February 24, 2009

Everything Must Go

On Saturday, I went on a personal beer run. Now, there's a good alcohol place right next to a Circuit City (there's irony in there somewhere) so I decided to see what their liquidation sale was all about. For those of you not in-the-know, Circuit City is a retail electronics retail chain that, after being screwed up for many years and deciding to make bone-head moves like firing all their senior, experienced employees, finally went under and declared bankruptcy. So, hey, cheap cool stuff. I checked it out for myself.

And, really, it was depressing.

What I found was a half-empty store mobbed with people trying to score deals and swarming around anything shiny. It was, as I mentioned, depressing. Not quite as bad as wandering through Tower Records the day before it closed down. But still, depressing. They'd tagged everything for sale - floor samples, signs, even the shelves which stood empty. And there were no deals to be had. There must be some sort of sale-mentality that forces people to buy all kinds of crazy shit they don't need. That makes people who don't have a Wii fight over hot pink Wii accessories. Or wrestle over a $2 copy of Milli Vanilli's greatest hits. And how many people really need a 35-foot USB cable? (Okay, I have a confession - I do actually own a 35-foot USB cable but there's a really valid reason and good story behind it but that's a post for another time.) That mentality is called consumerism. It's not bad in and of itself. But it can veer out of control quickly. Without warning. Triggered by words like liquidation.

And maybe that's part of the problem. I mean, the economy is based on consumerism, materialism. But we're partially responsible for getting ourselves into this based on those two concepts. Sure, there are some bad asshats out there who defrauded others and approved loans no sane person should have. But we also played a part. If we weren't all after higher lines of credit, expensive houses just at the top edge of our price ranges, faster cars, and more crap than you can cram into a track-mansion, maybe we could have avoided this.

In the same shopping center are four other businesses - two retailers, two restaurants - that are no longer, well, businesses. Closed-down stores and going out of business signs are becoming familiar sites. This shit is getting kinda scary. And who knows when it will end.

So what do you think? Is the economy ever coming back? Or are we really and truly screwed? What are you doing differently as a result of the economy?

Posted by Chris at February 24, 2009 7:23 AM

This whole situation is making me literally sick to my stomach. I dozed off last night for about half an hour and woke up in a cold sweat because I dreamt that I got fired because my "big" project is behind schedule. What am I doing differently? Very little that isn't on sale is being purchased, especially food. Overall spending is at a minimum. I'm stocking my freezers and pantry more than usual. (I always do this, but now I'm obsessed and my husband is annoyed.) I'm also working on getting some Adobe certifications as a back up plan. Positionas at my level are few and far between.

Posted by: Maria at February 24, 2009 8:24 AM

Our Circuit City closed before they declared bankruptcy. Now all we have is Best Buy and I don't know how long we'll have that. A couple of our local banks have gone under, we've probably had at least a dozen businesses fold, and almost none of the survivors are hiring. Our primary industrial employer is barely hanging on. It's grim and I don't see a turnaround any time soon. I do hang onto hope that it can't go on forever.

As for us personally, one of the advantages of being poor to begin with is not accumulating debt. Unless Social Security goes belly up or someone raids my pension fund, we're okay for now. The rent is paid, the lights are on, my cable and internet survive, and we have food. I shop Goodwill for books which means I'm a year or so late on the best sellers but who cares. My friend and I share a car. Ray and I are better off than many here.

I used to see a new credit card application in the mail almost every day. (They hit the trash unopened). Now I can't remember the last time I've received one.

I wonder if anyone knows what they're doing.

Posted by: Ann Adams at February 24, 2009 8:35 AM

Sure. It'll come back, then it'll tank again because people don't learn. It's like a roller coaster ride! To hell! So,, yeah. We're screwed.

Nothing's changed for me. I play with chemicals during the day. Learn junk. Play with the dogs at night. Cook. Drink a beer. Watch sports. Actually, last week dog food was marked down $8 for some reason, which made me high-five a stranger, so I guess that made me appreciate the economy more, so there's that.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at February 24, 2009 8:52 AM

Aside from being more on edge about losing my job to layoffs, nothing has really changed for me. Of course, I had very little debt before the crash. Thank goodness I thought better of buying a house during the boom.

I think we'll come out of this eventually, and most people will go right back to they hyper-consumers they were before, honestly. This country doesn't learn quickly. I would personally love to see us go back to a more simple way of life, as a nation, but I don't see it happening.

