Are You Still Shopping?

During the month of January, post-holiday sales and clearance advertisements have littered print, TV, radio and internet. Recent retail forecasts are projecting that consumers are continuing to spend into New Year. Many shoppers are rushing to the store to get these great deals before they dry up. However, the question remains, “How long can shoppers continue this trend?”

In a recent State of the Union address, President Obama said, “[N]ow that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in.” Our own government has been overspending and building a large deficit in an effort to try to combat the recent economic challenges. However, President Obama admitted that this spending is “not sustainable.” He’s put out a call for Americans to “out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” You’ll notice that the phrase, “out-spend” is missing from that line-up.

Let’s face it…the shopping that is occurring right now is not sustainable for most Americans. The unemployment rate is at 9.4% with only hospitality and healthcare showing any major lift in the job market. Home prices are still struggling amidst the foreclosure crisis. While Wall Street might be seeing some improvements, the average American is looking at higher prices for basic staples like groceries, gas, and other consumer products. Yes, 2011 should be better than the last few years, but we’re nowhere near a full recovery yet.

Now is not the time to throw caution to the wind and forget the lessons in frugality these recent troubles have taught us. Instead of using your extra money for shopping, put that money towards:

  • Out-Innovate – investing in Energy Star appliances and other green products that lessen our carbon footprint and reduce energy costs.
  • Out-Educate – put money aside for education, industry-related certifications or training in fields that have true workforce demand.
  • Out-Build – by constructing an emergency fund or retirement plan that will help you weather any future economic issues.

Also look at your credit cards and other outstanding loans, and put money into reducing your own personal deficit. At the end of the day, when you’re looking at that sale item, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Because there might be more important things you could be putting that money towards.

About the Author

The following post is from Kathryn Katz, a Certified Personal Finance Counselor who works for Consolidated Credit in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Their non-profit agency helps families through financial crisis using credit counseling, debt consolidation and financial education.