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Main Street Meltdown
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Main Street Meltdown

  • Fried Squirrel and Dandelion Salad

     I have noticed an odd trend in the media lately.  I have seen articles and some television programs which highlight some of the "edibles" you can find in your own backyard, even if you happen to live in a large metropolitan area like New York City.  These include fishing in ponds, preparing squirrel or making salads from dandelion greens.  One of the episodes of the short-lived NBC series "The Chopping Block" featured would-be restaurant owners touring Central Park, learning about edible plants that could be harvested right from the park and made into gourmet dishes.  The show was cancelled after three episodes due to low ratings.  I'm not sure if that was due to the questionable practice of eating something that was growing in Central Park.

    Has it really come to this?  Have people been driven to the point of frugality that they are willing to eat something that I pay the landscaping guy $30 a month to come out and spray my lawn to kill?  

    When I was growing up, my dad was an avid sport fisher and hunter.  He does have some mounted birds and deer heads around his home, and I'm pretty sure he's responsible for drastically reducing the whitetail deer population in South Dakota.  He didn't hunt or fish just because he liked it.  He did it to help put food on the table.  I grew up eating wild fish like Northern Pike, walleye, perch and catfish, as well as deer, antelope, quail, pheasant, duck and goose.  People pay big bucks to eat stuff like that at fancy restaurants these days.  To us, it was just a way of avoiding Hamburger Helper night.  

    My wife and I live in a suburb of a larger city, but we still manage to plant and grow some of our own food in our backyard and in large buckets.  My wife has an herb garden, and I usually take a stab at growing some tomatoes.  Besides tasting better, the herbs alone save us plenty of money over buying fresh at the supermarket.  However, I have to draw the line at pulling dandelions from my front lawn and making some kind of salad out of them. We have a name for those things where I live:  weeds.

     Adventurous eaters might enjoy a fine squab at a four-star French restaurant in New York City, but would they feel the same way if that pigeon was harvested from a nearby park bench?  I'm thinking...probably not.  

    I'm sure the current state of the economy has spawned this recent rash of "alternative food source" articles and TV show topics, but I'm not sure we've been driven to the point of living off the land in Cleveland or Detroit yet.  Despite my bit of "window box" gardening, I still get the majority of my groceries from the wilds of Aisle Number 7 at the grocery store and Wal-Mart.  

     The squirrels are safe in my neighborhood, at least for now.

     

  • Bartering is Back

     Despite the advances we have made in today's society, when times get tough people often look back to the old tried-and-true methods of coping with problems.   Case in point:  bartering.  

     With many people strapped for cash, bartering is making a big comback.  Bartering has been around since before there was such a thing as money.  During the Great Depression, people often exchanged the performance of work for food, hence the age-old sign "Will Work for Food" held up by the down-and-out, or those who want you to think they are down-and-out.  

    What is bartering?  Basically, you exchange something you have for something that you want.  Money doesn't change hands.  Most forms of barter involved exchanging one personal service, such as babysitting services, for another, such as mowing a lawn.  People also barter personal possessions for something else they want, such as trading clothing for a toaster oven.  You get the idea.  

    Bartering is nothing new in the business world, either.  Radio stations often barter free ads in exchange for something they need, such as office supplies, furniture or even a company vehicle.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia had to barter with other countries to get the goods it needed because its currency couldn't be converted to dollars or pounds or yen.  It traded something it had, such as vodka (which could be resold for cash) for something it needed, such as grain or electronic items.  

     With credit in short supply and money tight, many people are turning to the Internet to help them facilitate their trades.  Sites such as Craigs List and u-exchange.com feature long lists of proposed trades.  A recent browse through a Craig's List turned up a photo studio willing to shoot wedding for free in exchange for cleaning services, re-roofing services for the installation of an in-ground pool and someone willing to trade a bunk bed for a TV set.  With bartering, the possibilities are endless, and best of all it doesn't cost you anything other than your time or an item you don't need or want anymore.  

