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Sorry, Dad, it's the economy

May 31, 2008|Ylan Q. Mui | Washington Post

Dearest Dad,

You know I love you. I really do. But don't expect much from me this Father's Day.

I'm broke. Not so broke that I'm eating ramen and putting my Fender guitar on eBay (Never!), but I'm definitely feeling the economic squeeze.

So this June 15, I'm trimming $3.80 from your gift.

Please, don't be hurt. That's the average amount by which the National Retail Federation, a trade group, expects consumers to reduce Father's Day spending, to $94.54 this year from $98.34 last year.

See, everybody's doing it.

The problem is that I need to eat. In my grocery store, the price of bread jumped 14% last month versus the previous year. Eggs are up 28%. I can't even buy more than four 20-pound bags of imported jasmine rice at Sam's Club anymore. It's an issue.

And I need to drive. One little gallon of fuel now costs $3.94 on average. That's 4% more than I paid a week ago and 23% more than last year. Of course, the Commerce Department announced Friday that my personal income had risen only 3.8% -- I promise I'm working hard, Dad! -- and I'm not driving much less.

Even my economic stimulus check won't be much help. Like just more than half of American consumers surveyed by the International Council of Shopping Centers this month, I plan to use the money mostly to pay down debt. (You were right about that adjustable-rate mortgage -- it's killing me!)

OK, OK, I'll stop whining. But facts are facts. The flat-panel TV and Nintendo Wii are just outside my $94.54 budget.

So here's the plan: The National Retail Federation says that "a simple greeting card and family dinner really goes a long way."

So I'll splurge on the card, spending an average of $7.49, according to the survey. Hallmark recommends that I appeal to your sensitive side, which may actually help blind you to the fact that I'm cheaping out.

"Men like to be affirmed," according to the tip sheet on Hallmark's website. "Many men expect, and are tired of, the 'put-down' cards and would like to feel more appreciated. Cards that offer genuine compliments (humor or non-humor) resonate with these men."

The federation estimated I'd spend an additional $20.19 on a "special outing." How about a rousing game of putt-putt or perhaps bowling? The rest will go toward your big gift, most likely clothing. I know you love a nice V-neck sweater!

Instead of going to a specialty retailer, I'll just get it at a department store or discounter like the other 64% of shoppers. Will you really know the difference?

I hope you understand. This isn't personal; it's just economics. I promise that spending on your big holiday will rebound just as soon as the housing market does.

But don't hold your breath.

Love always,

Me

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