NPR logo Economic Gloom = Tensions on High

Economic Gloom = Tensions on High

Are you going on a staycation this year?

Are you going on a staycation this year? Source: ismh hide caption

toggle caption Source: ismh

Gas prices are so high, and the dollar's so weak, that many of us are forgoing our usual family summer vacations, and opting to stay home instead. I'm from LA, which is usually plagued by copious amounts of traffic — it's so slow on the 405 sometimes that you could play Jenga without the stack teetering at all.* But this past 4th of July, no one, and I mean literally no one, was on the freeway. It took me all of 40 minutes to get to Ventura Beach from my house. Normally, that would've been a 2 hour drive, easy, in holiday traffic. Not only that, but beach condos, which normally rent out by April or May for the summer, are still available, and cheaper than usual. Evidently, people are staying close to home.

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal published an article about "staycations" — vacations that people take at home. And some of them get really creative about it, too — from hitching camping tents in the living room, to rearranging the bedroom to look more like a hotel room (complete with a "Do Not Disturb" sign).

From time to time, we check in with Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated column "Ask Amy" for The Chicago Tribune. Recently, she's been getting a lot of mail from people who say the current economic situation is putting a strain on their relationships, and creating tension among family members. And now that people are taking vacations at home, who knows how high those tensions will rise.

What are you and your family doing differently as a result of the economy? Are the tensions rising? And if you have any questions for Amy, leave them here.

* Do not try this at home.



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A good alternative for people who may have SOME money for a vacation, but not enough to leave town, would be to stay at a local hotel: you get room service, swimming pool and maybe even some discounts to area attractions. You save on gas/plane money while still getting away from the house.

Sent by Maria | 3:54 PM | 7-17-2008

Parents are setting up tents in the living room? Give me a break. This has to be an urban myth. If these parents can't afford the gas to drive 50 miles to the nearest state park and set up a tent, than they must be whining simply for the purpose of getting in the news. Who says you have to drive 15 hours and spend thousands of dollars to have a quality vacation?

Sent by Jeff Haslam | 3:56 PM | 7-17-2008

There is a wonderful children's book called "Moe the Dog in Tropical Paradise" by Diane Stanley. It should be in most children's libraries. Moe did not have money for a vacation, so he created one at home for himself and his friend Arlene. It is a wonderful story and would help many children who are experiencing some difficulties this summer when vacations get postponed or canceled.

Sent by Marlene Ware, Librarian | 4:01 PM | 7-17-2008

get postcards? decorate a room? Give us a break. The Riverwalk is hot and muggy and everything costs a fortune. Sea World, what a total waste. Drive to the closest state park and jump in a river. Get a year pass to the State Parks for $50.

Sent by georgepwebster | 11:26 PM | 7-17-2008

Of course it's creating tensions. Like most idiot americans, they're living beyond their means and in debt because they don't know how to properly use a credit card.

And wait till winter when the fun begins. Don't have a wood stove? You'll love it when the power goes out because the economy collapses, and your overpriced toothpick built home leaks live the exxon valdez.

Sent by John | 1:49 PM | 7-18-2008

As a financial advisor, I have seen the results of America's piss poor money management skills. We live in a country where even our poor are morbidly obese and feel that sitting for an expensive tattoo is more important than going to search for a job. This was evidenced by the brilliant story Ms. Dickinson did on the Nunez family of Ohio. That story made me regret even more that I pay taxes and thus directly support the sloth and laziness of countless other Nunez's. I thought this story was more a satire much like what one would read on the "Onion." Even now I hope it still is because any goodwill or attention that Ms. Dickinson had hoped to create through her story has unfortunately gone out the window. I find that this complaining and wining that people do about the current state of the economy is nothing more than their attempt to shed personal responsiblity for the dilemma that they are in. Furthermore, when their "plight" is highlighted by stories such as this, they feel justified in tossing aside that which makes this country great: the right to be responsible for your own future. Sadly, the liberal establishment continues to push the "no personal responsibility" agenda that people such as the Nunez's are guilty of championing. I ask that Ms. Dickinson begin focusing on that which truly debilitates our great country and is the cancer in an otherwise healthy economy: why a 40 year old woman is on social security disability for being depressed about a car accident 17 years ago. Thank you, and God help us all.

Sent by Jon Blair | 2:27 AM | 7-23-2008

I am self employed, over 50, female and single. I would say I am living paycheck to paycheck, but that is not even an issue. I pay in more money to the government because I am self-employed and only got $300 for that economic stimulus...which went back to my estimated taxes. My self-employed health insurance as a single proprietor increased 20% this year.... and about that LAST year.
I wanted to comment, as a person whose means are below limited and eeking (as they say) out my living, on the Nunez story.
I lost 35 pounds last year because I felt I had to INVEST in better food by spending more money on health because I was sure I could not afford the health care.
SIMPLY, I had used food as a drug. I don't drink alcohol, my job is very sedentary and Burger King has a special at least once a I might get fries. Sonic has tater tots in its breakfast burrito, KFC has $1 meals. It was cheap. And I could sit in my car on the way to appointments and not even notice I was eating.
There are even cheaper foods. Friends gave me Starbucks cards as Christmas gifts and I would get the sweet drinks with extra whip.
In my neighborhood, still near my city downtown, the housing boom pushed the residences for the workers outward a few blocks and forced more people into each room. One block over from me, nobody speaks English without a thick accent, if at all. They are meek and respectful, walk past my window to the bus in uniforms... but there are kids and noisy parties and my friends are a bit afraid for me.
These neighborhoods are NOT conducive to recreational jogging.... and oddly, we don't have gyms in the buildings.
Basically, I am saying that the abhorrent lack of nutritional content in affordable food, the convenience built in to the purchase and lack of safe outlets for physical exercise are easily criticized from comfortable homes.
Many of my older friends are living in somewhat upscale group living conditions where the lack of mental stimulation and opportunities for physical activity are stacking up the pounds. One recently said the average weight gain in the first year was 18 pounds.
The days of "work" are over. The creation of "wealth" has been the main concern of a whole society for too long and I have noticed a lack of people who sweat.
Sweat used to be the symptom of the first steps on the path to achieving the American Dream. There is no nobility in the labor that is done on ones feet or hands and knees. The very people who are able to balance the "cubicle potato" life style with healthy exercise have to budget the cost of a gym membership. I recall a day when I saw a child playing alone on a suburban lawn and was struck with fear! The world outside our safe and secure doors is not welcoming. Fear is around every corner. Children can't play in nature anymore.... so who is it that judges a family, in these scary circumstances, with HD tv forcing sensational stories that BLEED-SO-THEY-LEAD into their daily experience for NOT wanting to take a walk around the block every morning to the ridicule of people who call it sloth and laziness?

Sent by Debra Jones | 2:07 PM | 7-23-2008

Could NPR have picked a more inspiring example than the Nunez family? I though it was a hoax.

Sent by KAM | 5:15 PM | 7-24-2008