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Look on the bright side of slide

I could write about the 223-point drop in Monday's Dow, the money woes of the Lazydays RV business in Seffner, Citigroup's plan to trim 53,000 jobs and the clueless direction of the federal government's bailout gurus these days.

But I won't.

Instead, here are five positive things going on amid our business blues. Granted, some are mere slivers of silver linings. But they are real. And something to hold on to as the days ahead get tougher.

No. 1: Cheaper gas. Sure, it's a duh to mention lower prices, but let's stop and take a closer look. Tampa Bay's average gas price for a gallon of regular is under $2.06. Barring unforeseen calamity, we are heading below $2 a gallon in the near future.

Last month we were $1 a gallon more expensive than we are now. For you commuters, think of the raise you've gotten since October. If you commute 25 miles each work day and average 20 miles per gallon, you just got a $25 monthly pay hike (tax free).

And since prices peaked in July at just over $4, you're now saving $49 a month commuting. Congratulations.

No. 2: Selling affordable houses. Florida's existing home sales rose 24 percent in September, the first increase in almost three years. In the Tampa Bay area, September home sales rose 29 percent.

I know what you're thinking. Trigaux, you twit, home sales are rising because home prices are still plummeting. But think of it this way. For a good while, home sales dove right along with home prices. So if home sales continue to increase, home price declines will surely slow and soon find an affordable bottom. (If only the stock market would do the same.) Cross your fingers.

Statewide, Florida's median sales price for existing homes last month was $175,100, down 22 percent from $224,700 a year ago. In the Tampa Bay area, the median sales price of a single-family home in September dropped to $160,500. That's the lowest price recorded here since May 2004. But let's get real. At least it isn't May 1994.

No. 3: Eating better. If restaurant sales are suffering, that must mean we're eating more meals at home. Odds are, you're eating healthier (and certainly cheaper) as a result, and maybe dusting off some long-dormant cooking skills. Keep it up and we all might even shed a few pounds in the process and get reacquainted with the family.

No. 4: Hoarding pennies. A new Gallup Poll says a majority of Americans (55 percent) are cutting back on household spending as a result of recent problems in the stock markets and the economy, with 30- to 49-year-olds and families with children among those feeling the pinch most strongly. But look at it this way. If you've cut back more than you are spending, you are saving! Try to make a habit of it. (You'll need it.)

No. 5: Rising unemployment and job insecurity coupled with dwindling 401(k) accounts are motivating people to go back to school to sharpen work skills, upgrade educational degrees and think anew about career choices. Even as Florida leads the nation in job losses, the area's graduate schools are seeing a jump in graduate school applications — including USF's College of Business.

I feel thinner, richer and smarter already.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

Look on the bright side of slide 11/17/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 2:17pm]

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