Kathleen Oller works for a Fortune 500 insurance company, makes more than $70,000 a year and owns her own home. ¶ But just because she appears to be financially stable doesn't mean she has escaped the strain of the tough economic times. ¶ Last year Oller began looking for ways to trim her budget. ¶ "It was a few things here and there, like my cable service," said Oller, 46, who is single. "But this year in particular I started identifying additional ways I could save money." ¶ As the economy continues its downward spiral, consumers like Oller are scrutinizing their spending. And products and services they once couldn't live without don't seem so essential anymore. ¶ For Oller that means giving up her membership to the Sierra Club and canceling her magazine subscriptions. ¶ She's not alone.
Ways we are cutting costs
The cup doesn't runneth over. While charities reported record fundraising in 2007, they aren't hopeful about 2008. "Any time there is an economic hard time, nonprofits can find it difficult," said Father Bob Schneider of Espiritu Santo Catholic Church in Safety Harbor. "Our regular contributions have been steady so far, but it's something we're certainly monitoring."
Leftovers anyone? People are forsaking restaurants for cheaper home-cooked fare. Publix Super Markets reported sales of $5.9-billion last quarter, a 6.1 percent increase over last year. "We have definitely seen people really looking for Publix private label products and being happy with that," said spokeswoman Shannon Patten. "People are looking for values."
Living with dark roots for a little longer. Clients aren't totally forsaking beauty regimens, but they are waiting longer or being more selective about the services they get, according to the nonprofit trade group Professional Beauty Association. "I now color my own hair, pluck my own eyebrows, and do my own nails," says Oller.
Taking advantage of free. People are entertaining themselves at home, with board games or movie rentals instead of a night on the town. People also are turning to libraries for books and movies. For instance, more than 101,000 items have been checked out of St. Petersburg libraries so far this month, compared with 83,617 items checked out last month. "It typically happens in an economic downturn," said library director Mary Gaines. "People turn to libraries. It's good news for us."
If the price isn't slashed, don't expect our cash. Dollar stores, wholesalers and discount online shopping stocks have peaked while higher end department stores have slumped. Nordstrom's stock fell 4 percent in December, while stock for discount designer apparel mecca T.J. Maxx rose. Another hot spot: thrift stores. "I find new clothes there that still have the original price on them," said Susan Muench-Arnove, 58, an employee at Bayfront Medical Center. "Like my husband says, 'I am a bargain hunter!' "
Ways we are cutting costs continued from 1A