On the bright side

The Baltimore Sun

Tough financial times can have lasting, and sometimes unexpected, impacts on the way people view their budgets, their community and the environment.

"You should see my used car lot," said Tom Powell, sales manager at Jerry's Toyota on Belair Road northeast of Baltimore City. "People are trading in full-sized sedans, vans and SUVs and leaving in compacts and hybrids."

He said $3 gas is behind the run. But not only will drivers save at the pump, everyone gets to breathe cleaner air, he said.

Jawauna Greene, a Maryland Transit Administration spokeswoman, said people realized they could get a monthly bus pass for the price of a tank of gas. And that has motivated more people to take the bus and train.

But, she said, what's good for people is good for the clogged roads and the planet.

New bike racks on buses may prompt more riding, and in turn, slim waistlines. And this may be a stretch, but that could result in fewer trips to the doctor.

Gaithersburg financial planner Christopher Brown said the short-term downturn provides some long-term opportunities.

Good-credit homeowners with cheap adjustable-rate mortgages can switch to affordable fixed-rate plans that cost a little up front, but bring no big spike in payments.

Those who forgo a new TV or other purchase can invest their coming tax-rebate checks, or pay down debt and improve their prospects for retirement.

And others who give up on a European vacation while the dollar is slumping can discover new places to visit near home.

meredith.cohn@baltsun.com

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