Friday, July 5, 2013

An Interesting Observation

The government has - for months - been saying that Canadians have too much personal debt and that while we should not stop spending, we should cut back and keep our spending within affordable limits. I'm not sure that's possible if the percentage of the population identified is as over extended as indicated. They'd have to quit spending completely for quite a while just to catch up.

Perhaps that message has gotten through because an interesting observation I've made over the past week is that there's a shift happening in the economy. Last Saturday, when I went to Salmon Arm, the highways should have been busier, it should have been difficult to get a parking spot, the sidewalks and stores should have been more crowded, and there should have been a wait for a table at lunch. Instead, the town wasn't crowded at all. The same thing happened when I went to Vernon on Wednesday. Less people on the highway. Less people in the shops and those that were "shopping"  didn't have packages.

There are also houses for sale everywhere but few sold signs. One of my friends has a condo for sale and has had one viewer in three months. Another friend has a house for sale and has had no showings in the same time frame. In our complex, there are four units for sale (one for nine months so far) and in the complex just up the road, there are five units for sale. Normally units in either of these complexes would sell quickly.

Coincidentally, on the news last night, they were talking about housing prices and sales in Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary - Canada's three largest cities. In Vancouver prices went down and sales way up. In Toronto, it was the opposite and in Calgary both prices and sales were up. That's good news for my daughter's family as they have a house near Calgary to sell. For me, it's thoughtful information.

I've spent a lot of time praying about this possible new direction and won't make a change to hairstyling without due consideration. In some cases it feels like being between a rock and a hard place with no good choices - only the best of the worst. Howard and I started out this year with some pretty hard financial knocks and we're only just getting back on track plus with interest rates so low right now, we've been making progress on our top financial goal of paying off our mortgage so...

... I'm not keen to rock our financial boat in any way including spending a lot of money upgrading and then having to work for years to pay it off. That defeats one of the main points - earning income. I'm also not keen to deplete our retirement investments since we're too close to retirement for that and with the world economy and the predicted length of time it'll take to recover, we may not make a great return on our investments before we need them. Ditto savings. Ditto a loan. You see what I mean? Rock and hard place which to me means doing due diligence. 

Yesterday, I went over to talk to the hairstylist I did my apprenticeship with to see if there was any possibility of working for her again in an apprentice-like, refresher course, kind of way. She recently downsized the size of her shop and staff to half and she wasn't sure that she'd have enough work to keep me busy... which is why I went to the mall... where I hadn't been in seven months... because I wanted to see what it looked like.

Quiet. There were few shoppers and most of them were of retirement age. Five shops and two food outlets were boarded up. There were few families and fewer teenagers and almost no-one carried a package. Most of the shops were empty and the two hair salons had no clients sitting in either the chairs or the waiting area.  Driving across town, I noticed that two second hand clothing stores had closed - one ladies fashions and one children's wear.

This is not only an interesting observation - and possible answer to prayer - it is - as I told my boys last night - the warning sign of a possible trend and one to pay attention to. If you want to buy something, there could be some good deals coming up soon otherwise, manage your money. Don't over extend yourself. And think through purchases carefully... which leads me to...

... the advice my former employer gave me. She didn't think that I should go to Vancouver for a color course. She felt I could learn what I needed to know from an on-site workshop through a supplier using salon product and that a shop's product is best learned with on-the-job training because of the differences between products and that my background and color understanding would be enough.

Each course, including tuition, tools and supplies, and travel and accommodation, is $3,000 - $4,000 so it's definitely something to consider. I'll ask my hairstylist what his opinion is first and then decide. If I am going ahead with hairstyling, the cutting course is more crucial although - depending on what advice I get - I have until mid August to decide about it as well.

I'm meeting with my past employer again for coffee on Saturday morning and will see what she says about me getting back into hairstyling. What I loved about doing my apprenticeship in her salon was the weekly customers, the focus on basics, and the lack of politics. It'd be great to work for her again.

What interesting observations have you made lately?

Juliane wrote - Can you explain in more detail how the godets were constructed? I can't seem to wrap my head around it and it sounds like something I'd like to try too.

These are rough drawings but I hope they'll help. Above, imagine that you've cut a slit 6" long into the edge of your garment. The corresponding rectangle would be...