    Ready to barter?  A few tips to keep in mind:

     1.  Don't be greedy.  Only barter for the things you need.  Conversely, don't give away anything that you really want to keep.  That will really sour a trade.

     2.  Keep good records.  Be sure to note your trades.  Yes, these can be taxed by the IRS, especially if you trade for something of significant value.

     3.  Reach an agreement and stick to it.  Be very specific about what you are trading and work out the details ahead of time either by phone or email before actually carrying out the trade.  Remember, the trade should be beneficial to everybody.  The items you are trading with each other don't necessarily have to be of equal value, but both parties should be happy with their trade.  

    Bartering can be very basic.  Are you good at baking cakes?  You might swap your expertise and bake a wedding cake for someone in exchange for vegetables grown in their garden. This summer, I plan to swap organic herbs grown in my garden in exchange for other items I don't grow in my garden.  

    Everybody has a skill or an unwanted item they can trade, and that means they have something of value.  Now all you have to do is put it to use.

    Good luck, and happy bartering!

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  • The Case for Buying American

     I'm a big believer in free trade.  Free trade is responsible for the United States becoming the economic powerhouse of the world.  Without free trade, we certainly would not benefit from the best products at the best prices that the rest of the world has to offer.  These days, however, there is a new case to be made for buying American-made products and American-provided services.  

     The auto industry has certainly suffered as a result of people buying cars manufactured overseas.  The major auto-makers in Detroit are teetering on the brink, and it's entirely possible GM or some other American auto-maker won't be around this time next year without government intervention. During better times, I would have been inclined to say let the companies fold.  If a company can't remain competitive in a free market, then natural selection would dictate that the company either needs to adapt or die.  

    These days, I am taking a different point of view.  With millions of Americans losing their jobs, and many small and major American businesses shuttering their doors, I have made a new pledge for 2009.  Whenever possible, I will not only buy American, but I will buy locally-produced goods and services.  Although I may be accused of protectionism or isolationism, I see it as a way of keeping my dollars in the local community and in my country, helping local businesses and in turn preserving local and American jobs.  

    The problem is that I will be hard-pressed to find something that is completely American-made.  Many American companies have outsourced the manufacturing of their products to other countries.  The other problem is that even when I can find an American-produced product, it will likely be more expensive than foreign products  Granted, I don't plan to make many large purchases this year, but when I do I will look first for something produced by an American company.  If that isn't possible, I will at least purchase it from a local, or "mom and pop" retailer.  

    There are ways of finding American products, if you are willing to do your research (which many don't.  They opt for convenience).  

    1.  Look for "Made in the USA" label.  If you're not sure where a product is made, check out the label.  In some cases, a product may be manufactured overseas with components made in the USA, or vice-versa, but this is usually noted on the product.  

    2.  Do your research.  There are web sites which list products completely made in the U.S., such as buyamerican.com, unionlabel.org or buydirectusa.com.  There are many, many others.  A little extra time and research before making a major purchase will turn up American-made alternatives if they are available.  

    3.  Shop locally.  I'm guilty of driving into the city to purchase items from the Big Box stores for the cheaper prices, but this year I will be more inclined to purchase items from the stores in my own local area, where my neighbors are employed.  Even if you can't find American-made products in these stores, at least you are supporting a locally-owned and operated business.  This also goes for buying products online.  If I'm buying a product online, I'm sending my dollars elsewhere.  This doesn't help my community and our local economy. 

    Not everyone will share my endorsement of giving preference to local and American goods and services.  The Ayn Rand Institute, in an article titled "Buy American is U-American", says:

    "International trade is not mortal combat but a form of cooperation, a means of expanding worldwide production. The benefits of international trade flow to both trading partners, even when one of the countries is more efficient across the board. This is the "Law of Comparative Advantage," covered in every economics textbook. Free trade does not destroy but creates employment."

