Cut, Color & Cappuccino: Americans Spending Again On Small Luxuries

New research from the National Retail Federation shows that Americans aren't just spending again, they're embracing many of the little luxuries they shunned during the worst of the recession—like trips to the salon and the occasional jaunt to Applebee's.

The survey focused on the shifting definition of what is essential for consumers and what is discretionary as the economy improves.

Currently, 42% consider hair cuts and color an "untouchable" expense, and say they wouldn't give it up—a major jump from 36.9% last year, and even up from 2008's 40%. A daily cup of gourmet coffee, which fell from 2008's 17% to 14.7% in 2009, is back up to 16.7%. And dinner out at a casual restaurant? Some 32% now say that's nonnegotiable, compared with 28.7% in 2009.

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