The downturn arrived late or hardly at all in some U.S. metro areas.
What does San Antonio have besides great food and the Alamo? The right stuff to beat back the Great Recession.
In Texas' second-largest city (yep, San Antonio is now bigger than Dallas) the unemployment rate in June was just 6.9%, two points higher than a year ago, according to BusinessWeek, which produced a slideshow of its top 40 cities. San Antonio, it says, "has one of the strongest job markets in the nation."
No. 2 on the list is the Austin-Round Rock area in Texas, the last state to experience the recession. Also representing Texas on BusinessWeek's list are Dallas, Houston, El Paso, and McAllen, despite that metropolitan area's 11% unemployment rate.
Company spokeswoman rails against 'propaganda groups.'
A chastened Disney is offering refunds to consumers who own copies of the company's Baby Einstein videos, bowing to pressure from a parents group that says the video is more likely to turn children into Baby Alfred E. Neumans.
Disney's move allows anyone who bought a Baby Einstein video between June 5, 2004, and Sept. 4, 2009, to get their money back. Alternatively, consumers can trade their DVD in for a Baby Einstein book or CD, or redeem it for a 25% discount on future Baby Einstein purchases. The offer is good through March 4, 2010, and is limited to four per household.
For years, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a group fighting to "reclaim childhood from corporate marketers," has said the videos don't live up to Disney's promises.
Want to be happy? Sometimes there is no place like home.
My wife recently spent a long weekend touring eastern Oregon with two of her co-workers. They drove from small town to small town, shopping for antiques and visiting museums.
On Saturday -- with an early October snow falling outside -- Kris and her friends stopped to eat lunch at La Laguna in the small town of Joseph (population 1,054). As part of the worst job I ever had, I spent several weeks selling insurance door-to-door in Joseph, so I know the locals are friendly. Such was the case at La Laguna. Kris's party struck up a conversation with their waiter.
He told them that he was raised in Joseph. When he was a young man, he moved to Portland; the big city seemed exciting. He had a good time, and is glad to have had the experience, but after a few years he moved back to small-town life in Joseph.
"Life is simpler here," he said. "And it's less expensive. When I lived in Portland, I couldn't save anything; there was always something to spend my money on. There just aren't as many temptations here."
If you want to sleep better, readers say, dump your debt.
Frugal people sleep better.
Some readers say they're frugal because they love finding great deals, but most have more complex reasons. They're thrifty now to meet future goals: a car, a house, a family. They've chosen to reject hyperconsumerism. They're called to careers (e.g. the arts) that are fulfilling but require careful money management. Or they simply enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having an emergency fund.
The lesson: Wait before you splurge on that new toy.
A year ago, a regular reader who calls herself "SC CDF" really wanted an ice-cream maker. These days she can barely remember having wanted it. She proposed that we write down what we want and then check back later to see if we still want it. That's why in April I started a Smart Spending message board thread called "What do you want? Will you still want it a year from now?"
Readers posted their burning desires: a great camera and printer, electronic gadgets, new cookware, computers, automobiles, furniture. Most of those who reported back later on the updated thread said they did not get what they wanted. But all of them were OK with that.
If it's not stinky or stained, why wash it?
I've got a dirty little secret: sometimes I wear a shirt twice before washing it.
Before you hold your nose and run screaming from the room, hear me out. I'm not talking about a shirt in which I've done a day's worth of hard manual labor in the hot sun. It's usually a shirt I've worn for half a day or less.
The other day, for example, I didn't dress to leave the house until close to lunchtime. Before that I was the stereotypical freelance writer sitting around in sweatpants and a T-shirt my daughter bought to celebrate entering the eighth grade. (My daughter is now 29. Freelancers really don't care what they look like.)
Don't expect big smiles when you show up with jars of pennies.
Putting all your change in a jar each night is a time-honored frugal hack. One guy bought himself a new pickup after setting aside coins for years. A Smart Spending message board reader named "Amberstorck" wasn't aiming that high -- she just wanted to save some money.
But now she's having trouble unloading the lucre. Local grocery stores refused her rolled change. Her bank charges a 6% coin-counting fee. "What is the point of saving coins if nobody will take them?" Amber wrote in a message board thread.
The fact is, banks are legally allowed to charge a counting fee or to refuse to accept Miracle Whip jars full of pennies and nickels.
Your frugal bounty can help those who need it the most.
I recently bought two backpacks, five packages of notebook paper and five boxes of crayons at Office Depot for $3.25 including tax, thanks to the magic of recycled printer cartridges and loss leaders. Then I went to Walgreens and bought two-pocket folders and five-packs of mechanical pencils for a nickel apiece, plus two-packs of gel pens and eight-packs of washable markers that will be free after rebate.
I don't have kids at home. I'm buying these for other people's children. You can, too, and I sure hope you will.
Just as Christmas items show up in stores long before it's time to trim the tree, "back to school" specials are making inroads earlier and earlier. Back in the first week of July, Staples was offering things like 10-packs of pencils and small bottles of hand sanitizer for 1 cent each.
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