What Else Acts Like Cheap Wine and Cigarettes?

It’s interesting to see how people’s spending patterns respond to a (presumably) temporary decline in income during the recession.

Which items are more or less income-elastic in the short run? A pediatrician friend of ours mentions that he is seeing less business; when there are three kids with coughs, for example, a parent will bring in one, get him diagnosed, then treat the other two the same way at home — thus saving two co-payments.

The Austin marathon, the biggest race of the year, will not have its usual corporate sponsors, and thus no elite runners either. I expect that, as in the last recession, there will also be a large decline in plastic surgeries.

All of these appear to be postponable luxuries — and I wonder what are other weird examples? Also, aside from the usual suspects (grocery purchases being the standard example), what else doesn’t decrease much? Pornography, cigarettes, cheap wine?

(Hat tip: AS)


I have never allowed my pediatrician to charge me for two visits when both kids have the same thing. I don't care what the state of the economy is - that's just prudence.

Tkwon CMS

McDonalds/Burger King are probably going to do well amidst the recession (seeing that they are inferior goods compared to traditional restaurants)
T.V. stations are probably going to pull in bigger numbers, since more people will stay at home than go to out.


Um... did I get that right? Children's health is a "postponable luxury"???

Eddie S.

Dry Cleaning. People who wear suits to work can't switch to a different outfit while there is no other close substitute for cleaning them. And I really hope wearing the same shirt twice does not count as a substitute.

Jeremy Miles

Cheap wine might do better, as cheap wine is only a little worse than expensive wine, but a whole lot better than no wine at all.


Regarding Porn, Kink.com, recently laid off 13 employees, about 10% of it's SF workforce. Less ppl are paying for subscriptions, and possibly being more satisfied with the free verisions of pay sites.


I wasn't aware that people actually paid for pornography anymore.

Howard Tayler

I'm hoping "demand for print collections of online comics" stays good. My business has almost doubled each year for the last three years.

I've seen presenters in the comics world explain how during the Great Depression and during the recession of the early 80's comics boomed. I don't know how much actual, non-anecdotal research was done, though. And I don't know how much of it applies today to the Free Content Business Model in use by online cartoonists like myself.


As a teacher at a private school, we are all wondering what percentage of our students will be back in the fall. So far, we have reason to be hopeful.


Laundromats. People always have to clean their clothes.


I had a history professor once claim that both chocolate and makeup sales tended to increase during recessions, though I never got the opportunity to actually check that.


Sales of condoms increase during economic downturns as couples put off having children.


Beyond QSR as mentioned above, apparently impulse 'luxuries' for women, such as make-up and lotions, do well. Instead of the $500+ purse we are trading down to treat outselves to a $10 lipstick.

Leland Witter

I would say prostitutes, but I shouldn't open that can of rice again.


Since quitting isn't really an option for most nicotine addicts watch for declines in brand-name sales and increases in generic brands and rolling tobacco.


didn't the porn industry ask for a bailout???

i wonder also if there would be a decline in "coffee costs" - those 2-3 dollars many people spend every day on coffee, which in the long run comes to be a great cost not usually considered.


Wal-mart's doing well, I hear....

And I don't see a lot of private ski lessons going on these days, at least at the mid-end resorts I frequent. Particularly childrens' groups seem to be much larger, with little ski munchkins strung out for several hundred yards behind the lone instructor. And on the subject of skiing, an experience I had over Christmas was the inverse of the "Wal-Mart effect". I went into several Sports Authority stores looking for gear - the stores were empty of people looking for entry-level ski and snowboard packages. Then I went to Colorado Ski and Golf, a higher-end ski shop for us serious powder hounds. Longest lines I'd ever seen in the store. In this case, it was the higher priced gear, the gear targeted at better skiers, that was selling, not the cheaper stuff.

Don't know what any of this means, I just love to talk skiing.

Leland Witter

But seriously, I am curious why someone with a stable job and good income would or should cut back. All of the media reports about needing to be frugal has me a bit perplexed.

It seems to me that all of the "we all need to cut back" pressure that I perceive from just about every form of media is really misguided. I feel pretty comfortable in my job and make a good wage, although it won't be rising in the near term, and can afford to buy or do just about anything I could a year ago.

So shouldn't I be encouraged to SPEND money, not cut back? Won't this help the economy and create jobs? At times I feel bad for planning vacations and spending on other than necessities. Shouldn't I actually feel good that I can pump money back into the system?


I don't see dry cleaning staying the same. With the at-home kits, people will stop paying for the expense. And yes, some people will wear a shirt twice (if you didn't sweat in it and hang it up when you get home, it shouldn't be a big deal, especially for suits).


Sales of the Wii console are pushing 50 million! It is relatively cheap entertainment. A game that can be played for months is cheaper than a night at the movies for a family of 4.

I wonder if board game sales are up?