Getting Snug Around The Upper Middle?

Every week, it costs a little more to gas up my Honda, and a little bit more to buy the same-old, same-old wagon full of groceries. Just about every month, it seems, our house is worth a little bit less. And in the event that we wanted to borrow money--against the shrinking-in-value house, on a credit card or even from a kind-hearted relation--I'm told it would be tougher than a year ago. And there are more and more headlines about downward woe, stories of paycheck-to-paycheck middle-class families sliding into poverty because of the slowing economy.

The funny thing is, my husband and I were saying the other day, we seem to be trapped in a bubble of economic delusion. We're certainly not rich. But the checking account is generally well-upholstered enough so that no teenager goes unshod, no dog unfed, and no consumer electronics urge denied.

Turns out we're not alone in our "times are hard--for other people" attitude. In an interview about the 35 million affluent households, luxury-spending expert Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, made the same observation: Upper-middle-class shoppers are feeling the same economic squeeze as the rest of the country--we just haven't noticed yet. Costs are rising faster than salaries, which means we're all drawing more from that rubbery and mysterious slice of the family budget called "disposable income."



"There are three drivers in my house," Danziger says, "and we're now spending $900 a month on gas. We're not conscious of it. But that money has to come from somewhere."

Some cutbacks are easy to see: We recently begged off two family trips we felt might be too pricey, and even though plans had called for repainting the house, we're thinking we can stand it for another year.

Let's hear from you. Where are you cutting back? What dropped out of your plans this year? Anonymity welcome!

Next story loading loading..