Oy vey, the economy. Are you guys feeling the crunch too? The slow creep of inflation has totally affected my buying habits.
For instance, last summer, I got a pedicure every other week, but so far, I've had exactly two since January '08. And I used to go to Target practically every Saturday, ending up buying extra things that I absolutely didn't need, but now I'm avoiding it until I'm totally out of crucials like laundry soap, girly products and allergy meds. And forget about buying a new It Bag, I'm reusing every one of last year's purse lineup.
We're making a concerted effort to make more meals at home rather than eating at restaurants. The industry is finding that I'm not the only one: stocks in non-essentials like Starbucks and higher-end casual restaurants are tanking while fast-food chains are taking a nice upturn in sales. Hey, it doesn't matter which bank is folding, people still have to eat! So if the average TGI Fridays diner is now taking the fam to McDonald's, where does the former McDonald's regular turn when the wallet gets light? The obvious answer is: their own kitchen.
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While I'd like to believe this is a move to a better, healthier lifestyle choice, the simple reality is that the sales of prepackaged meals are shooting upward, with General Mills reporting giant sales growth for Betty Crocker mixes and its convenience nutrition bars like Fibre One. It makes sense, though: if you resorted to fast food because of the convenience factor, you're not suddenly going to be inspired to spend an hour cooking every night.
Of course, a lot of this growth might be caused by the fact that consumers say that they're going to start using more coupons, and the most coupons are coming from the big guys like Kraft, General Mills, Hormel and Procter & Gamble. While coupons can give you the sense of saving money, in reality, if you're buying something you wouldn't have bought without a coupon, then you're not really saving anything. Also, lots of times the store brand still costs less than the big name product even after you subtract the coupon. Think of it as "cheapwashing."
What about you guys? Has the cost of living affected your spending habits? Did you cut back on personal trainer sessions? Are you eating out less? Have you started clipping coupons or investigating in eating meatless meals once or twice a week to save cash? What are your secrets to beat the high cost of living these days?
[photo credit: Getty Images]
Related: 12 ways to save money on your grocery bill without resorting to eating spam
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