    They are correct, of course.  This IS taught in every economics textbook.  However, this is my personal choice. The United States is suffering a crisis of conifidence in its economy by its own people.  Banks aren't giving out credit, and people aren't buying.  If this continues, the recession will only deepen further.  If the recession worsens, and lasts for an extended period of time, then the United States faces a depression.  In the 1930's, people didn't spend money.  The less money that was spent, the more businesses suffered.  As businesses suffered, more people found themselves out of work.  After people lost their jobs, they had no money to spend, and so the cylce continued.  

    Americans have become very good at spending their money.  Where they spend their money has become all the more important during these troubled times.  

  • What If You Can't Afford Food?

     There are several signs that the economy is in trouble:  stock prices are down, unemployment is up and for many, their financial future is uncertain.  However, there is another surefire sign that the U.S. has fallen on tough times.  Food pantries and soup kitchens are reporting an increase in the number of people seeking their services.  Even more disturbing:  many of those seeking help are familes whose parents both have full-time jobs.  

    The working poor are nothing new in the U.S.  Each generation has had a segment of the population that just can't seem to make ends meet, no matter how hard they work.  The causes are many...low or no education, a depressed local economy, single-parent families struggling to get back on their feet, etc.  These days, food pantries are increasing seeing clients who never thought they would ever have to seek help in obtaining food for their families.  

    During the recession of 1991, I found myself out of work, and on a couple of occasions, there was no food in the refrigerator or the cupboard.  With a few dollars wired to us by a helpful relative, my family was able to eat for another week.  We never sought the help of a food pantry, but in hindsight, we certainly could have and probably should have.  Perhaps it was pride that kept us from seeking that kind of help.

     I did learn a few things during those salad days in which we had no salad.   Here are a few steps that my family took to help stretch those food dollars a little further.

    Cut Out the Drinks:  Save your money for milk and cut out expensive drink habits like soda, beer and bottled water.  

    Stretch the meat budget:  Meats are the most expensive items in the grocery budget.  When trying to save money, think of meats as a side dish, or an ingredient in casseroles, soups or other one-dish meals.  There are other sources of protein available such as beans, tofu, soy or lentils.  Not only are they cheaper, but they are better for you, too.

    Rice and pasta are your friends:  Nothing stretches a food budget like rice or pasta.  If you are concerned about the carbs, buy whole-wheat pasta and brown rice.  It might taste different at first, but after awhile you don't notice the difference.  Again, it's better for you than the plain white stuff.

    Make what you have stretch further:  Casseroles, soups, stews, pasta dishes...these are the types of meals that will make the food you have last longer and stretch further.  I make a meatless chili that my family loves.  It's inexpensive, and makes enough for two to three meals.  

    Grow your own:  If you have your own yard or flower beds, dedicate some of that space to herbs or vegetables.  It's amazing how much my family saved this last year on fresh herbs, and they taste so much better than the dried out stuff purchased at the grocery store.  

    Coupons are cash:  If you use coupons on the things you normally buy, and combine them with in-store sales, the savings can really add up.  Of course, there are some great couponing tips here at The Dollar Stretcher.

    Stick to the outer aisles:  Typically, the outer ailes of the grocery store are the main ones you should concern yourself with when shopping.  These are the ailes with dairy, eggs, meats, cheeses, fruits and vegetables.  For the most part, the inner aisles of the store contain all of the processed foods, and they are the foods that are expensive and not nearly as nutritious.  

     

     

  • 2009...a lot like 2008, only worse.

     The New Year is always an exciting time.  As we count down the seconds until midnight, we look forward to a fresh start, new and exciting challenges and the opportunity to improve ourselves, either by losing weight or quitting smoking.  This year, many are hoping that the New Year will bring with it economic recovery and prosperity.  

    Unfortunately, they will have to wait awhile longer.  

