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Forever Frugal: American Consumers Have Changed Their Ways

Daily Ticker

The Great Recession is officially over, but the good old days of conspicuous consumption -- maxing out credit cards and buying homes with no money down or proof of income -- are long gone. In fact, it seems that if there's any good to come of all the pain and suffering over these last few years, it is that Americans are now actually learning to live within their means.

The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task and Henry Blodget discuss in the accompanying clip, with unemployment above 9% and the economy in stall speed, consumers have learned their lesson. Frugality appears to be a lasting trend.

As highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, more consumers are buying generic brands and making their purchases at big box stores.

Here are more facts on these consumer trends based on two recent surveys:

  • 75% of consumers shop with lists, compared with 45% in 2008.
  • 20% of grocery sales are private brands, up 15% prior to the recession
  • 44% of Americans are shopping more at bulk stores
  • 72% of consumers say the economy still has a way to go to reach bottom

Also highlighted in the WSJ story, diaper sales fell 1% last month versus a year ago. Meanwhile diaper rash ointment sales are rising. This is clearly a sign that Americans are spending less not because they want to, but simply because they have to.

Unfortunately, if recent guest Lakshman Acuthan's recession prediction is correct, money will become more sparse in households. (See: It's Going to Get a Lot Worse": ECRI's Achuthan Says New Recession Unavoidable)

The part of the equation that is so troubling, is that while a record number of Americans are living in poverty and on food stamps, the high-end luxury market remains strong highlighting the growing gap between the have and have-nots.