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August 19th, 2009A post-recession prosperity plan

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by Kimberly Palmer

Americans have put themselves on a budget. In the first quarter of 2009, the personal savings rate hit to 5.2 percent. And in a recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling survey, 57 percent of Americans said they’re spending less than a year ago.

That moderation could outlast the recession, a good thing to most economists and consumer experts.

“The consumer has fundamentally changed,” says Margot Bogue, associate director of brand planning for the advertising firm Cramer-Krasselt.

To take advantage of that shift and thrive in a post-recession economy, consider making these 10 changes:

Rethink your lifestyle: Veronica Neilan, a 25-year-old Brooklynite who recently completed a master’s degree in forensic mental health counseling, is considering moving back to her mother’s house in New Hampshire while she looks for a job. She’s learned to ask for things such as pasta or gift certificates from relatives as presents. She rarely buys new clothes unless they are on sale or she can use a gift certificate, and when she needed a new TV, she found one being given away online.

Robbie Blinkoff, principal anthropologist at Context-Based Research Group, a consulting firm that recently conducted interviews with consumers, says lifestyle overhauls such as Neilan’s are easier for younger consumers. “It will last into the recovery,” he says, just as the Depression turned many people now in their 80s and 90s into lifelong savers.

Eliminate small things: After Deborah Pont, 41, of Stonington, Conn., was laid off from her job at a large financial services firm in January, she stopped going out to dinner, shopping, visiting expensive hair salons and getting her nails done. “Everybody else said, `Let’s not go out, let’s not spend too much money,’ so somebody would make dinner and we’d go to their house,” Pont says.

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