Monday, November 17, 2008

People are neither gambling nor smoking

This falls under my semi-regular (ok, mostly irregular series) on "Signs that the economy is bad." This time MSNBC has a report on activities that may no longer be recession-proof. The piece written by Allison Lin looks at things like gambling, smoking and drinking. The conventional wisdom is that things like that usually do well even when the economy is bad. Well, apparently the conventional wisdom is about to fail. At least the gun industry seems to be doing well. Oh wait, that is mostly hysteria from certain people who think Obama will take their guns away. So, what is one to do? What do I do?

: It turns out that "Starbucks conceded that the once high-flying company was losing its footing. It has since been forced to close stores and lay off workers as profits have plummeted." I never saw the allure of Starbucks. I am not saying I did not buy a nicer cup of coffee once in a while. I just did not get it from Starbucks. When I lived in Houston, I went to Bad Ass (much better than Starbucks, and the baristas are less pretentious) once in a while, that being maybe once a month at the most with the family. It was usually a treat for after a dinner out of home. Since it was a treat, it never was an issue of breaking the bank to get the better half a cup of that white chocolate mocha, a cup of hot cocoa for the little one, and whatever the coffee of the day was for me. Otherwise, we brew our coffee at home like any other average person. I even have a small coffee pot in my office to make my own when I feel like it. Why people feel a need to line up at Starbucks's drive-thru every morning and pay that money is beyond me. And the thing is, the Starbucks here in Tyler located on the route I take to work is almost always full every morning. The line goes around the building. Then again, Tyler, Texas is a bit of a bubble economically when compared to the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, being in that bubble means a lot of the "pious" conservatives here have a serious empathy problem, as in they have no compassion for anyone who may not be doing as well in this economy.

Gambling: That is a no-brainer for us. We don't gamble at all. I don't even buy lottery tickets. According to the article, "when times are tough, the common assumption has been that people will continue to gamble for relief and the hope of striking it rich." Throwing my money away is not my idea of relief, and I know the odds are always in favor of the house. You see, I take Ace Rothstein's words to heart: "in the casino, the cardinal rule is to keep them playing and to keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose, and in the end, we get it all" (from the film Casino). I just don't go in at all. I personally don't see the allure, neither does my better half. And I know I won't strike it rich anytime soon (not working as a librarian anyways).

Smoking: This is even easier. We don't smoke.

Alcohol: Now now, let's not get desperate or extreme here and cut out the alcohol. We do drink in moderation. I personally prefer wines, but I am amenable to various alcoholic drinks. However, we don't drink at bars. We do our drinking at home or at the homes of relatives. Therefore, we buy our liquor and stock up. When it comes to wine, it is actually not that difficult. For one, Texas has a pretty good wine industry, so you can get a good bottle of wine from one of the local wineries for a few bucks, and you support your local industry. Actually, small wineries in the U.S. like the ones here are as local as they get. Even if they import their grapes, they still get them from California. It does not get any more "made in the USA" than that. When we lived in Indiana, it was the same thing. As for other wines (read non-local), I usually pick and choose and try to go moderate as well. For harder liquor, I just keep an eye on price and stock up when I can. Since we drink in moderation, a bottle of rum for instance will last a while.
Cable: Most people cut this when it comes time to cutting. Not for us. We admit we think of it like a utility. Given broadcast TV sucks, you have to have at least basic cable. We get the next tier up, but not premium channels. But we do get our value out of it. Daughter likes Discovery, Nick, Cartoon Network, and few others. So do we. I personally like shows like Dirty Jobs, and you can't get them without cable. We do bundle the Internet and phone with the cable. A bit pricey, but we get our value since we don't go to movie theaters, and we rarely rent movies. I use the Internet quite a bit for everything from news to blogging.

Movies: I gave up on movie theaters, and I am not alone in this. Cell phone jerks and overpriced movie tickets are not my idea of fun. When we want a movie, we just rent a couple of DVDs. Part of the reason we rarely rent films is we are rarely home together. My better half works an erratic schedule as a food service manager which can be open shift one day, closing the next, a midshift (about 10a or so til 7p), so on. It's one of the realities of life we both work.

Sporting events: We have no interest in this overall. My brother who lives in the DFW area has been to a Dallas Cowboys game or two, and even he gripes about the price. He stopped going I believe. No, he is not a librarian (he is not rich either, but he is comfortable). 150 bucks or more for a ticket to an event is pretty much not right in my view. Maybe they do need to rethink those excessive athlete salaries.

Phones: We have the land line with the cable company as mentioned. In part, we are not ready to simply move to cellphones exclusively. Our cells are for personal use; we do not give the number to anyone other than relatives and some people at work. Telemarketers can simply call the land line for all the good it will do them since we screen all calls.

We are not wealthy by any extent. We rent our housing, and we do have some college loans. We won't be getting a house any time soon, in part due to the college loans, but also to remain mobile. I hold no illusions about staying here long term. To advance in librarianship, you have to be mobile, and I know I am not advancing further here any time soon. Just the way the workplace is set up. Although who knows, maybe I will settle here. We keep our options open, plus, when something breaks at home, one phone call to the landlord gets it fixed. We do watch what earn. We do watch what we spend, but we are certainly not going the hysterical route that some people seem to be following. What I found interesting about the article is that it mentions the economy is so bad people may actually stop drinking, gambling, and smoking. And I think to myself, is that really a bad thing? To stop drinking, gambling, and smoking that is? Quitting the smokes is definitely a good idea. Stop throwing your money to the casinos and/or the lottery. As for drinking, do it in moderation. After all, there is evidence a drink now and then is good for you.

So just another sign the economy is bad. As for us, we are just hanging in there, and living the best we can.

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