Posted by: Rebecca at February 24, 2009 9:00 AM

Like Maria, I've been stocking up the pantry while we have some extra cash as a precaution in case there is a time when we don't.
The tax refund went to pay off all credit-card debt (there really wasn't that much by typical American standards) and some also went into the bank for a rainy day.
We don't really live extravagantly to begin with so there hasn't been much cutting back there. But there are always places we can trim if the need arises.

Posted by: Traci at February 24, 2009 9:16 AM

I believe the situation will work itself out but it will not happen tomorrow or even this year or next year so lay off Obama's back people he never said he could fix the problems set up over EIGHT years in 90 days!

As key economists have said ad nauseam all the bad stuff has to work itself out of the system and that takes a lot of time. Band aides were placed on the problem for several years now and now those band-aides are starting to fall off and get nasty. I repeat this will take a while. Hunker down and be prepared.

I know a lot of folks who are being crazy and buying stuff that is above or at their means without planning for a future that does not look so bright right now (like buying houses and cars because "dude we are getting a deal on it" BUT what the heck? Do you realize that deal today could potentially kick your arse tomorrow?!)

I say live below your means if possible, do not go buy the 35 foot USB cord just 'cause, if you think you afford that nice expensive house/car/vacation think about tomorrow and next year and the year after because you could be putting yourself in a nice house/car/vacation for a while but then off to the poor house you go and read read read.

I have read and heard that several key economic type people have said that while the home real estate market has not even hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of falling apart we have not even seen the COMMERCIAL real estate market fall AND it will. That is potentially even more dangerous then the housing market falling apart and the average "Joe" in the US has not even considered the implications of that.

I think people are a bit paralyzed by it all and want to just keep pretending that IT IS NOT HAPPENING but it is. Ranting done, stepping off soap type box, backing away from the computer...
(boy I am full of joy and happiness, no?!)

Posted by: Christina at February 24, 2009 9:28 AM

Yep, it's coming back. We're nearly at the bottom of this mess, due for the beginning of a rebound at the end of the year I think.

We're doing nothing differently at my house. The idea of stockpiling anything is ridiculous to me.

Posted by: Brad at February 24, 2009 9:29 AM

I think EVENTUALLY it has to get better, but who knows how long that's going to be. Right now we're spending less because we have less to spend and there's also a certain amount of anxiety about whether or not we'll get to keep our jobs. I wouldn't say I'm doing anything drastically different, though.

Posted by: Fraulein N at February 24, 2009 9:42 AM

A quick response:
I make a meal plan for the following week every friday night. I look at what we have in the cupboard and try to plan around that. A while back I started cooking double batches of a few things and try to have some on-hand as a freezer meal. By organizing myself and having frozen meals handy, PLUS recognizing the fact that we make enough food to cover a night or two on leftovers, we've managed to cut down our grocery bill an avg of $25-50 a week. Which actually adds up! Also, I go shopping Friday night, which means I'm too tired to wander around and pick up items that I don't really need. AND the kids don't go with me so I'm not pressured to buy stuff not on the list. Also, it frees up the weekend. This spring we are planting some veggies and doing more shopping at the farmer's market. Because it's not just about saving money, it's also about supporting your local economy with what you DO spend.

Gotta run!

Posted by: Varinia at February 24, 2009 10:10 AM

We're not eating out as much but that's a result of having a kid. He's good at restaurants but it's still a huge pain. Really, we aren't doing much differently because we were already tightwads. LOL.

Posted by: Claire at February 24, 2009 10:21 AM

We're not doing too much different - saving a little more, putting a little extra to pay down the credit cards which aren't huge anyway. Eating out less - that actually saves a lot!

I don't think we are out of the woods yet - I can't bring myself to look at my 401k statements. But I think the ship is slowly turning around...

Posted by: Sue R at February 24, 2009 10:39 AM

It will come back, not the way the clowns think, but it will. It is going to take a shake down. I think it will get worse before it gets better. But it is going to take everyone to get out of this. We are going to have to let some things fail, just like a forest fire clearing a forest can be a good thing, so can a recession clearing out some banks and retailers. I think the people will need to learn to live within their means again, no more debt that couldn't be paid off in two lifetimes.

Yeah, it will get better, but politicians are not the answer.

