Last October, staff writer Art Pine visited six cities across the country and talked with people about the economy and how they were coping with the problelms it created for them.
Last month Pine revisited the same cities and interviewed many of the same people. The results of his trip are being outlined in a series which began on Aug. 3 and will end on Aug. 10. Today Pine continues his profiles of individuals and couples and the changes the recession has made in their lives since October.
Corky and Kathy Houchard concede they're visible better off financially this year than they were in 1979, but they can't help feeling more pinched.
Strictly by the numbers, the Houchards should have few complaints these days. Corky Houchard's salary -- he works as a cost analyst for a Dallas construction firm -- has risen to $24,000, from $20,000 in 1979.
And Houchard, now 29, estimates the two are probably putting away $100 a month or so" in savings toward pre-school tuition for their children -- a far cry from last autumn, when they were saving only sporadically.
"We've probably stayed a little ahead," Houchard told a visitor last month.
But the Houchards insist they're more apprehensive these days -- in part because of the recession and partly because overall living costs still are going up so fast.
"We're in a different situation now," says Kathy Houchard, 28. "I guess it's seeing how fast our money went in the last few months."
Also in their minds have been the layoffs in the homebuilding industry. Although Houchard himself wasn't directly affected, there were scattered layoffs in his company -- and that, he says is scary.
"I know around our place, a lot of the questions were, 'Am I going to be the next to be laid off?'" he says. "I hadn't seen that in the previous seven years that I've worked there."
The Houchards say they haven't had to rein in much on credit purchases --"We've never used them, except as a convenience," Corky Houchard says -- and really haven't had to give up much.
Their only big debts are their mortage and car payments. And their cutbacks have been marginal: Kathy Houchard gave up a bowling league slot requiring $5 a week. And they don't buy on impulse, despite Corky Houchard's recent raise.
Nevertheless, the Houchards are anxious that they may not be able to stick to an earlier plan to have Kathy Houchard stay at home -- a decision they both believe is important to raising their children properly.
"That's going to mean some sacrifice," Corky Houchard says. Adds his wife: "We'll always have to watch what we spend."