The Incredible Shrinking Paycheck

“It definitely made it easier,” agreed former employee Carrie Hausfield. “I know they valued our opinions. And I don’t think that there’s an easy way to do something like this. So they did the best they could.”

Cutting Back on the Baby Sitter

“Companies today are asking people to share in the pain,” said John Challenger of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. “They’re saying, ‘Our business is down, we don’t want to lose you, we want you to stay, but right now the only way to do that short of layoffs is to ask you to take a pay cut.’ ”

Added Challenger: “Asking employees to take pay cuts often depends on how much good will the company has in its bank. If the people trust the company they’re more likely to take the pay cuts with a fairly even temper because they know that company is struggling to try and make it work.”

In the case of 415, it offered a shorter workweek, with the requisite drop in pay, or a 5 percent pay cut. Management’s cut was double — 10 percent.

All this means personal budgets are taking a pay cut, too— no impulse purchases, no vacations.

For Dot Pang, who's been with Agilent for two years, there's 10 percent less salary going into her bank account. "I've been thinking of taking the bus to work to cut down on the cost of gas because that is, has skyrocketed, and that's one big area where I can save," she says.

For Xiques, it means fewer dates with his wife. “We have hired a baby sitter to come every week do we could go out on a date. We’ve scaled it back to twice a month. So we’ve halved the number of dates we go on,” he said.

But, he added, “A lot of people I know that are in this industry are looking for a job. So taking a pay cut doesn’t seem so bad when you compare it to unemployment.”

Andrew E. Serwer is editor at large for Fortune magazine, where he originated and writes for the "Street Life" column. He also has appeared on CNBC, CNNfn, Voice of America and PBS, and has published articles in TIME, Sports Illustrated and SLAM. For more, go to "Street Life" on Fortune.com.

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