Americans are digging deep to save money

It's not that Akins, whose ex-husband is disabled, isn't working or earning money. In fact, she has three jobs: a full-time day job as an administrative assistant for a government contracting firm, a part-time night and weekend job as a security guard at a department store, and another part-time job selling cosmetics for Avon.

Still, with costs including her rent rising faster than her multiple incomes, Akins is considering moving to a somewhat less expensive apartment that's still close enough to family so she has help with child care.

She's also looking for a better paying full-time job but worries that in this economy it will take months to find one.

But she knows she has to look, because she doesn't want to "kill myself working two jobs because I fell asleep at the wheel."

Buying fewer luxuries

Of "luxury shoppers" with average incomes of $210,700 a year who were surveyed, half said they are spending less on luxury items now than a year ago, according to Unity Marketing.

Back when the economy was doing better, Suzanne Ferreri of Youngstown, Ohio, would put her extra income toward luxury items.

Why not? She's single and could afford it. Ferreri says she "used to always treat myself to one luxury item per season, like a designer handbag. Now, that's completely gone out the window."

Another luxury consumer agrees.

"When I open investment statements in the mail, they have severely dwindled, and it's a constant reminder of the overall economy," says Heidi Namin of Southbury, Conn.

So Namin has cut back on "extras," such as manicures, items for her home and things her kids don't really need. She's already cut back on dining out in favor of dinner parties and good food and wine for her family at home.

"With all costs of living rising, the only thing that is not rising is our salaries," says Namin, a financial administrator at a law firm.

Renting more movies

Sales of new Blu-ray high-definition disks (a newer DVD at home movie format) are more than triple that of a year ago, according to Home Media Magazine.

Home entertainment traditionally has been resilient to economic downturns, mainly because renting a movie for a dollar or two — or even buying a new DVD for $15 — is a lot cheaper than a night at the movies.

But the home entertainment business is shifting to the new Blu-ray high-definition format.

As a result, DVD sales fell in the third quarter this year, although studio executives point to the Olympics as a primary factor.

Pam Fox, 49, is a medical socialworker in Carlsbad, Calif., with a husband and two sons. She says they are cutting back on going to the movies, because it's so expensive.

"Just last week, I went with my son, Trevor, to see Lakeview Terrace, and tickets alone were $22," Fox says. "With popcorn and snacks, it's $50 for just two people."

One thing Fox and her family do more of: rent movies.

"Then we can have dinner and snacks at home," she says.

Staying close to home

Americans are expected to take 2 billion individual trips in the United States in 2008, down about 1% from a year ago, according to Global Insight. That includes all trips, from a car ride of more than 50 miles to an airplane flight across country for a vacation.

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