I was interested today to see that Starbucks has decided to discontinue its hot breakfast sandwiches, in an effort to remediate flagging sales.
This action on the part of Big Cuppa Joe brought to mind the floundering economy. Traffic at U.S. Starbucks fell three percent over the past year, a trend that evidently reflects reduced consumer spending across the board. Retail sales, as we’ve probably all heard by now, came to a screeching halt in December.
So that got me to thinking…until recently, we were all freaked out about spending three bucks for a gallon of gas, but we thought little about spending three bucks for a cup of coffee. Or $1.50 for a pint of water. For water!
In my grandmother’s era—heck, in my mother’s era—such mindless consumption would have been unthinkable. My mother grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. She told tales of catching chickens for the family dinner, canning vegetables, quilting blankets—not for the joy of craft, but for warmth—and peeling the aluminum backs off gum wrappers for the war effort. It was an era of can-do frugality.
Fast forward to the government’s response to the sub prime mortgage mess. Our leaders say they’re giving us a six hundred dollar tax rebate, but they’re not hoping that we’ll save it for our children’s’ college, or pay off debt. They’re hoping that we’ll spend it.
On what? On more coffee, sweaters knit in China, and plasma TVs? Or maybe they’re hoping that we’ll generate another boom, and buy more houses that most people can’t afford. Our whole economic system is evidently a house of cards that rests on the buying habits of spoiled, over-consuming spendthrifts.
I think the whole thing is crazy. And to chip in to the sense that spendin' times, they're a changing, I've taken some action to cut back on my personal consumption (and carbon footprint):
- I’m telecommuting to work, saving tons of gas.
- I’m no longer ordering my morning breakfast burrito, at $3.95 per morning (I gave up Starbucks long ago).
- I get my hair done every four weeks, instead of every three.
- I have a manicure once a month, instead of once a week.
- I canceled the newspaper and several magazines, reading almost everything online now
These are all tiny, baby steps, I know. But multiply one person’s effort by two hundred million, and you’re talking real money.
It might just be enough to get the attention of corporate
We’re mad as hell, and we’re not taking it anymore.
Least of all from ourselves.
How about you? Are you cutting back in any way in light of the recent economic downturn? Any habits changing?