Yes, we definitely feel the slowdown in the economy. I think people who live on a stretched budget feel it the most. We used to run out of money a few days before the next paycheck. Now we run out like a whole week before. I attribute this to higher energy prices (particularly heating gas, which we pay $140 a month for despite turning off the furnace when we are gone and turning it down to 68 at night). Ouch. I can't wait for the warm weather reprise from this major expense. Also, food has gone way up. Eggs especially! We are now planning on getting some chickens to have our own eggs. Something I've always wanted to do anyway, and we have a big piece of yard that we don't want to water (also gone up in price) because it's on the south side with no shade and really hard to keep green, so that will be the chickens' home.
All food has gone up, and stores are having less stuff on sale. Even bananas went up. It's a subtle feeling, but it's also undeniable. You just don't seem to make ends meet anymore if you were barely doing so before. What we have done, and what I see A LOT of people doing now, is use coupons and buy generic. We also drive a lot less and we share one car so that forces us to be more organized with our errands and whatnot and we consolidate trips a lot more. I just don't appreciate all the things I am hearing about food prices going up even MORE, and wheat shortages coming this summer. I am ahead of the game though, because I've already weaned us off wheat (except pasta!!). We find it more affordable and delicious to eat rice, corn tortillas, millet, quinoa, etc. ok, maybe not quinoa because it is a bit pricier, but it gives you more nutrition for your money.
I find that hard times can be beneficial to society and families. They say necessity is the mother of invention. When you are forced to change your ways, wonderful things can happen, like discovering new ways to eat and appreciating more home-cooked meals. Dh and I lived in Costa Rica for several years and we learned that people there don't waste a drop of food. Every veggie is fully utilized, not just the attractive parts. Rice and beans are served with every meal. Cheap cuts of meat are made delicious through slow-cooking. The poor shop at the farmer's market, which has better stuff anyway. Cooking is seen as a necessity of life. You don't cook, you don't eat, people don't call the pizza guy or go through a drive-through because they are too tired. You cook everything from scratch. It takes hours a day but it is so worth it because it's about your health and your finances. I can tell you the people there are hurting. The price of rice and beans goes up there, and it hurts, and that is what is happening. Inflation is hitting all parts of the globe. We still have it pretty good despite everything. It feels like the world is leveling out in terms of our standard of living getting closer to other poorer countries. I guess that is the effect of globalization. I try to lower our standard of living more that we have to because I figure it can only get lower for us.
At least for awhile, if not permanently.