Thursday, April 30, 2009

A serious post about the economy, and what this blog is all about (and a request for your input)

You may have seen the April 27 edition of Time magazine and their cover story about "The New Frugality," which examines how dramatically the current recession (or is it a depression?) has affected all of us. They feature 15 people who've been affected in some way by the economic crisis in their "Thrift Nation" piece, and the stories are excruciating to read.

In short, a lot of us are in a lot of pain, financially and emotionally. And we're reacting by undergoing a collective sea-change in consumer habits. According to Time's poll, 48 percent of us think the economy has gotten worse, and a combined 50 percent of us think it'll be at least 1-2 years before things improve. Whether it's that gloomy outlook or just downright dire financial circumstances, we're all reacting to the current economic climate.

Because so many of us are now un- or under-employed--or fear we might be if the economy gets worse--our spending habits have changed dramatically. 63 percent of us have cut back on entertainment since the downturn, and that number jumps to 72 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds. And it's not just how much we're spending that's changed, it's what we're spending it on. An Associated Press story today details how we're all cutting back on luxury items, and switching from status labels and brand names to cheaper store brands. Also, the U.S. Commerce Department reported today that consumer spending is down for the third straight month, and income growth is down for the second straight month. We're all feeling the pain, and it's showing in big, measurable numbers.

The one tiny bright spot in this is that consumer saving habits are changing, too--more of us are trying to put away what little extra we have instead of further inflating our personal debt. It's far too early to tell if this trend will continue, but a Gallup poll earlier this week indicates that at least a third of us who are already cutting back on spending plan to continue our newly thrifty ways.

Hopefully, that means we're all in good company here at Budget Girl, so the budget-minded posts will continue with gusto.

As I was reading the Time story, however, and casting a sidelong glance at this blog, I wondered how glib all of the happy shopping posts might sound to those of us who are watching our spending with tight fists and knotted stomachs. To be clear: do I honestly expect that most of you are going to be blithely clicking your way to all of those deals I dutifully summarize for you throughout the week? Absolutely not.

What I do hope is that some of the tips and deal alerts come in handy for those of you with limited budgets who are trying to update your wardrobe for interviews, or look for ways to continue to take care of yourselves--haircare, skincare, etc.--while stopping at the drugstore more often instead of going to the cosmetics counters at the department store. Or perhaps I can just help those of you looking to have a little fun still be able to do so without spending next week's grocery fund.

For the record, I've been cutting back, too, so the recent downturn has put those budget skills I'm so proud of to the test in ways I never anticipated. And I'm surviving (knock wood), and hope you are, too.

For all the fashion-happy fun I try to have here, I do take the budget aspect of it very seriously. And that's where you come in. Your input is invaluable to me--input on what you're spending (and where and how), what you need, what your thoughts are on how our individual lifestyles are transforming during the economic downturn. I'd love to know how you're getting by, and hear any rants, confessions, suggestions, ideas--really, anything--any of your thoughts about this blog and about you. You can leave those thoughts in the comments section here, or if you're more comfortable with something less public, then please drop me an email at

I'm confident we can all get through this together, and our collective knowledge on how to survive is key to that survival. Don't be bashful--let's hear what you have to say.

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