... 12" along the one side. The mid point would match to the top of the slit and 6" would be sewn to each side of the slit. The depth of the rectangle would fall in points from the end of the slit as you can see in the picture below.

Sewing the rectangle around the top of the slit is the tricky part. With this t-shirt, they rounded out the corner to whatever degree they needed to avoid puckers. It's quick and dirty sewing. With a shirt placket - which is why this reminded me of it - you'd make a Y cut at the top of the slit the depth of the seam allowance - clipping - too allow you to turn the corner. Hope that helps. Let me know if you have more questions.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - noticing things, paying attention


  1. I stopped at the outlet mall on the way home from a friend's Wednesday and was also surprised at the lack of cars in the parking area for the big 4th of July sales. Our weather has been stormy this week so that may explain some of it, but it still seemed disconcerting. More rain and flood warnings in our forecast through the weekend. So this morning I phoned a store to see if they had what I wanted in stock. 'No' so I won't be heading out and they will miss that sale and any other fancy thing that caught my eye while I was there.

    Lois K

    1. When I talked to the boys about this at dinner last night, my youngest son observed that sales at McDonald's were up over last year. He's a manager. I remember reading an article by Jamie Oliver in which he noted that when the economy was tough previously (YEARS ago) that people would stop going to high end restaurants and cook themselves but now they switch to fast food instead. That McDonalds is busier is intriguing as is...

      ... the fact that fabric and craft stores are slow because typically those activities tend to pick up when times are tough. Ours isn't busy. Perhaps it's a factor of the aging population but more and more people I know are making comments along the lines of I have far more than enough fabric or _________ (fill in the blank) and I don't need any more; I just need to use what I have.

      I'd forgotten too that the building supply center near me just announced they are closing - 55 jobs - due to lack of sales. This isn't the main source for contractors but it'd be a source for home renovations which is telling.

  2. Very interesting observations. Adding to what your son has noticed (and Jamie Oliver as well) is that a friend is a managing partner in a Ric's Grill restaurant (middle to high end steak house) and sales are definitely down there. But, a new Tutti Fruiti frozen yogurt place just opened in our town (my boy and I have a weakness) and it's always busy when we stop in and they are growing. Have you ever watched the documentary "Food Inc." American based - but what was the most horrifying (to me) was that lower income families were better able to buy fast food than fresh fruit and vegetables.
    Where I live there are lots of houses for sale and seem to be moving as I notice "sold" signs in my dogwalking. I also think it might be provincial as well. While the Alberta government is doing cutbacks - very noticeably to social services, healthcare and education; oil and gas prices are climbing up. So people have more money to spend. My husband is a manager at a car dealership and has noticed business climbing back up. However, with the flooding and reconstruction in southern Alberta, it's hard to say where the provincial economy is going to go. Gas prices are coming down as well....
    My husband and I are climbing ourselves out of debt as well, so need to be careful. Thankfully the day to day is good. Special treats need to be planned for, but we're alright and I can sleep at night.
    I think your plan is a good one (for making the decision about returning to hair-dressing). It's important to educate yourself and talk to experts/people working the industry before making such a big change.
    Thanks for the diagram for the rectangular godet. Once I get some of my "must dos" squared away this summer, I think I'd like to play around with a multi-fabric, knit top.

    1. Very interesting. Each of the provinces does operate differently and I'm sure the gas and oil increases in Alberta impacted the sales figures in Calgary being it's the hub but interesting that you're seeing the same trend in food. Maybe there are more of us doing the small treats thing.

      Good luck with debt reduction. I adapted my budgeting to an even better control system and love seeing the improvements. It's encouraging.

      I hate how I keep cycling through decision making and can't seem to settle. I'd say it's not typically me but I'm doing it so much lately that I'm starting to stop that and just hope it's not permanent. From one perspective, hair styling (working) makes complete sense and from another (financial) it doesn't and trying to balance all areas of concern can get so frustrating. There's no point going backwards but...

      Love to see what you're playing with. Please send pictures. Looks like I'll be in Calgary around the 17th - probably to the Sunday. I'll let you know.

  3. My hairdresser has been in business for at least 25 years (I've been his customer for 23) and is having a really tough time. He has weathered other recessions but this is the worst. He only has ONE weekly client and most other people are going 8 weeks between cuts/ colours instead of 6. He has cut his staff by about half: thank goodness my hair colour technologist is still there! My hair grows too fast for me to go longer than 5 weeks between cuts/ colours.
    We have your Central Bank Governor at the Bank of England now but the outlook is still for a long, long haul before there are good times again.
    Yes, pay down that debt because sometime soon interest rates will have to rise.

