2002 was economically tenuous nationwide, and with the tech bubble's bursting still making waves throughout the Bay Area, we asked local residents how they have been coping with the downturn and learning to live with less. While plenty of retirees, students, and workers continue spending as usual -- one woman at the mall in Concord claimed she never even looks at a price tag -- others have spent the past year foraging, doing without, or exercising admirable ingenuity to stretch each dollar.
Piano mover, Fairfield, formerly homeless.
"I sold blood. It was a quick twenty bucks, and it was nice."
Fraud analyst for Bank of America, Oakley. Her husband works for United Airlines.
"We've been thinking of selling our home and moving back to Minnesota where we can flat-out purchase one for what we make. ... My pay can't pay the mortgage. Bank of America has announced layoffs a couple weeks back, but the position that I'm in is, I'm told, safe. But in a couple of weeks, who knows?"
Retired customer service worker, El Sobrante.
"My Social Security is going to be raised 1.4 percent. My cable bill just went up 8.5 [percent], my Kaiser payment went up fifteen dollars. 1.4 ain't getting it. ... I've been thinking about moving up to the Sacramento area because rents are cheaper."
Kristina and Jenny
Kristina, unemployed nomad.
"I volunteer places, and normally places will offer some kind of exchange. Over the summer I volunteered at a lot of farms and gardens, and I'd get food. I volunteered at a meditation retreat center and got a free retreat. I volunteer at a yoga studio and get free yoga classes. And I did caretaking and landscaping and garden maintenance in exchange for housing. ... I'm all about cutting all overhead costs. You know, like a 'no overhead' lifestyle. I probably can't have kids with this lifestyle, but right now I don't make really any money and I don't spend any money."
Jenny, administrative assistant.
"I don't have a car anymore. I take the bus, public transportation, walk to public transportation. ... Also, if you work in the service industry, like if you work in a cafe or grocery store, you get to know a lot of other people that work in the service industry and you trade discounts and products. Like, I used to work at a florist, so that's another way. Like, I get discounts at all the markets ... like, at Market Hall or the coffee shop or even Berkeley Bowl. You kind of network. People at that level don't really get paid much, so one of the benefits is to network and trade with people."
Nurse, Richmond, considering moving to Las Vegas for its cheaper cost of living.
"Me and my kids were supposed to go to Orlando. I was going to take them to DisneyWorld, but I didn't think we could afford it so we had to cancel it. Otherwise, we wouldn't have any Christmas."
"I got laid off about a month ago. I was in sales. It's fun, but I need to get into some other area besides sales. ... I've been eating a lot of leftovers."
Former Arthur Andersen employee, Berkeley, interviewed selling jewelry on Telegraph Avenue
"I've been out of an office job since March. And I've been looking very hard for other jobs and doing interviews now and then. So I'm doing this, and also doing seamstress work for my friends who have jobs. My boyfriend was able to get me a sewing machine last month. I've been able to do a lot of work in that area, but not as much as I'd like because my time's divided. ... Before, I was a floor representative at Arthur Andersen Accounting. ... I lost my job the day after the indictment."
Martial arts instructor, El Sobrante.
"I teach martial arts and I definitely feel that my classes are smaller, and I take it for granted that people just can't afford classes because it's a luxury. ... My wife and I bought a house about a year ago and we are pretty much dumping all of our money into our house, because we feel that that's the only safe investment since real estate seems to almost always go up. That's probably the primary thing we've been doing."
Bank teller, Pinole.
"I've been driving slow to save gas. ... Instead of eating out all the time I've been trying to eat at home."
California College of Arts and Crafts student, Oakland.
"I don't eat nearly as much as I used to. And when you do eat, it's all things that are carbs and cheap. And that's also, I would assume, part of the college life. ... I blow glass, so basically I can sell that, especially in the Bay Area. My father's also looked into selling at least my glass-blowing on eBay."
Airbrush artist and bus driver, Richmond, worked for AT&T until laid off after 9/11.
"Cutting coupons, making sure all the lights are off, going to different stores, thrift shopping, trying to catch every bargain I can, and sacrificing things we took for granted before ... little things, like paper towels. Instead of going to get a big pack of paper towels, going to the dollar store and getting a whole bunch of napkins, for a dollar, two dollars. Instead of buying all the name-brand things like house cleaners, we've been getting all the bargain brands. And it's tight, but it's working."
Carpenter and Deadhead, Berkeley.
"I have been selling beer and food and T-shirts and bumper stickers. ... I'll buy a case of beer and sell [each beer] for three dollars -- grilled cheese sandwiches for a dollar."
Seven Days - March 22, 5:57 PM
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Seven Days - March 21, 8:22 PM
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