Chart: Spend, Spend, Spend : Planet Money American consumption since 1990.
NPR logo Chart: Spend, Spend, Spend

Chart: Spend, Spend, Spend

Alan Cordova/NPR
Personal consumption
Alan Cordova/NPR

Add this chart to our ongoing talk about the savings rate. The message here, based on data from the Federal Reserve, is that Americans have continued spending and spending and spending — until very recently.

Rupert Pupkin writes that he's not convinced the cost of living eats savings:

Part of the problem is that people keep defining up what "maintaining a middle class lifestyle" means.

Cable TV? There goes at least $600 a year. Everyone in the family with cell phones? Another $1200 or so. Eating out often? Or buying prepared food? Driving a less than 5 year old car? Gym memberships? Netflix? Video game systems? Broadband internet access? Add five to ten grand a year more for those, easily. How about a larger than 1,500 square foot home for a family of four? That has never been considered "middle class" until the past decade or so.