patronize one, but I'm sure they appear to offer a real service to some people who need cash immediately and therefore can't think about the interest rate they're going to be paying.
As an Econ 101 teacher, I'll tell you that the very nice term for those kinds of goods is "inferior goods." Not judgmental, right? Anyway, what I've noticed is that dollar stores are doing a much better business these days and are popping up everywhere. But I have to wonder, did ramen noodles ever go away from stores where you live? Not where I live!
I have also noticed that more thrift stores, second-hand shops, and consignment boutiques have appeared in the past few years. Pawn shops are now much more visible (for easy loans and pawning/selling personal items of value), as well as stores willing to buy used gold and silver items. Prices for used cars are also higher than in the past, and motorcycles and, especially, motor scooters are in abundance.