Recession Diet Just One Way to Tighten Belt

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Stung by rising gasoline and food prices, Americans are finding creative ways to cut costs on routine items like groceries and clothing, forcing retailers, restaurants and manufacturers to decode the tastes of a suddenly thrifty public.

Spending data and interviews around the country show that middle- and working-class consumers are starting to switch from name brands to cheaper alternatives, to eat in instead of dining out and to fly at unusual hours to shave dollars off airfares.

Though seemingly small, the daily trade-offs they are making — more pasta and less red meat, more video rentals and fewer movie tickets — amount to an important shift in consumer behavior.

In Ohio, Holly Levitsky is replacing the Lucky Charms cereal in her kitchen with Millville Marshmallows and Stars, a less expensive store brand. In New Hampshire, George Goulet is no longer booking hotel rooms at the Hilton, favoring the lower-cost Hampton Inn. And in Michigan, Jennifer Olden is buying Gain laundry detergent instead of the full-price Tide.

Behind the belt-tightening — and brand-swapping — is the collision of several economic forces that are pinching people’s budgets or, at least, leaving them in lit-tle mood to splurge.

Read the whole article.

Filed under: * Economics, PoliticsEconomy

6 Comments
Posted April 27, 2008 at 10:22 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. KevinBabb wrote:

This article comes as I am still stinging from the hemorrhage of April 15.  This text of this article represents the “substitution effect” of consumers switching from more desirable goods (economists consider more expensive goods to be, by postulate, more desirable than cheaper goods) to “inferior” goods (which, by the same postulate of economics, means all goods that are being used to substitute for more desirable goods). And although, thanks be to God, the current downturn is not hurting me and mine as much as it is hitting others, I can recognize such substitutions in my own household…apple juice instead of orange juice, walking/bicycling short trips rather than driving, etc.  But the one area of expense that I am not permitted to “substitute away” from is also the most expensive single item of my budget—the cost of government for which I must pay, or taxes. There is no option to pay for less govenment in order to evade the 16.0% self-employment tax, or the current bracket at which the last dollar of my income is subject to the income tax…other than by making less money, which has nothing to do with the amount of “government” I consume (unless my income becomes so low that I qualify for government transfer programs which, again, thanks be to God, I view as very unlikely).

Holmes said that taxes are the price we pay for living in civilized society. Is is possible for me to consume a little less civilized society during the current tax accounting period?  My income tax and FICA payments make a much bigger dent in my household budget than another ten cents for a gallon of milk or of gasoline.

April 27, 2:14 pm | [comment link]
2. DonGander wrote:

Taxes, yes, why doesn’t government ever have to tighten its belt? And I think the income tax an un-christian tax as it taxes (penalizes) helping others (work). Governments can tax purchasing if need be but to tax income is immoral.

As to the remainder of the belt-tightening; I am only now seeing a little bit lighter traffic volume in cities. As my clients pay for my fuel it makes no difference to me what it costs but I do feel for those who had a hard time getting to work before and now it is really got to be difficult. I still see very much discretionary travel in my family; shopping trips (several weekly), and just running around accomplishing little. Travel is still too cheap.

Don

April 27, 2:48 pm | [comment link]
3. Courageous Grace wrote:

We’re having to make a bunch of changes too, but not just because of the expense of living going up.  Hubby and I are trying to buy a house and are learning to make sacrifices.

No more going out to eat, although if we find ourselves far from home for hours we might go to Subway for their $5 footlong deal, or Taco Bell (always a cheap meal).  We’re shopping at Costco for bulk non-perishable foods and meat (we buy several pounds and then freeze it in dinner size portions).  Store brand cereal, canned veggies, frozen veggies, lunch meat.

We don’t compromise on dairy products, bread, or toilet paper (Charmin is my sensitive skin’s best friend….but we’re learning to use LESS toilet paper at a time) but lately my favorite Mrs. Baird’s bread is on sale at Walmart and I actually like the store brand whole milk.  Unfortunately cheese is a bit more expensive although we’ve stopped being lazy and are now buying block Tillamook cheese (Can you believe our Plano, TX Walmart carries that?) instead of pre-sliced or shredded.  Right now the baby formula is getting pricey but since I’m taking certain meds right now I can no longer breastfeed and have no choice.  I’m looking forward to when he can eat solids because I plan on investing in a food processor and making his food myself instead of buying baby food.

It makes life a bit more challenging and we don’t get everything we want, but we have managed to take about 25% off of our grocery bill, and can apply the savings to the home we are planning on buying.

April 28, 12:18 am | [comment link]
4. KevinBabb wrote:

Grace: Not to turn this website into “The Tightwad Gazette” or anything…but, as your shorty advances toward solid food, keep in mind that commercial baby food is unnecessary…our children always just ate mashed up/pureed versions of what we ate. I assume this is OK, since my wife is a pediatrician…and since our thirteen year old son is now 6’2 and 170 pounds.

April 28, 4:50 am | [comment link]
5. Harvey wrote:

Speaking of belt-tightening.  If we did this to a goodly number of our heavweight governmental representatives I wonder if they would be gasping for breat.  Nuff Said!!

April 30, 8:29 pm | [comment link]
6. Wyatt Q. wrote:

Score big points with your fellow fans by sharing your great food planning ideas during the big game. Share your food ideas with friends and family that is perfect for the game. If you want food for the Super Bowl Sunday, you can make a great spread and you don’t necessarily need to get a payday loan to do it.  Chips and salsa, along with chili and other dips, are perennial favorites for Super Bowl Sunday, and you can make a large batch of your own for cheap.  A few batches of dip won’t require a payday loan – as long as it’s not caviar.  Remember it doesn’t matter whether your team wins or loses. Check out this site for cheap food and recipes for your Super Bowl party that won’t require a payday loan.

January 31, 3:23 am | [comment link]
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