I can't decide whether to feel prescient, vindicated, or just terribly sad that much of the anecdotal evidence of financial stress within families that this blog has been tracking for more than a year now, has been confirmed by The Washington Post.
The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll out this week shows Americans have experienced a significant rise in economic distress since last September, causing nearly 6 in 10 polled to say they feel "stressed" about their economic situations, and a quarter reporting feeling "serious" anxiety about their family's financial footing.
And while this comes as NO surprise for those of us who live out here in the "real world," what is shocking is how long many of us fear the financial ugliness will last. "Seventy percent of Americans anticipate a downturn lasting well into 2010 or longer; more than a third see it lasting two or more years," The WaPost reports. Proof, it says, that Americans are feeling much more doom-ier and gloom-ier this recession, than they have during previous downturns.
And, as if disastrous retail sales figures weren't enough of an economic indicator, two-thirds of those polled say they've reduced spending, while nearly a third say they've cut spending dramatically.
My prescience comes not in these dismal and depressing poll figures, but rather in exactly what consumers have been cutting spending on: hair maintenance, beauty maintenance, body maintenance, home maintenance, and car maintenance among other things. That's a lot of deferred maintenance, as I've outlined in numerous posts here on Wise Ideas.
Instead, as The WaPost reports, consumers have started "insourcing," a term marketers and businesses have coined meaning "doing yourself what you once gladly paid others to do." For instances, sales of sewing machines and notions have gone up 30 percent at Wal-Mart. Landscapers nationwide are reporting a 7 percent drop in business. And Procter & Gamble reports a renewed interest in do-it-yourself (DIY) hair coloring kits.
Target's ad agency, Peterson Milla Hooks, which noticed the DIY trend during last summer's gas price nightmare, targeted (pun? yes) its commercials toward these new thrift conscious customers. As The WaPost reports, "PMH created a series of ads dubbed New Day for Target that depicted an $11.88 yoga ball as 'the new gym,' a $29.99 espresso maker as 'the new coffee spot' and $1.97 glass cleaner as 'the new car wash.'"
But a clever ad campaign can no longer be counted on to coax money out of the consumer's wallet. Target reported a 40 percent drop in its 4th quarter profits, after cutting prices over the holidays and setting aside more money for unpaid credit-card balances.
21st Century Home Economics have us all getting back to basics: doing our own gardening, cleaning our own shower scum, and washing our own cars and windows. Weekends at home never seemed more....more....busy. I'm just glad my kids are old enough to pitch in. I just hope they don't expect to be paid!