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COMMENTARY | Reuters is reporting that consumer confidence in the United States is at its lowest point since March, 2009. While analysts felt the drop was unexpected, to the average American it's just business as usual.
After fighting for months to recover from our lowest financial point just last winter, we are looking ahead to rebuild our savings. This means we aren't putting ourselves into any unnecessary debt or splurging on fancy toys and gifts. We are pre-approved for an auto loan, and we do need a second vehicle. However, we are shopping for the best value on a used car that gets good gas mileage to make up for a recent job transition.
My boyfriend just started a new, higher-paying job but it did come with a cost. He now has a commute that is 30 miles more a day than his previous job. Because he is now working for a company that manufactures auto components, we are well aware that another major downturn in the economy could threaten that job.
As a household of two with no young children, we aren't hit by rising costs in clothing or the back to school rush. However, we still need to watch several aspects of our budget just like everyone else.
We find the most frustration at the grocery store. We rarely eat out at all and shun fast food. We avoid the convenience foods because we don't like the taste. Our largest expense is meat and we shop the sales to keep our freezer filled. But, as the price of meat has risen over the last several months we are also noticing a distinct drop in the quality of meat at our grocery store.
For our lifestyle, it's a better investment to save to buy a large freezer and side of locally-raised beef than to spend money on the latest gadgets. We did plant a garden and took advantage of local farmers markets to put some vegetables in the freezer for use this winter, but fresh vegetables are another high-dollar item in our food budget.
We haven't exchanged Christmas presents for several years and don't foresee a return to that once-expensive habit this year. The unstable economy gives me no confidence that it would be worth the money to keep up appearances at the holidays rather than keep it back for a medical emergency or to save up for a camping trip during warmer weather.
As I'm in my mid-40s and my boyfriend is close to 60, it's more important to us to plan for the future than indulge in some economy stimulating. As I look at my friends and neighbors, I don't see new cars or any other major purchases. In this little corner of the United States, it's no surprise consumer confidence continues to fall.
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