Madison Ave spends hundreds of millions developing advertising to affect the behavior of consumers. One of the devastating affects is to get someone to buy things they don’t need at prices they cannot afford. Even if consumers ratchet down from the extreme I written, the emotional need to spend for stuff is ingrained in the psyche. Spending is up but not after several years of self imposed (torture) austerity and finally the urge outdoes the frugal mindset. I had a buddy of mine whose wife hit the malls last Xmas and this Xmas. I thought he was financially better off but that was not the case. He is still holding two part time jobs and his wife has her full time job with no raises. Taxes and prices have gone up and they were frugal for the first three years after 2008. Instead of increasing their meager savings, once enough was available for buying his wife runs off to the mall and buys stuff. After Xmas they are back to the same old routine, huge credit card balances they will spend the first six months in 2013 paying off. Process will repeat itself as we approach the fall of 2013, shopping for more stuff. Sad part is their kids are approaching college age and little is saved for them, and I do not want to guess what they have saved for retirement.