finances

Feeling pinched by higher bills, less money? You're not alone

Oct. 19, 2011 at 7:20 AM ET

AP /
Gas is among the expenses that may be pinching families these days.

Your bills seem to be going up, and yet you seem to be bringing in less money. Sound familiar?

You don't have to be unemployed to feel the nation's economic squeeze. Several recent economic reports have pointed to the difficulties even those who have held on to their jobs are facing.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported last month that personal income fell very slightly in August, meaning that overall people earned slightly less than they had in July.

Despite that drop, however, consumer spending rose a bit in August as Americans were hammered by higher prices for food and gas.

On Wednesday, the government said that consumers once again likely paid more for food and gas last month, as compared to the previous month. But consumer prices for everything else rose only very slightly in September.

The reports are discouraging because they come after years of tough economic times. Median income has fallen 6.4 percent since 2007 after adjusting for inflation. A deep recession that officially lasted from December 2007 until June 2009  has been followed by a sluggish economic recovery and a high unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent.

A story in the latest issue of Bloomberg Businessweek compares the state of working Americans today to those in the 1960s, when  household debt was low, savings were high and salaries were on the upswing.

Cut to today and the case of Tamra Loomis, a 32-year-old single mom who earns $17 an hour but has to cut corners where she can, using coupons, growing vegetables and even using her parents’ Internet connection instead of paying for her own.

“At this point, I’m paycheck to paycheck,” Loomis told the magazine. “A lot of people aren’t hiring, and when they are, they offer even less than what I make.”

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