BTW, since you are closer, could you ask Mr. BHO to not talk down the economy anymore, it's pretty scary whenever he talks, you can watch the market sink a little more. He is a smart man, I will give him that. But surely even he knows what happens whenever he gets in public and talks about how much worse it is going to get. Yes it may get worse, but if we can build some faith in the system, maybe we can keep the bottom from completely dropping out. Yeah, I am just a dumb ol' conservative, but I am pretty sure throwing money down a bottomless pit is not going to fill the hole.

Holy crap, I wrote a post in your comments again. Sorry!

Posted by: Jeff A at February 24, 2009 11:05 AM

Thankfully none of this mess has impacted anyone that I work with or know so as a result of that nothing has changed in my household, except for the fact that we took in a stray puppy that was sitting on the side of the road in a mud puddle on a very stormy day last month.

My boyfriend, of ten years, is the financially responsible one in our home so he manages the money. We have always had enough money put up to sustain our life the way we are accustomed to living it for three months should we both lose our jobs.

He and I have very different oppinions on well, everything religion, finances, the state of the world; we are on opposite sides of the fence. I am a non-worrier, a handle things when the time comes kind of gal who believs every word of the bible and knows no matter what I do I cannot change things so the best I can do is live a happy worry free life and if the time comes to handle things of this nature I will deal with them then. He is an illuminati reading and fearing, state of the world worrying, the end is near and they are going to come drag us all from our homes and force us into internment camps kind of guy who belives in a higher power but not in the possiblity that the bible hasnt been changed to manipulate us all kind of guy. He is the yin to my yang so to speak.

In the back of my mind I wonder if our little bubble will burst but I trust that whatever happens I, we, will make it through it.

Posted by: Kelly M. at February 24, 2009 11:36 AM

We're not changing a whole lot in my house. We live pretty frugally anyway, and have very little debt. When I quit working, we stopped most eating out, kid and DH get lunches packed for them every morning. I make menu plans for the week and grocery shop from that so we don't end up with lots of extra junk from the grocery store. I avoid going to Target. LOL I'm a little irritated with the state of California because as of now, no ones getting any tax refunds. Not sure what the latest on that is, but that money would be a nice addition to our savings account. There was no estimated date we'd get them when we filed.

Mostly we're waiting for the housing market to find it's bottom, then we'll probably buy a house. Right now we're paying an obscene amount of money to rent a 2 bedroom condo. We're looking at houses with a smaller payment than our rent. Crazy.

This is just my opinion, but I think we need to let the housing market fall. Let the foreclosures happen. People should not have bought 700,000 "starter homes" with no down payment when they make 60k a year. The housing market here in SoCal is nuts. If we'd let the market get down to a realistic place where people can afford homes, I think we'd be better off. And because our family wasn't stupid enough to buy a house we had no way of affording long term, we shouldn't have to bail out the people who did.

When DH and I got married we looked at buying a house just to see what we could afford. The real estate agent we met with said it was okay to do an interest only loan because in California, you just waited for the price of the house to increase and that's how you got equity. And we wonder why we're in this mess?

Posted by: Steph at February 24, 2009 11:46 AM

There is indeed a lot of tragedy happening but, on the bright side, it will force people to be more creative and embrace entrapaneurship. Dare I say, we may see a reimergence of the true American spirit that this country was based on!
I, for one, am not entirely sad to see the demise of corporate America, but then again, I have never been a 'cookie cutter' kind of person.
This is not to say that we personally have not been adversely affected by the downturn in the economy, because we have. We are losing our investment property, taking a huge loss. Not due to a bad loan, but because my husband's business has slown considerably due to the economy and we simply can't afford to keep it. I do feel lucky though, as our residence is not affected and I am very grateful for that. There are a lot of folks less fortunate and we are honored to be in the position we are, still being able to provide employment for a few and lend a helping hand to a select few.
It is my sincere hope that people will embrace new ways of looking at the situation and ultimately create better lives for themselves.
Best Wishes to all!

Posted by: LaineyDid at February 24, 2009 12:06 PM


Posted by: Heather at February 24, 2009 12:17 PM

I honestly think that the economy will come back, or at least stabilize. It easily may not look like it did before, though. We have to expect NEW norms. My biggest hope is that businesses will discover that you have to have GOOD BUSINESS PRACTICES to actually run a business properly. I hope that we can learn from the mistakes of those that have not survived this time.

