The latest local unemployment numbers are out, and as expected, the news is grim. But no one needs fancy statistics to know times are tough. There are enough other signs.
All over the tri-state area, it's impossible to overlook something unprecedented in recent times; people are making extraordinary efforts to save just a little bit of money.
We saw it last week when thousands of women lined up outside department stores in the frigid cold, just to get a piece of free makeup as a settlement to a class-action suit.
On Ebay, people are selling the gift cards they got for Christmas at a loss. But buyers are driving up the prices of these gift cards, so a $100 gift card for American Airlines, for example, is going for $96. It's a long way to go for a $4 savings.
On Route 4 in New Jersey, home of the famous "Gasoline Alley," eight gasoline stations line either side of the roadway. There's never any need to wait for gas. Still, there's usually a line of cars at whichever station has lowered its price by a few pennies.
Some commuters coming into the Port Authority, or Penn Station, or Grand Central, who would normally finish their commutes by hopping on the subway, are choosing to walk to work rather than swipe their Metrocards.
Even rich people are getting into the act; there was a crowd Monday at the Manolo 50 percent off sale. Carrie Bradshaw would be proud.
All this represents a major change in a culture in which convenience always meant more than money. How many times have you gone down to the corner store and paid $5 for a quart of orange juice rather than going to the supermarket where the prices are lower? In a metropolitan area where everyone is always in a rush, suddenly we're slowing down just a little bit.
There is one pleasant byproduct. The Los Angeles Times reports Americans are generating much less garbage. People are buying fewer items, so there's less packaging to throw out. We're eating out less too, so there's less leftover food. And there's less construction and renovation going on, so that means less debris to haul away. Less green in our pockets could mean more green for our planet.
Are you changing your routine to save some money? If you are, we’d like to know how. Email us at the web site.
In the meantime, good luck finding a parking spot at Costco or BJ's.
Michael Horowicz is a news manager at WNBC-TV.
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