    All signs are pointing to a more prolonged and deeper recession than anyone had initially thought.  It's not that I have a crystal ball or anything.  I'm just listening to what the people who are running the economy (or will be running the economy) are saying.  Other signs point to a stale economy in the year ahead:

    President-elect Barak Obama - says the U.S. recession could drag on for "years" without bold economic reforms.  

    Boston Federal Reserve Bank President Eric Rosengren - says the recession will be longer and more severe than originally forecast.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce -says the U.S. will "hit bottom" in mid-2009.  

     Retailers - High-end department store Macy's is closing a number of stores around the country.  Circuit City, Linens 'n Things, and KB Toys have filed for bankruptcy.  

    Things aren't all bad.  For example, Rosengren also said he feels the U.S. economy will probably start to rebound in the second half of 2009.  Historically, recessions in the U.S. haven't lasted much more than two years at a time.  Of course, there is always a first time for everything.  The U.S. economy didn't get into this bind overnight, and it will take time to recover.  

    As for me, I have a few resolutions for this New Year:

    Save, save, save - All of my discretionary funds are going into my savings account.  

    Investing - Stocks are on sale right now, if you've got the stomach for it.  Personally, I'm sticking my cash in savings accounts and CDs.  My stock purchases are limited to companies that I'm fairly certain will still be around after the economy rebounds, but I admit I haven't been putting as much into my ING Sharebuilder account as I used to.

    Shopping locally - This is just a personal choice for me, but when I do have to make purchases I'll do my best to buy from small, "mom-and-pop" retailers in my local area.  The strong "big box" stores will survive the recession, but small businesses are the backbone of our communities.  They need all the help they can get.  

    Dumping my debt - Money that isn't going to savings is going to retiring as much debt as possible this year.  I won't be totally debt-free in 2009....I'm still paying off my mini-van and a student loan...but I'll be doing my best to get rid of all other debt.  Not owing anyone any money is a nice security blanket to have during a down economy.  You only need to be concerned about day-to-day living expenses like food and shelter.  

    How about you?  What are your New Year's financial resolutions?  Do you see things getting better in 2009, or worse?

     

    Main Street Meltdown Recommended Reading:  Should you bite on those crazy car deals?

  • 10 Ways To Save Money in 2009

     The New Year is quickly approaching and many of us are taking a close look at our financial resolutions.  With the recession in the U.S. deepening, Americans are looking for ways to cut back on spending and save more of their money.  One of the biggest household expenditures often overlooked by people when they are creating their spending plans (I hate the word "budget".  That's like using the word "diet".  Everyone means to stick to theirs, but they don't.) are their monthly household bills, which I call the "monthlies".  These are the recurring bills that we pay month after month and just assume that the amount we pay is what we have to pay, but there are areas where you can cut back and save plenty of cash.

    1.  Make your payments automatic.  Most utility, cable and phone companies have "automatic monthly billing".  Take advantage of these plans rather than mailing your monthly bills.  The money will come directly from your bank account on the date that the bill is due.  You'll avoid late payments and potential additional fees.

    2.  Review your montly bills.  Everybody makes mistakes, and creditors aren't any different.  Most people just pay their monthly bills without really reading them, but all monthly statements should be reviewed for mistakes.  I recently caught an error on a bill from my exterminator.  One phone call got the extra charge deleted from my bill, and saved me $165.

    3.  Pay all bills on time.  This is related to Number 1 on this list.  Don't be late paying any of your monthly bills, not even a little.  Not only will you incur unneccessary extra fees, but you could potentially damage your credit rating as well.  If you have an unexpectedly high bill one month, such as a utility bill, call and work out a payment arrangement, but don't ignore the bill.

    4.  Use average monthly billing.  Many utility companies have "average monthly billing plans".  They take the total amount you would normally pay over the course of a year for electricity, or natural gas for instance, and then average the payments out over the course of a year.  Instead of paying $30 a month for natural gas during the summer and then getting socked with a $200 bill during the winter months, you might wind up paying $60 per month every month of the year instead.  You're still paying the same amount over the course of a year, but you're paying a manageable amount each month.

