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This morning’s “Today Show” featured a segment about “schizophrenic consumers.” With tough economic times and high unemployment, many people are shopping at the dollar store for basic necessities at the same time that they are putting lattes and luxury goods on their credit cards. Pscyhotherapist Robi Ludwig explains that many people use “retail therapy” as a way to feel better about themselves, particularly if they are feeling depressed about not have a job, or having to cut back on other expenses.

I can relate to splurging on a latte, but I always pay cash. If I don’t have the $2.50 for my Starbucks, I don’t buy it. I cannot relate, however, to putting a Coach purse on my credit card if I am struggling to buy toilet paper and groceries. To me it is a question of priorities. If I can’t pay my rent, I have absolutely no business going out to eat, or buying designer clothing.

Economist Diane Brady makes an interesting point in the “Today Show” segment, when she argues that post-9/11, Americans have been told that it is their patriotic duty to go shopping. The American economy is built on consumer spending – marketing campaigns that appeal on Americans’ “love of country” are great for big business. But when the credit industry is in the shitter, is it really a good idea to continue encouraging consumers to pile up their credit card debt? When the credit card industry approaches Congress asking for a bailout, I’m going to have even less sympathy than I did when the banks approached Congress with their hats in hand. Don’t spend more money than you make. It’s simple budgeting advice.

What about you? Do you like to splurge on things like coffee and designer clothes, while you skimp on grocery expenses at the same time? What’s your take on the idea of “schizophrenic consumers?” I’d love to get your take on this trend.