My Experience in the “Underground Economy”
By Rogelio Montaño
I see it in both of my parents’ eyes. Exhaustion. Their long exasperated sighs when looking at bills that come in the mail don’t go unnoticed and I can’t help but feel utterly useless as a high school student. The financial burden that I’m sure many people in the Eastern Coachella Valley can relate to, is at times too much to bear; however, like other families in this region we try whatever we can to make ends meet. Strategies to save and earn money, as well as to be efficient with our financial decisions is a skill one must learn and become very adept at if you’re from a middle to lower class family, and especially during these times of economic struggles. My family is no exception. Our strategies to be as financially efficient as possible and to save a buck range from simply using less electrical appliances at home to buying used cars and selling them for profit.
For the last few months we’ve ventured into what could be called the underground economy. It’s a place where everything can seem shady and carries risks of its own and all as a means to avoid government scrutiny as well as to only be paid in cold, hard cash. Given the alternatives, many people decide it is better to go underground to make a quick buck and some even have full-fledged businesses. All of these factors lured my family into partaking in quick transactions that seemed to lead to a quick profit.
We soon learned that it isn’t as easy as it seemed to be, discovering just how much the economy has deteriorated for both buyers and sellers. Our first attempt was selling and buying used cars. Both of my parents would drive all the way to Anaheim to auctions where repossessed and used cars were sold, hoping in the midst of the beat up and worn down metal machines, to find one in which they could not only buy at a fair price, but sell at a reasonable profit. There were many occasions where they just came back home with nothing to show for their effort of making the long drive. We managed to make little profit on one car.
Feeling it was not worth the trial and error in the used car business, my father decided to go on a smaller scale instead and buy toys. It was the same process, in which he would go to auctions, however, the toys would come in bulk and most were used. We had our first garage sale and I guess you could say business was booming since it was around Christmas time and people were out hunting for potential gifts for their children, nieces, nephews, etc. The jovial mood disappeared once we found out that it would be nearly impossible to return the money spent.
Needless to say, we are currently just looking for our next possible financial venture in the underground economy, hoping success could be as simple as a garage sale away.