Holidays during a recession

By Kimberly Absher.
Americans are being forced to adjust to an economy that is less than what it was in terms of unemployment, and skyrocketing prices of everyday items. And the holiday season is quickly approaching. According to CNN, Washington is the 18th worst state as far as unemployment goes, with a rate of 6.3 percent, with the national rate being 6.5 percent. Because of this, nearly everyone seems to be cutting back on spending. According to MSNBC, the retail sales report showed that sales at general merchandise and department stores fell by 0.4 percent, while sales at specialty clothing stores decreased by 1.4 percent. A poll showed that Americans’ projected spending is $616, the lowest in the 10-year period the organization has been asking the question. Last year the average budget for Christmas, according to their poll, was $866. Adalene Gemmson, a BCC student, said that, “I can’t spend money like I have been doing the past few years. My family is drawing names at Thanksgiving to pick one person each to buy for.” David Goethe, a Running Start student echoes that sentiment. “Gas is still expensive and I’m trying to save so I don’t have to work as much, so buying lots of stuff for the holidays is not really an option for me anymore.” Analysts have argued in addition to buying less, people will also be shopping at less expensive stores. According to another Gallup poll, the consumers who plan on shopping at discount department stores total 42 percent, which is just a three percent drop from last year. Eric Pohl works at the Redmond Target in the electronics department. He said he has been surprised that people seem to be shopping as much as they were last year, but he said, “We get a lot of people who say they bought things from Circuit City or Best Buy, and now they are coming here to get a better deal.” With the state of the economy being compared to that of the Great Depression, there are some similarities of sacrifice between the two economic crises. Loree Petree was born in 1927, and remembers very well what it was like to have her grandmother, who had a vegetable garden, drop off a variety of tomatoes and other vegetables to her, her mother, and three sisters. Her mother stayed at home, and her father was unemployed until World War II was in full swing, and he got a job at a steel plant. “We didn’t have lots of stores like we do today, so we weren’t as used to buying as many items that were not necessities. We got food from where we could, and my parents worked odd jobs to try and make money.” She said that there was a strong sense of community, because people had to trade necessities and help each other out in order for everyone to survive. “I will never forget; I had a boyfriend whose dad was an out of work dentist. He made his living during the Depression by euthanizing pets who people couldn’t afford to feed anymore. I thought he was horrible, but people had to do what they had to do.” In this day and age, when many people are used to the “glory days” of being able to afford entertainment and buying things on a whim, and consuming is encouraged by the huge array of stores everywhere we go, it can seem very difficult to cut back. There are various forums with recommendations on how to cut back on spending, whether in a tight economy or a thriving one. According to a Consumer Education article from Suite 101, living close to where you work, finding a credit card that rewards customers, or not using one at all, and leaving no “must-haves” off the chopping block are all simple ways to cut back.