Big-Ticket Phobia Stalks The Nation

There’s an odd asymmetry in the way people react to gasoline prices. When prices rise, people always say it means they have less money to spend on other stuff. But when prices fall? Prompted by a query that noted the recent drop in gas prices, 31 percent of respondents to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll said it makes them feel they “have more money to spend on other household items.” But 61 percent said it “has not made a difference one way or the other.” The survey also asked people about their ability to afford big-ticket items these days. As you can see from the chart below, relatively few feel it’s a propitious time to splurge. Even among respondents with household income of $100,000-plus, fewer than half said now is an excellent (6 percent) or good (36 percent) time to make major purchases. Men were more likely than women to say this is an excellent or good time to buy something pricey (29 percent vs. 18 percent). Meanwhile, respondents were a bit more positive in assessing their overall financial situation: 13 percent rated it “very good,” 25 percent “fairly good,” 7 percent “fairly bad” and 7 percent “very bad,” while 47 percent said it’s “in-between.”