Tight times in Macon: water at lunch and shrinking tips

You know the economy has gone South when folks around Macon are going to restaurants and not ordering sweet tea.

At least not as much.

"More people are drinking water," said Mary Heenan, a server at Luigi's Bistro.

Heenan, 25, has been waiting tables in Macon for more than five years.

Since spring, some weeks her paychecks have dropped by as much as $200.

"There's just a lot less diners," she said. "Some of our regulars aren't coming in as regular as they used to."

Heenan supports herself on $2.13 an hour plus the tips she earns.

She said rising gas prices and the economic slowdown has her looking for another job.

"It motivates you to try to find something more," Heenan said.

She recently graduated from Mercer University with a degree in finance. She hopes to find work as a financial planner.

"A lot of people might need financial planning," Heenan, only half kidding, said. "With the way stuff is they need to protect their assets more and save more. Everything's just gonna keep going higher: college for your kids, being able to make sure you have enough for the mortgage. I think people need to have somebody to sit down and show them how to save properly."

Heenan, who lives in Monroe County, has about a 35-mile roundtrip ride to work, so she is watching what she spends on gas.

"I'm trying not to drive nearly as much," she said.

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