[caption id="attachment_63" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="New muffler helps keep Midas in business."][/caption]
I can’t speak for the rest of you, but I’m just plain fed up with this business of pinching pennies, fretting about the economy and worrying about a friend or relative who has lost a job, or might soon.
Living without becomes tiresome in a society that bombards us with the notion of instant gratification.
So the Murphy family is doing its part – albeit in a small way – to end this dreaded recession.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, and the days since, we’ve been spending money like we have it: a new camera, laptop, guitar amplifier, television, gift cards, coat, clothes, eyeglasses, computer speakers, music, books and, finally, two nightstands and a headboard for our bedroom.
That’s all in addition to two less exciting but completely necessary expenses: a new steering rack and muffler for my vintage Nissan Maxima.
Some families are accustomed to spending money in this manner. Not mine. We watch every dollar, wait for deep-discount sales, drive our cars till they croak and cruise garage sales in spring, summer and fall.
Christmas gifts for the kids have been more modest in years past, but they’re teenagers now and will be able to use the laptop and camera for years to come.
After this spending spree, we’ll surely fall back into our more cautious approach to personal finance.
But it sure feels good to release pent-up demand for things we’ve wanted and needed for a long time. No, we didn’t hit the lottery. But we feel a sense of optimism that economic recovery is around the corner.
This outlook must be tempered because our shopping excursions revealed conflicting signs about the state of the economy in metro Detroit.
At Twelve Oaks mall in Novi, the Monday after Christmas brought sheer bedlam as shoppers stood in long lines to snatch up year-end bargains.
A cashier in one major retailer declared an end to the recession based on how much time she’s spent at the register. “We’ve been breaking our goals for two straight days,” she said while waving up another customer.
Likewise, a Royal Oak store was thrilled to give us 30% off our new bedroom furniture, while admitting that staying in business is a struggle.
Also after Christmas, my son and I visited Percussion World in Ferndale when we heard a rumor the doors were closing.
We arrived as Mike the owner, understandably bitter and near tears, was clearing out his showroom and expressing disappointment that drummers will have nowhere to go to fix their gear. “Maybe I’ll get a van and do house calls,” he said.
And in downtown Pontiac, an automotive-centric city hard hit well before the recession, vacant store fronts remain plentiful. Even a pawnshop has gone out of business.
I’ve been trying to spend my way out of the doldrums in recent weeks, and I have to say it’s been uplifting. If consumers start thinking similarly about vehicle purchases and release some of that pent-up demand, perhaps we can end this recession once and for all.
That’s not an invitation to spend foolishly. Spend what you can; save what you must.