(Matt Paul and Ann Branen)
Ann Branen and Matt Paul were returning from downtown Nashua to their home in another part of town when I met them on the bike path near my house. Matt was carrying a bag with some leftover pizza from a lunch they’d grabbed on Main Street. They said one of the things they like about living in the city is that it’s easy to walk or ride their bikes to downtown, or to Mine Falls Park, the green space in the middle of the city.
Ann grew up in Nashua. She got married and raised her children in a smaller town nearby. When her marriage ended, she decided to move back to the city simply because she had the chance to get a nice apartment, and she found she was happy starting the next part of her life here.
“It was a great place,” she said.
Ann and Matt say they both feel lucky to be doing okay financially. Matt quit an old job a couple of years back, and he wondered at the time if it was a crazy decision to voluntarily leave a position at a time when so many people were being laid off. But, he said, he was sick of the company he worked for.
“I don’t follow the rules too well sometimes,” he said with a smile.
He managed to find a new job, selling lab supplies for a life sciences company, and he said it’s going well.
Ann’s gone through her own job transition too, though not voluntarily. In August, she got laid off from her job as a nurse at a local hospital. She found another nursing position, but it pays less.
Still, she said she’s happy to be working. The two of them have been trying to reduce their expenses and save more, but she said she sees it more as a choice than any kind of deprivation. She said her mindset is different than it was years ago when it seemed like everyone’s standard of living was sure to keep rising.
“Maybe I’m aware that it’s sort of an illusion of security,” she said.
Matt and Ann said they know they’re doing better than many people, but they also know their own situation could be precarious.
“We’ve got some savings, but you’ve got to challenge yourself to put more away,” Matt said. “We’re not living paycheck to paycheck, but we’re probably not far off.”
“I guess it’s like a Depression now,” he added. “It’s been so long since it’s been okay.”
One of the steps the couple has taken to save money is cancelling cable. Which, they said, is part of the reason they stopped for pizza—they miss being able to watch sports, and the restaurant happened to have the TV on.
“If we buy a pizza we can go watch the game,” Matt said.
But he said if they did that three times a month, it would add up to as much as they used to pay for cable.
The walk across town had turned out to be longer than Ann and Matt had thought at first, and by the time I ran into them they were getting tired. They had considered taking a city bus home, but they’re not too familiar with the system. They were also sort of disappointed by the bike path, particularly the section close to Main Street, which gets full of litter.
Still, they said, they like the idea of living in a walkable place and spending their money downtown.
“We see ourselves as wanting to be a part of that,” Matt said.