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TheStreet Open House

Here Are Our Weirdest Economic Indicators

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Tax season has come and gone, but it's still a good introduction to a FinancesOnline infographic on our "weird" money habits and how Wall Street and economists track the economy through them. It shows some of our more oddball attitudes on money and lifestyle.

For instance, we believe taxes are difficult, but not as difficult as other lifetime hurdles. According to FinancesOnline, a consumer money management website, 52% of Americans says it's easier to complete their taxes than to eat healthy.

That's not the half of it.

For instance, it turns out lipstick sales and hemline lengths are eerily accurate in tracking the relative health of the economy.

Also, according to the infographic, consumers spend $7.5 billion every year buying greeting cards "just because." But we're not so attentive and diligent when it comes to the gift cards that let us buy stuff. From 2005 through 2011, Financesonline.com says, Americans squandered $41 billion gift cards they got but never used.

Weird, right?

Here are some other corkers:

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency assesses the severity of major storms by monitoring the local Waffle House, using a traffic light formula. If a local Waffle House is open after a storm and serving a full menu, the storm gets a green light from FEMA. If the restaurant is open but serving a limited menu, that's a yellow light. If the Waffle House is closed, the storm earns a red light, meaning FEMA presumably has a disaster area on its hands.
  • Higher lipstick sales, more robust sales of "cheap spirits" and lower underwear sales point to a sliding economy.
  • Stronger cemetery plot sales, higher sales of cardboard boxes and more robust champagne sales indicate a growing economy.
  • Americans are increasingly living alone. In 2012, 27% of all U.S. adults lived by themselves, up from 17% in 1970.
  • But we're not sleeping alone, since 44% of cellphone owners sleep with their phones and 58% of us sleep with a cat or dog.

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