Posted by: heels at February 24, 2009 1:03 PM

I couldn't agree with you more.

I haven't bought a house because I don't have $50K laying around for a downpayment. We both drive 10 year old cars because we don't want the hassle of the car payment. We live WITHIN our means, happily. I don't even own a credit card. This makes me seriously less than sympathetic to people who've gotten themselves in over their heads with credit, and just as unsympathetic to the credit agencies who have aided in the situation.

Posted by: Mr Lady at February 24, 2009 1:07 PM

I'm actually on the verge of panic today because we decided to offer on a house and now I'm worrying that we're frickin' insane. Plus, we're having a baby. I just wish I knew that things would definitely get better to help make my decision easier. This is one of those times where being a grown-up sucks.

Posted by: Leah at February 24, 2009 1:20 PM

I'm not doing anything too differently as we put ourselves in a good position by paying off our credit card debt last year. It was really hard putting so much money towards the credit card every month but the payoff was definitely worth it. If we fix our personal economies first, the national economy will only benefit. Now that's always easier said than done. I may not own my own house (can't afford to buy at all in my area) and I'm still paying off my 2 year old car, but I;m still lucky. I think the economy will get better in time.

It doesn't help that the media is only reporting the awful things and making everyone depressed and scared. Even my business is suffering from it. I'm in promotional products, so that's the first thing to get cut on budgets.

I do have to say that I did get a great deal on a printer from my local Circuit City that was closing. But I was just in the right place at the right time. (Mobile HP printer for $25!)

Posted by: bea at February 24, 2009 1:21 PM

The economy will come back. It always does.

We're screwed because we're a nation of greedy idiots with a cheaper is better mentality. Manufacturing has been outsourced (mostly) and the newer generation of people are 'too good' to do jobs that will dirty their precious hands. We'd rather be unemployed than do something beneath us.

I'll stop before I get all foamed up.

As for making changes, not really. I'm cheap to begin with, I buy everything on sale, I own my car (cash baby) and my credit card debt is minimal. I don't own my own home, and right now I do not care to. We still go out once every two weeks, whether it's a movie & dinner or to the pub for beers & music. I grew up in a frugal household (Mom got divorced in '76 with two kids to raise, not an everyday occurance back then) and it's remained with me.

Periodically I do lust for a big flatscreen TV, I remind myself there's nothing on anyway, so why bother? You can buy a lot of books with that kind of money.

Posted by: Ames at February 24, 2009 1:22 PM

I am sure your post had some kind of point but I got stuck on the "Good alcohol place"

Posted by: William at February 24, 2009 1:32 PM

Hey a 35 foot USB cord...sexy!
(I want to hear the story)

I just got my Flash CS4 upgrade which is also sexy. Sexier than a USB cord of any length, actually. :)

There is a Circuit City right across the street from me. I went in last Saturday and had an eerily similar experience to yours. It is very sad. But they made very poor business decisions. Also, their prices weren't at all competitive. My HD webcam that turns people into cats was $104 at CC, while on Amazon it was $79 with free shipping.

Posted by: jessica at February 24, 2009 1:53 PM

I think it will come back - and as someone else mentioned - break again. The economy is cyclical. Always has been.

What I am doing differently - shopping, buying and eating out local, instead of at big chains, when I do choose to go out. Eating in more often. Cutting costs wherever I can.

We'll be ok. In time.

Posted by: Mindy at February 24, 2009 3:07 PM

I checked out CC and had the same experience. Depressing. I agree that we're all culpable and I think this will be a good thing in the long run, but it's bound to hurt. And the sucky thing is that the people hurt worst often will be the people who participated least in the making of it, the ones who had little money to begin with.

Posted by: jess at February 24, 2009 4:05 PM

We honestly haven't changed much, although we did refinance (lower interest rate) which gave us lower payments and less years to owe on our mortgage. We are blessed with my husbands job he gets tons of overtime, thank goodness.

Posted by: kami at February 24, 2009 4:21 PM

I hate to say it, but I think we're pretty screwed right now. It will get better, but not for a little while. We all need to be patient and ride it out which I know is incredibly difficult. But, it will get better, I am sure. The US has been in tougher times than this and pulled through.

Posted by: Dianna at February 24, 2009 5:01 PM

We have been amazingly lucky in this year of hard luck for so many. My husband got a promotion with a 50% pay raise, and I received a very nice house down payment-sized inheritance.