    5.  Make them fight for your business.  Your cell phone or internet service provider isn't the only game in town.  The same goes for car insurance.  Shop around and see if you can find a better rate.  I did this with my car insurance, and when my insurance agent thought I was going to jump ship to another insurance carrier, he slashed my monthly premium and got me on a better plan.

    6.  Use a game plan for groceries.  There are many ways of cutting your monthly food bill...double coupons, sales circulars, store loyalty cards...but don't overlook other options for buying food such as buying dry goods from the dollar store, taking advantage of Angel Food Ministries if they are in your area or joining forces with a neighbor who has a Sam's Club membership, pooling your money and then buying items in bulk.  You could cut your food bill by 25 percent or more.

    7.  Keep on eye on bank fees.  These days, banks are doing everything they can to make extra money, too.  Keep a sharp eye on your bank fees.  When I first opened my checking account I signed up for a "club account" which offered overdraft protection and free checks. After awhile, I realized I never used my overdraft protection and I rarely wrote checks.  The "club account" cost me $11 per month, so I switched to a "free checking" plan (which also had overdraft protection) and eliminated the $11 per month charge.  I saved myself $132 per year.  

    8.  Monitor car insurance premiums.  I used to be with a car insurer that raised my rates when I moved to a new zip code and when I was up for renewal, even though I had no accidents.  I switched to a different insurer and saved nearly 50 percent on my car insurance.  If your insurer raises your premiums for no apparent reason, it's time to shop around.

    9.  Determine if your "monthlies" are even necessary.  Do you really need both a cell phone and a land-line phone?  Perhaps you could get rid of the land line.  If you pay for premium cable service but really only watch 10 channels, switch down to the "basic" plan...most cable companies have them, but you have to ask.  Do you have magazine subscriptions for magazines you don't read?  Drop them and read the magazine online, usually for free.  Do you subscribe to the Sunday paper just for the coupons?  Most sales circulars can be found online for free.

    10.  You need a plan.  You can't figure out if you have areas that can be cut if you don't know what you are spending.  Online budgeting services such as Mint.com, Mvelopes or Wesabe are free, but you can also use an Excel spreadsheet to track your spending.  Once you have everything written down, it's easier to track unnecessary expenses.  

    Main Street Meltdown Recommended Reading:  I'm So Broke!

  • Finding a Job in a Bad Economy

     With consumer confidence sinking and the U.S. plunging into the worst recession since World War II, unemployment has become a big concern for a lot of people. Many major companies are trimming their payrolls, and nationwide unemployment now tops out at more than six percent.  Even worse:  once economists realize and officially declare that the U.S. is in a recession (which they have recently done), unemployment tends to climb as consumer confidence wanes, businesses start to feel the effects and try to minimize costs by reducing their staffs.  

    Service industries and manufacturers, especially the auto industry, will be especially hard-hit.  That means hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people lining up at the unemployment office and seeking new jobs.  Recent college graduates will also find a very competitive job market once they have their degree in hand.  Still, jobs can be had, if you know where to look.  

    1.  Network, network, network.  Expand your circle of friends by joining civic and professional organzations, charities, chuch groups...anyplace you might find people who work in your industry that may be in a position to help you should the worst happen and you need to find a job.  The more people you know in your profession (or a related profession), the better your prospects when looking for a new job.  Your friends and acquaintences could not only tell you about any unadvertised openings, but also put in a good word for you, depending upon how well they know you.

    2.  Be prepared.  Even if you think your job is safe, now is a good time to dust off and update that resume.  Make sure you have good references on your resume.  Keep an eye out for any possible job opportunities you could take advantage of if something happens to your company.  Shore up your emergency fund, and try to have 3-6 months of living expenses socked away in case you lose your job and need the safety net.  

