As a recession looms, signs of a new frugality emerge. Say goodbye to long trips and lattes.
Until recently Shannon Palmer, like many Americans, spent money freely. She assembled a nice wardrobe, took four vacations a year, and ate out often. But now, as she listens to economists discuss the likelihood of a recession, she recognizes the need to get her own finances in order.
"I'm young and I feel mostly secure in my job, but I have a good deal of debt on my back," says Ms. Palmer, a publicist in Andover, Mass. As a step toward fiscal responsibility, she has begun a "very aggressive" plan to pay off student loans, a car loan, and credit-card bills. She has also started to save.
"This is a time for action when it comes to people taking responsibility for their personal finances," she says. "This is just the motivation I needed. It's forced me to look at things differently."
Looking at things differently is a theme running through conversations of Americans at all income levels these days as they review their spending habits. Nearly 2 out of 3 consumers intend to reduce indulgent spending in 2008, according to a new survey by HSBC Bank USA. Four out of 5 want to increase the amount they save.
Among those who do not dwell in that economic stratosphere, the new prudence is often a necessity, stemming from uncertainty about jobs, high fuel costs, heating bills, and the price of healthcare. For others, like Palmer, it is voluntary and represents, at least in part, a shifting of values. They regard an economic downturn as an opportunity to reassess their priorities.
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