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Cutting Back on the Fun Kinds of Spending

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Americans are either having less fun or finding cheaper ways to do it. A Gallup poll about rising prices asked adults whether the amount of money they have "available each month for entertainment, recreation and fun things to do" has changed over the past year. Twenty-two percent said it has declined "a lot," and another 28 percent said it's down "a little."

Among respondents with yearly household income under $35,000, 32 percent said their budget for entertainment/recreation/fun has gone down a lot. So did 21 percent of those in the $35,000-74,999 bracket and 16 percent of those making $75,000-plus.

Elsewhere in the same poll, nearly all the respondents (97 percent) said gasoline prices have risen at least a little in the past year. Nearly as many said the same of prices for food (90 percent). Utilities were another expense category in which a large majority of respondents said prices have risen a lot or a little (75 percent). Fewer said the same about health insurance (48 percent) or healthcare and prescription drugs (47 percent).

In fact, Gallup notes in its analysis of the data that the percentages of people seeing rises in prices for those health-related categories is actually lower than it was in a May 2006 survey. "As a result, consumers may ultimately be more concerned about what they pay for groceries than what they must pay for healthcare during this election season."

Consumers' sense of whether prices have risen seems partly to hinge on how well positioned they are to cope with higher costs. Thus, while 64 percent of respondents in the under-$35,000 income bracket said food prices have risen a lot in the past year, just 39 percent of those in the $75,000-plus cohort shared this impression. In the $35,000-74,999 bracket, 53 percent said food prices have risen a lot in the past year.