Consumers Trim Debt with Cheap Thrills

Americans cut back on credit card spending by a record 9.7% last month, according to the Fed’s G.19 report released on Tuesday. Our spending habits are changing; Many of us are reacting to the economy by going into save-mode, or at least not-spend-so-much-mode.

But that doesn’t mean we’re not still having fun. We’re just remembering that having fun doesn’t always mean spending a lot of money. We’re getting back to basics.

U.S. News and World Report’s latest list confirms this trend. Their Top 10 Winners in the Recession includes companies or industries that are actually growing in the economic downturn. Most of them offer cheap, tried-and-true diversions that fit into the reformed budgets of American consumers.

Like the Root family, who said no to more debt and yes to enjoying the simpler pleasures in life, these recession-proof companies offer easy, inexpensive ways to release stress and spend more time with family.


Motion pictures provided inexpensive entertainment for our grandparents in the 1930s and 40s, and continue to do so for us today. While a movie ticket will now run you about $10, that’s still a pretty good deal to be entertained for a couple of hours (much more bang for your buck than, say, going to an expensive sporting event or live performance). So far, 2009 box office records show a 16.5% increase over 2008.

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Unlike grandma and grandpa, we now have the option to watch movies at home (sans crying babies and ringing cell phones), on theater-like entertainment equipment we charged to our credit cards back in 2007. Netflix subscriptions grew by 26% in the last quarter of 2008.


Back before the Wii, before computers, even before television, there were books. And people are now cracking these fancy paper-and-glue contraptions open again to enjoy romance, science-fiction, and fantasy stories. A cheap paperback can entertain you for less than $1/hour, just make sure no one at work catches you reading Naked Attraction.


We Americans love going out to eat, but taking the kids to a sit-down meal at the Cheesecake Factory just isn’t affordable. McDonald’s, however, provides just as many calories for pennies on the dollar and most locations offer the added benefit of a kiddy play area. The fast food chain’s sales were up 6.8% in February.

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