So... other than buying a house, finally, nothing will change. We have always lived well under our means, and will continue to do so. We also plan to give some of this money away. Good times and bad, it's always important to remember we have our health and our freedom. The rest is just icing.

Posted by: LauraS at February 24, 2009 5:12 PM

I kinda think this slump in the economy is just making us get rid of the crap we really don't need anyway...a sort of sizing down to reality, if you will. Do we need a Circuit City, Fry's Electronics, Best Buy, and a Conn's all within a quarter of a mile of one another? How about three Starbucks that are within seeing distance of one another? A bit redundant......

Posted by: Jen at February 24, 2009 7:22 PM

I didn't think it was as bad as they said (being a stay at home parent, and also, kind of wanting to live with my head in the sand, I suppose, made it a little harder for me to see), but when my good friend got laid off, despite him being a billable entity AND billing over 100%, along with two of my good friends who were facing a round of layoffs (same company) last week, it hit a little too close to home for me.

Now, my two friends work in the investment banking industry, my husband works in network security. Two separate industries, and I'd like to think that the hubs is in a good position, granted, I don't take advantage of it.

We don't spend extravagantly, we cut out a lot of the stuff we didn't need, keeping bare minimums. We're making ends meet, with a little extra, but not enough to really save. Tax returns and bonuses go into the bank, and we're lucky to be able to refinance and get some money back to put back into the house. Otherwise, we're not taking vacations, and we're not buying what we don't need, save for a small splurge here and there. I think in order to keep yourself sane, you need to treat yourself with some rainy day money now and then. Especially in times like these, and lets face it, it's supposed to help the economy.

I think the economy is going to get worse, before it gets better. It's just the nature of the the way things work. Things will get good again, people will act like assholes and spend beyond their means. Lather rinse repeat. I don't think however, we'll ever see a housing boom the way we did again, in our lifetime at least. I would like to think that the last eight years of deregulation in the real estate and banking industries will force the government to put regulations back into place.

I agree with Rebecca. I'd be nice to get back to a simpler way of life and I actually do see that more. People are planting more gardens, reusing more, and reducing more. I hope it catches on with more families.

Posted by: statia at February 24, 2009 8:51 PM

It still trips me out to hear you talking about beer after you didn't drink for so long.

Definitely sounds like a depressing store. EXACTLY why I haven't bothered to go to any of those "sales" myself...

Posted by: Zandria at February 24, 2009 9:52 PM

Delurking for a change...I have a feeling things are going to get worse before they get better. I have heard quite a few people say that they don't think it's too bad, but I feel that may be because they aren't personally affected or do not know someone who is. I am managing to stay afloat, but am trying desperately to help some family members save their home after a layoff. I really hope that things turn around soon!

Posted by: Dana at February 25, 2009 1:43 PM

Delurking for a change...I have a feeling things are going to get worse before they get better. I have heard quite a few people say that they don't think it's too bad, but I feel that may be because they aren't personally affected or do not know someone who is. I am managing to stay afloat, but am trying desperately to help some family members save their home after a layoff. I really hope that things turn around soon!

Posted by: Dana at February 25, 2009 1:43 PM

Ever see that movie Shaun of the Dead, where the protagonist walks around for maybe 30-40 minutes before there's any real zombie action despite all the stuff going on around him on the street that he just doesn't notice? I feel like that about the economy. A friend just emailed me to ask how things were in New Mexico, and my reaction is that they're basically fine. But when I start to replay the number of closed businesses I see - chain and local alike - I realized I may not be letting the big picture sink in even though there are lots of signs I should be picking up on. Defense mechanism?

Posted by: rpm at February 25, 2009 3:21 PM

Economy shmeconomy. What I really like is Steely Dan's "Everything Must Go" which your post reminded me of.

Great album.

And somewhat apropos for some of our top politicians.

Posted by: whall at February 25, 2009 10:12 PM

I am feeling SOOOO lucky that my company is relatively insulated right now. SO LUCKY.

Posted by: Aimee Greeblemonkey at February 26, 2009 10:58 PM

I'm scared too. The economy situation didn't hit us at all until recently, when the company that my husband works for decided to cut 8% pay for all employees. We'll be ok, but the scariest part is not knowing if the worst is over, or if it's yet to come.

Posted by: La Petite Belle at February 28, 2009 9:17 PM