    1. The stylist I was talking to yesterday has worked in the industry for over forty years. I saw her appointment book when we were figuring out a coffee time and it didn't look like it did when I worked for her before.

      My stylist closed his shop and changed to renting a chair. He wanted to be done with the headaches of staff but also with the financial risk of carrying an entire salon. There are five stylists where he works now and they all rent the chair and have an established client base but no walk-ins. It's exactly the kind of environment I'd want to work in - friendly, non-competitive, no politics - but this kind of situation doesn't typically work for new stylists. It's too difficult to build a client list.

      Mark Carney did a fabulous job for Canada and I think if England can hang in there and get to the other side of a tough situation, they'll find he can do a great job there as well. It does start with our own personal choices and there definitely seems to be a trend away from excess. With everything that's happening in the world, that makes sense.

  4. This discussion made me think of a comment my late FIL said (who was not a "drinker"): Want to make money? Open a liquor store; people drink when they're happy and drink when they're depressed. He may have had a point!

    1. LOL - we have two pubs and five liquor outlets within easy driving distance, walking distance if you don't mind carry your bottle back up the hill.

  5. Hi Myrna! am on the run today catching up with housework, walking, decent sleep, etc. after this 1 1/2 week heatwave (over 100F every day) but had to stop in and say "Hello!!!" and how selfishly happy i am that you've taken to posting whenever you want to instead of just once a week ;)

    also it was a big treat to see Marcy's blog pix of you in your faboo duds! Woman, i gotta say you really bring garments to life. Have a great Friday All! steph

    1. LOL - better on the bod. Good to know. Thanks.

      Thanks also for checking in. I was wondering how you were doing.

      I'm enjoying the heat - finally. Over 100 is "normal" for here in the summer and it's a dry heat so more tolerable than humidity. We just haven't been getting "normal" like we used to. I've lived here practically forever and it's interesting to see the changes.

  6. Thanks so much for the diagrams and explanation of the godet construction. I get it now and this is something I definitely will try.

  7. Tricky decision - balancing investment in your future versus risking debt.

    I have found myself wondering whether household money, especially where the woman runs the household finances, which is spent on the interests/hobbies of the female side of a family is the first to be cut back.

    I join a bus trip twice a year to a craft show. Over the years the bus company has moved from running two full coaches, to a coach and a small coach, to one coach to, this year, one small coach. Now I know that more stuff is available on-line, but I suspect that many of the women now feel they cannot justify spending money on what was treated as a fun day out.

    This would link to Juliet's comments on women cutting back on hairdresser visits.

    1. It is tricky... and frustrating. For me, age is a factor as well. If I was just starting out, I'd look at it differently.

      Women have a tendency to put everyone but themselves first even in good times so I'd agree with you that in tough times women's interests are the first to go. VERY interesting how clearly you can see that with the bus trip. We can only hope it builds back the other way because we always need ways to re-energize. I wonder if a fun day out is taking a different (less expensive) shape. This summer, I have two friends coming for a week each. We'll sew in my studio instead of going somewhere with travel and accommodation costs.

    2. heehee....i very much agree that women as a whole tend to put themselves and their needs last in line.

      However - i recall hearing a number of news stories a few years ago pointing out an interesting fact about buying patterns and how they intersect with/provide insight into the state of the economy. Turns out the first item which experiences a drop in sales during hard times is - mens' underpants. Tend to be pretty slow in picking up again during happier times, as well.

      The thinking seems to be that women bear responsibility for replenishing these items for husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, etc. and the ladies figure no one sees them and the guys couldn't care less, so low priority purchase!

      I've no idea if this is true or not, but it sure makes me crack up! And it gives some hope that ladies don't put themselves entirely at the bottom of the barrel.....have a good one, steph

    3. LOL - wonder if men's socks are next. Too funny. We went out for lunch today to one of our favorite places - at 12:30 - and there were lots of empty tables and later in the day I went to Chapters (like Barnes & Noble) and there was parking and spaces in the Starbucks. Not normal. Church was full this morning. Definitely not normal in summer. Something is going on.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.