In Businessweek, economist Michael Mandel takes a look at what Americans are consuming less of lately. Of the $164 billion decrease in spending from January 2008 to January 2009, the No. 1 cutback category (a $114 billion decline, adjusted for inflation) is "user-operated transportation" (cars and trucks and their attendant oil and gas). But food spending checks in at No. 2, representing a $56 billion decline (again, adjusted for inflation).
But I also wonder whether the incessant public drumbeating about "fat Americans" and obesity is helping propel the decline in food consumption. The easiest way to save is to spend less on things you know you shouldn't be consuming anyhow, like too much food.
No. 3, clothing, is down only $18 billion.
Mandel's findings make sense to me. Cars are expensive, so even a small cutback in the total number of vehicles purchased could represent the large decline. And, at least for me, I buy clothes only when I really need them, so I don't have much room to cut there.
Food, however, is an everyday expense, one that you feel the pinch on each time you fill your cart. And since we do often eat more than we really need, it's an obvious place to save. Does this jibe with what's going on in your household? [via Sullivan]