Boston: 62-year old Thomas Lee (name changed on request) has started to grow his own tomatoes and lettuce and has stopped buying it from the neighbourhood supermarket which is far more expensive today than it used to be a few months ago.
Lee’s is not the only household that is experimenting with growing their own veggies. Families across Bay State (Massachusetts) and other parts of the country are clearing ornamentals and flowering shrubs off their gardens to try their hand at growing their own veggies, as prices of everyday staples from the lettuce and tomatoes in the salad to milk and eggs drags on the family budget, in what is one of the largest econmic slowdowns the country has seen.
While prices of staples such as milk, eggs and rice have gone up between 13-30% in the last year, the other big spend -- gas to run supersized vehicles, has touched an all time high of $4.5 a gallon.
“We were close to finalizing a deal for a used Lexus SUV since my husband’s new job has him commuting long distance. But with gas prices going up this month, we have called off the deal”, says Swati Vyas, business analyst with an Indian technology company in Boston. “Even with two incomes, my family has started feeling the pinch of rising prices”, she added.
Unemployment rate goes up
The labour department announced last week that unemployment rates have touched 5.5% in May, the largest single month jump in more than two decades. Resultantly, American families are realizing that even their fast shrinking salary cheques are not going to be around for long, as employers cut jobs to tide over the crisis.
American teenagers who routinely take up summer jobs to fund their school and college education are finding it hard to land jobs this summer. Studies show that this year might be the toughest year in the last 50 years for young people looking for a job. Also, teens are now competing with adults in their 40s and 50s, for the shrinking number of jobs in the market, as more out-of-job adults try to get back into the job market.
“I have lived here for 37 years and suddenly find that even the two full incomes of my daughter and wife along with my pension cheque, seem just enough to meet our needs. These last few months has seen us spending more money on the same thingss. Our dollar too is fetching far less than what it did before”, says 69-year old Antonio Gantile. The Italian senior citizen ,formerly employed with a construction company, now says that he does most of the repair and renovation work around the house since it is way too expensive to call labour to get it done.” T
Stretching the dollar
Americans are also pushing the envelope to find new ways to ensure that life goes on without upsetting the way they live, too much. The world’s largest retailer, Wal Mart , with its ‘Low Prices, Every Day’ slogan, has been witnessing increased footfalls , from consumers looking to stretch their dollar a little farther. The retailer reported an almost 4% growth in sales in May.
An interesting fall out of recession and rising unemployment is that Americans are going back to college to learn new skills to get jobs that are currently in demand, such as nursing.
Some families are calling off the annual family summer vacation while others are either keeping closer home or inviting family over. Teenagers and adults have cut down on their weekly trip to the mall to indulge in day-long splurges for expensive clothes, perfume and other frills, though media reports suggest that retail has not been affected significantly.
People are parking their heavy SUVs at home and taking public transport to work. Working folks are opting for packed lunch from home rather than go out to restaurants. Some have even substituted their exotic flavoured coffees with simpler varieties.