How county residents are dealing with the economy

EVERETT — Linda Banks used to look forward to her golden years.

In today’s economy, she’s not so sure.

Living on a fixed disability income of $652 per month, Banks, 63, wouldn’t be able to make ends meet without help from her boyfriend. She can’t afford to drive to Eastern Washington to visit her granddaughter. She rarely goes out to eat.

“At Christmastime, I get so depressed because I don’t have enough money to buy gifts for everyone,” said Banks, who found a cheap computer monitor at Value Village on Wednesday after her old monitor broke. “I hate Christmas anymore.”

Snohomish County residents are scrambling to save money as costs for goods and services continue to climb.

Fueled by soaring energy costs, consumer prices in June experienced their second largest monthly increase in 26 years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Food prices shot up by 0.7 percent, and vegetable prices jumped by 6.1 percent. Energy costs such as gasoline, home heating oil and natural gas climbed by 6.6 percent.

The gas prices have put a damper on Lourdes Cardenas’ summer.

Each year, the Cardenas family drives to California to go to Disneyland, spend time in Mexico and visit friends. However, gas prices have made the trip unaffordable. Instead of a vacation, the family spent some money on materials to work on landscaping their yard. “That’s all we can afford to do,” said Cardenas, 49. “Everything else is too expensive.”

The rising cost of living has already absorbed raises given to Cardenas, a nurse, and her husband, a Boeing engineer.

“It doesn’t match what the prices are,” she said. “I want to know what’s next.”

Despite rising food prices, Dave Green, 39, of Everett said he’s willing to pay more for fresh, organic produce. On Wednesday, he picked up some lettuce, plums, tomatoes, potatoes and a casaba melon at the Country Farms fruit and vegetable stand on Broadway in Everett.

His family is finding other ways to make up for rising consumer costs.

“We don’t go to the movies as much, but we play outside more, and we have really been utilizing the library more,” Green said.

Betty Good, 70, knows a thing or two about living in a poor economy.

Born during the tail end of the Great Depression, Good, who lives in Everett, grew up in a household without money. Now, six months since the death of her husband, she’s saving an estimated half a tank of gas each month by avoiding nonessential car trips.

Good already works weekends at a real estate office, and now she’s looking for another job to help pay her bills.

Several of her friends also need money, but they lack the physical health to get a job, Good said. They’re trimming their spending and selling off their cars and jewelry, but they can only tighten their belts so much.

“Our government has definitely let down the seniors of today,” Good said. “We thought we had enough money put away. We didn’t know things would get this bad.”

The high costs of goods in Washington has been a shock for Calvin MacKnight, 22, who recently moved back to Everett after living in Tennessee for eight years.

Washington’s minimum wage is higher, but food, gas and rent for far more expensive, MacKnight said. As if that weren’t bad enough, he’s having a hard time finding a new job. He estimates he’s sent out more than 30 applications.

MacKnight has cut back on cigarettes, chips and cookies, but he still plans on taking his girlfriend to the new Batman movie.

“You’ve got to entertain yourself somehow,” he said. “You’ve got to have a balance of work, love and play. You’ve got to fit the play in somehow.”

Will the economy improve anytime soon?

“That’s everyone’s question,” MacKnight said. “It’s got to pop eventually, and it’s either going to be really good or really bad.”

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or spesznecker@­

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