    3.  Be the "model" employee.  Make yourself indispensible at your current job.  Learn how to do things that may be a bit outside your job description, volunteer for extra projects and don't be a complainer about your current work load.  When employers trim staff, they will target unhappy employers and those doing the minimum as the first to go.  You might still get the axe, but at least you'll get a good reference out of the deal. 

    4.  Don't overlook freelance work.  If you don't find another full-time job right away, look at doing something on a part-time basis.  Consider consulting for another company (or the one you just left, if it's available).  Jobs aren't just outsourced to overseas locations.  Many companies look to farm out some of their work to freelancers and consultants right here in the U.S. on an "as-needed" basis.  During the recession of 1991, I was "unemployed" for six months.  The truth is, while I didn't have a full-time job during that time, I never really did stop working.  I worked part-time for several different companies and did numerous one or two-time only projects for others.  It didn't replace my full-time income, but it was better than not earning anything at all.  Besides, one of those part-time jobs led to me receiving a full-time job when the opening became available.  

    5.  Brush up on your skill set.  Make yourself more employable by expanding your skill set.  If you work in an office environment you should know how to use all of the programs in the Microsoft Office suite of products including Powerpoint, Excel and Word.  There are free tutorials available online.  If you have fallen behind on continuing your education in your profession, now is the time to take some continuing education courses and obtain the skills you need in this competitive job environment.  

    6.  Have an "exit strategy".  What would you do if you lost your job today?  A lot of people don't like to think about it, but they should have a "Plan B" in case the worst happens.  Would you know where to look for another job?  Do you know people in your industry that can give you good leads on other work?  Do you have an idea for a business you would like to start up on your own?  The time to come up with other options available to you is when you have a job, not when you are desperately seeking a new job.  

    If you do find yourself out of work, having a plan of action will put you ahead of the game.  Make finding a job your new "full time job" and be very good at interviewing (practice makes perfect), have a stellar resume and identify other jobs you can do other than the one you currently have.  You might also consider moving to another are that does have jobs available and taking a little less pay to get your foot in the door at a new company.  When it comes to replacing a job and surviving in a rough economy, no option should be off the table.

     Main Street Meltdown Recommended Reading: It's a Recession, Not a Depression

  • The Worst is Yet to Come?

     With banks failing, unemployment rising and the stock market in freefall, many people are hoping the U.S. economy has "hit bottom", and better times are on the way next year.

    Don't bet on it.

    The International Monetary Fund's chief economist,  Olivier Blanchard, says worse times are on the way and the economy won't begin to improve until sometime in 2010.  Echoing this sentiment, president-elect Obama said the U.S. could experience the loss of "millions" of jobs next year.  With projections of gloom and doom just around the corner, what can we do to "recession proof" ourselves as much as possible?

    1.  Insure your most basic needs.  Namely, shelter and food.  Stick any extra money you have now in a high-yield, FDIC-insured savings account to help cover rent or mortgage payments should the worse happen and you lose your job.  Ideally, your emergency fund should have three to six months of living expenses in it, but if you don't have an emergency fund, sock away as much as you can now.  Take a part-time job.  Bank away unexpected windfalls.  Sell stuff you don't need anymore on eBay.  Stockpile dried goods in a closet designated your "emergency pantry".  This might include canned goods you stock up on at a great sale, bulk purchases of rice and dried beans, tinned meats, anything that will keep for long periods of time until you really need it.  

    2.  Diversify.  Your retirement account should already be diversified.  This means "don't stick all your eggs in one basket".  Your retirement account should NEVER consist mainly of stock in the company you work for.  The more diversified your account is, the better it will weather the storm.  

    3.  Don't buy things you don't need.  This is hard right before Christmas, but now is not the time to make large purchases of luxury items like high-end electronics, appliances and cars.  If you can't pay cash for it, don't buy it.  

