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You Don’t Have To Read the Paper To Measure How the Economy Is Doing

December 20, 2010 · 47 comments

in Personal Finance

Paper? What was I thinking when I wrote that title?  The major paper in our state is in such bad shape that it only delivers 3 days a week. (Or is it 4?) Of course, you can pick it up at a newsstand or Starbucks for a ridiculous price, and there is barely any ‘meat’ to it.

Anyway, I watch CNBC sometimes and I do watch some news programs, all of which provide plenty of information about the state of our economy.  Often times, the ‘facts’ vary based on which show you are watching.

I started thinking the other day though, I don’t need anyone else to tell me how the economy is doing.  I can just look around to form my opinion.  Here are my new leading indicators to tell me if the economy is fully recovered or not.

  1. Red Lobster Effect:  Back in the day, Red Lobster used to provide a free dessert on your birthday.  When my husband had his most recent birthday, we went to Red Lobster and I inquired about what you get for free.  Yes, the obnoxious singers will still surround you clapping, but the ‘dessert’ has changed from a nice piece of cake (or dessert of your choice) to a little mound of Reddi Whip with a candle stuck in the middle.  Oh, and some chocolate syrup drizzle on top also.   They even had the nerve to provide numerous spoons so we could all share in the treat!
  2. Library Hours: Our city is not a poor city.  However, the city’s tax revenue has dropped because a lot of businesses have moved out, and property values have plummeted.   As part of budget cuts, our library is now closed on Saturdays.  In addition, our mayor is threatening to close the library completely because she is carrying a grudge because her pet millage didn’t pass.  As with much of the country, our city has enjoyed a spending spree for many years, and apparently, the library is the only way to make up the deficit.
  3. Construction Signs: With all the economic problems, I expected construction to be at a minimum this year.  Not so!  There was more construction than ever!  What was different though was the signs around the road construction in the city I live in.  To ‘justify’ the road spending, the city put signs up all over the place saying “80 percent of these road improvements were paid for with Federal Dollars”.  I think they needed a follow up sign that said “100 percent of the cost of these signs were paid for with YOUR tax dollars”.
  4. Traffic: I don’t know if it is some other phenomenon, but with so many businesses picking up and leaving and less people having jobs, I don’t sit in traffic nearly as long as I used to .  However, this is one situation where I would welcome more traffic, because it would signify that more people were employed.
  5. Grocery Store: It wasn’t too long ago that I was the only shopper marching up and down the aisles with my coupons in hand.  Now I see all kinds of people sorting through their coupons at the store; men, women-  I even saw some teenagers using coupons a couple weeks ago.  (Go teens!)

So, I am going to keep my eyes open to the world around me to determine when the economy is back on track.  I will be sure to let you know, although it may have to wait until someone in my family has a birthday and we finally get a decent free dessert!

Have you noticed similar things where you live?

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