How We Feel About the Economy
The Dollar Stretcher Blog
by Gary Foreman

Did you notice how quickly this year is going? Thinking back on these last few months, I believe that I've learned something. See if you can relate.

People are changing their lifestyles. Items that we would have bought without a second thought a year or two ago are skipped now. In a recent TDS poll, nearly 60% of those responding said that they were making changes that would be permanent even if the economy got better. Another 20% said that they were making spending changes, but expected to go back to their spendier ways later. That's 80% of the people who have changed spending levels.

Many of us are somewhat fearful and carrying more stress than we usually do. An economic downturn is a new experience for many. This isn't like the post 9/11 or Internet bubble burst.  Those recessions only affected a few peoples' incomes. The current recession is affecting an awful lot of people, so everyone feels at risk.

We still like to treat ourselves well. It might be a reaction to the stress, but regardless, we like to feel special occasionally. Guess that's only normal. Part of the human experience. Nothing wrong there!

One of our most popular features has been the "Little Luxuries" that we've been running with our readers' tips.  People really enjoy those inexpensive ways to feel good for a short time. I'm no doctor, but that's probably a healthy way to relieve a little stress.

A small but growing number of people are giving some serious thought to their lifestyle. Not just their finances, but to their entire lifestyle. It's not just about does my income cover my expenses. It's a deeper thing. Like am I happy with my life?

We're beginning to hear from some people who have lost their jobs. And, their response isn't to look for a similar paying job. Rather they're moving to the country and reducing their expenses to a fraction of what they were before. A radical change of lifestyle. And, it's not limited to those who have lost jobs. Others are taking the opportunity to look at their lives and decide if they're happy with the path they've chosen to take.

Still others have used this economy as a spur to start the part-time or home business that they've dreamed of. They need a little extra income and that was enough to encourage them to take the plunge. It's a tough time to start a business. But if they can keep their expenses low and survive now, they should thrive when things pick up.

Finally, we're finding some people who are finding that even a bad economy has a good side. They're probably related to those folks who are reviewing their lifestyle. This group had a great time last Christmas. Spending less actually meant that they spent more time with friends and family. Instead of buying an expensive gift, they spent the time finding something less expensive but more meaningful for the person receiving it.

My guess is that we'll see more of that this summer. Instead of spending $100 per person per day at a theme park, we'll take a picnic lunch to a local park and actually talk (and laugh) with the people we love. I can't wait to get the reports from those who take a different kind of summer vacation this year.

And, to be fair, we've heard many sad cases, too. People who have lost income and can't keep up with living expenses. We'll probably continue to hear more of those stories as the year unfolds.

So we head into an uncertain future. One that has the possibility to cause stress and to open up new opportunities. Let's close with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time." It seems to me that's true no matter how you look at the future!

Keep on Stretching those Dollars!

Gary Foreman is the editor of The Dollar
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