Yesterday, Penelope Green's article in the New York Times summed up a phenomenon we've been feeling for a while now. The frustrating battle between cost-cutting and overspending seems to escalate in times of stress. We see it most clearly in the Costco effect: people go into bunker mentality and overstuff their homes with "budget" items that end up costing more because of the bulk...
Another reaction (with which we sometimes struggle) is to save everything: glass bottles, plastic containers, catalogs. When it feels like things are beyond our control, people naturally focus on whatever makes us feel secure. The article points out that irrational spending is a widespread human response that affects even the most cost-conscious shoppers. All we can do is be aware of it, take an honest look at our income and expenses, and try to work with a realistic budget.
See the NY Times the article, Failing Home Economics, for more.