That kind of year…

In October 2008, in the depths of recession, we asked people in MPR’s Public Insight Network to take their economic pulse — tell us what the month ahead looked like, what spending they were putting off and just generally how things were going in their personal economies.

We caught up with some of those folks this month to see how things have changed. The recession’s had a profound effect in good ways and bad. Some paid down debt, bought homes and kept their fiscal balance. Others struggled. One lost her business.

Click on the map icons below to read stories of how things have gone for some Minnesotans and the things they sacrificed in the past year.

Click the little box on the upper right hand corner of the map to see it in full screen.

The odd thing is, Minnesota’s economy didn’t look all that horrible a year ago. Yes, the nation was in recession but I was surprised to look back and find state unemployment was “only” 6 percent.

Nancy Vyskocil, a Network source from Bemidji, said she was holding steady financially these days.

I don’t shop as much as I use to. I don’t go to stores as much and think about things more than it did in the past before I make a purchase. We have pulled back from buying a more expensive home and looked at streamlining our life and expenses some.

She also told us she runs a public charity and “struggled with not being able to give raises to employees who were doing a great job. We held the line on wages, including my own and other expenses of the organization. It was really hard during budget time and sometimes you just don’t want to be the boss. “

“Took a gamble to start again in a different country.”

That’s how Austin Miller summed up the past year. He’d been living in Minneapolis working as a financial analyst when he decided, “to quit my secure corporate job, move to Europe, and attend grad school, hoping to make a career change in the next few years. I went from having steady bi-weekly cash flows to forcing myself into a position that will ultimately require me to go into debt.”

Raya Newbold, a Network source from Pine River, told us she had to shut down down her organic clothing business.

For the first half of the year made it on selling off the assets, then by summer sales dried up and so did our cash flow. We maxed our credit out hoping the next sale was around the corner- it was but the merchandise was shipped, but never paid for.
In September we hunkered down and spent a grand total of $7.95 all month. My husband was able to find a job in Oct for a quarter of his normal wages… so at least we are making mortgage now. We are now on a cash basis only and that is just enough to pay house and utilities. It’s a good thing my mom helps us with clothing and food.

Despite the tough economic times, she’s says it’s been good in some ways for her and her family. “I don’t need to be a consumer to be happy,” she says. “With all the time I am not spending shopping I can make things/repair things instead. My boys are finally learning … how great life is when you spend it doing rather then buying.

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What’s your economic year been like? Post below and tell us what you’ve seen and experienced, or use this form.

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