Remember dining out, blowing a bundle at the mall and turning the thermostat up to a decent temp?
Consumers tired of their Snuggies and home-cooked meals are starting to take baby steps out of frugal-living boundaries. Frugal fatigue has lead to a small increase in consumer splurges -- like eating a juicy steak, enjoying a non-matinee movie and buying a lusted-after purse.
While it's likely we'll never entirely toss frugal practices -- as was true of the Great Depression generation -- we're tired of fretting over every expense. The slight loosening of consumer pocketbooks may not provide total relief for businesses struggling to recover from the recession, but every little bit helps.
We want to treat ourselves but have learned more about reducing the financial impacts.
Here are nine signs you're experiencing frugal fatigue.
1. Dumping Boxed Wine
Boxed wine isn't all bad, but wine connoisseurs miss those fruity top notes and oak undertones. Sales of rare wines priced over $100 began rebounding in March. Another indicator is that higher-end restaurants have begun restocking $45 steaks and dumping chicken and hamburger entrees.
2. Shopping 'Til You're Fatigued
While "Shopping 'til you drop" isn't exactly vogue, a recent Gallup survey revealed shoppers are spending more on average per day on discretionary products, like clothing and gadgets. Over the last 14-day period, consumers spent an average $57 per month, a much more stable figure than the $15 to $20 declines of recent months.
3. Splurging on Toys
Replacing outdated printers has given way to more purchases of iPads, high-end digital cameras and 52-inch flat-panel TVs. The average selling price of TVs, for example, climbed to $697 in late 2009 from $515 in late 2008.
4. Dumping Supercuts
Consumers, primarily women, are tired of $25 haircuts and are occasionally treating themselves to salon visits, massages, facials and other pamper treatments. Perhaps it's time to toss our home hair-coloring kits and occasionally splurge on the full treatment.
5. Bagging Generics
Sales of status-branded pocketbooks like Gucci and Coach have jumped in recent months as customers become bored with generic names. Can it be possible Manolo Blahnik will no longer need to depend on Carrie Bradshaw to stay in business?
6. Flowering Out
Supermarket flowers and foliage from home gardens are giving way to an occasional hothouse bouquet, while brides are considering dumping silk bows for fancier flowers. After all, it's hard to downsize a dream you've cherished since Barbie married Ken.
7. Feathering Your Easter Bonnet
April sales reports showed the largest same-store sales gain for March in a decade; nearly 9-percent industrywide. Experts attribute the good news to an early Easter, warm weather and pent-up demand for clothing.
8. Trusting E*TRADE
Apparently the TV ad series featuring that witty baby are working. (Does that child have a name?) Online brokerage industry trades in February 2010 were up more than 5 percent over February 2009. The industry hasn't yet regained its previous 2007 high of 79, but overall customer satisfaction has increased. Either that or we have a touch more to invest.
9. Splurging Online
After last year's dip, online merchants are experiencing a sales rebound equaling pre-recession 2007 levels. Customer satisfaction with online retail also continues to outpace satisfaction with brick-and-mortar merchants. Could this be due to reductions in sales staff and customer service at traditional stores? Or have online prices and free-shipping deals simply made it easier and cheaper to buy online?
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