    4.  Be the "go to" person at work.  If you work for someone other than yourself, make yourself indespensible. Volunteer to take on additional projects, strive to do your best work, and look for ways to make your employer more money or find better ways of doing things.  Be the first to arrive and the last to leave each day.  If you are a model employee, the boss will look elsewhere if they have to start trimming payroll.

     5.  Diversify your income.  Don't just have one source of income. Do things on the side, as long as it doesn't violate an agreement you have with your main employer.  Do some consulting, Sell your arts and crafts.  Become an avid eBayer...anything you can do to bring in extra income.  Sock the extra cash away in your emergency fund.  

    If the head economist of the IMF and the incoming president of the U.S. are saying that things are going to get much worse before they get better, we should probably listen to them.   We all have a head-start if we haven't yet been affected by hit the economy has taken.  Take advantage of it.

  • With Money Tight, Layaway Makes a Big Comeback

     With money and credit tight, and the prospects of a dismal holiday shopping season looming ahead, more retailers are embracing something that many had once thought was about as hip as a rotary phone:  layaway.  Sears recently announced it was bringing back layaway after noting that it has worked quite well for Kmart.  

    Layway is something that has been around since the Great Depression.  Customers pick out an item they want to purchase from the store, pay a small down payment fee to have the retailer store the item in their stockroom, or "lay it away" for them, and the customer then makes weekly payments on the item until it is paid off.  Once the item is completely paid for, the customer picks up the item from the store.  Retailers like layaway because it is a means of racking up sales from consumers who may not otherwise be able to make the purchase, due either to a shorfall in funds or a lack of credit.

    For customers, there are some advantages to using layaway versus a credit card:  no interest, no late fees, no penalties for missed payments and no dings on a credit report.  The downside to layaway:  possible "over-shopping", and if the item isn't paid off in the agreed-upon time the store may put the item back on sale, and you could lose any money paid on the item up to that point.  Most retailers will return money on items not completely paid for, minus a "re-stocking fee".  Be sure to ask about a retailer's layaway policy before paying the down payment or filling out a layaway form.

    Layaway isn't something confined to brick-and-mortar retailers, either.  Some online retailers also offer layaway, and sites such as eLayaway.com allow consumers to shop at many different retailers and make small payments toward their purchases.  

     

  • More Parents Desperately Ditching Daycare


     Wall Street finance companies and the Big Three automakers aren't the only businesses in need of a bailout these days.  Higher unemployment and a reduction in work hours at many businesses across the country are leading to a downturn in another industry:  daycare centers.  

     Parents without jobs or those who have seen their paycheck shrink have been forced to make some tough decisions in regard to the care of their children.  Faced with increasing household bills and less money to pay them, parents are cutting back.  In some cases, that means reducing the number of days each week that they bring their children to a daycare center.  In others, it means their children will stop going altogether.

    Daycare operators worry that with few other options, parents will bring their children to unlicensed daycare centers. State licensing ensures that daycare centers have met certain standards for safety, cleanliness and education.  Unlicensed centers, operating illegally, could pose certain hazards for kids. 

    According to a report released earlier this year by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, the average price of full-time care for an infant in a center was as high as $14,951 per year.  For a 4-year-old in a center, parents paid up to $10,787 a year for full-time care.

    "The cost of care is out of reach for too many families," said Linda Smith, Executive Director of NACCRRA.  "No parent should have to choose a poor-quality child care setting just because they cannot afford anything better for their children."

    Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2008 Update provides results from a 2008 survey of Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) State Networks, which asked for the average 2007 prices charged by child care programs listed in CCR&R databases.  Located in every state and most communities across the nation, CCR&Rs provide services in 99.3 percent of inhabited zip codes.  CCR&Rs work with parents to connect them with the child care that meets their needs and with caregivers to help raise the quality of child care in their communities.

    To download a copy of the full report, please visit www.naccrra.org.

     

    To find a child care resource center near you, go to www.childcareaware.org.

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