From shutdown fears to shopping sprees?

Last fall’s government shutdown made Americans more frugal – temporarily.

It might seem like a long time ago – or maybe just yesterday – that the federal government shut down amid partisan bickering between Democrats and Republicans.

It happened during first half of October, and a new poll from Harris Interactive compares how Americans have changed their spending habits from then till now. Not surprisingly, once the crisis passed and the government got back to spending, so did its citizens.

Harris posed financial questions to more than 2,300 Americans in September – right before the shutdown – and again last month.

“Americans are less likely than in September to say that they plan on decreasing their spending on eating out at restaurants (55 percent, down 7 points) and reducing spending on entertainment (52 percent, down 9 points) within the next six months,” Harris revealed.

The firm also listed other “spending sacrifices” we’re less willing to make now that headlines aren’t dominated by shutdown debates…

  • Getting fewer haircuts or treatments (34 percent, down 7 points)
  • Cancelling or cutting back on cable TV (21 percent, down 6 points)
  • Delaying dry cleaning (15 percent, down 5 points)
  • Buying more generic brands (58 percent, down 4 points)
  • Brown-bagging lunch instead of going out (42 percent, down 4 points)
  • Switched to refillable water bottles instead of buying bottled water (33 percent, down 4 points)
  • Cancelling one or more magazine subscriptions (24 percent, down 4 points)

That’s troubling to the counselors of Consolidated Credit, who know good spending habits should transcend whatever Congress is squabbling about. And it doesn’t have to be a matter of doing without. It’s not that you shouldn’t get your hair cut or have to walk around in smelly clothes. But if you find ways to streamline, like cancelling a few cable channels and magazine subscriptions that you don’t really need, then there’s no reason to go back to spending more

One item listed above really got our attention: bottled water. It’s often a budget expert’s pet peeve.

Think about it – you’re buying water. You may even be buying tap water in a plastic bottle. Seriously, one of the largest brands of bottled water clearly states on the label, in small print, that the product was derived from the New York City Public Works Department.”

If you’ve racked up debts like the federal government, and if that’s led to family fights that would rival those in Congress, Consolidated Credit can help. Call for a free debt analysis, and if you qualify, a certified credit counselor can help reduce interest rates and fees, avoid bankruptcy, and rebuild your credit.