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Archive for Monday, November 24, 2008

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Hanging on to a few luxuries

Rusty Thomas says Kansas University athletics tickets — football, basketball and volleyball — are purchases she isn’t willing to do without despite the economic downturn. “I don’t go to movies, and I don’t smoke,” says Thomas, who considers KU sports the one luxury she can splurge on.

Rusty Thomas says Kansas University athletics tickets — football, basketball and volleyball — are purchases she isn’t willing to do without despite the economic downturn. “I don’t go to movies, and I don’t smoke,” says Thomas, who considers KU sports the one luxury she can splurge on.

November 24, 2008

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Bill Self and Lew Perkins can breathe a little easier.

Among the extra, fun or so-called “luxury” items still getting plenty of business through this economic downturn are Kansas University basketball season tickets.

“I’m not giving up on them,” says Rusty Thomas, who has bought tickets at Allen Fieldhouse for nearly 30 years. “I probably should, but I haven’t. That’s about the only thing I’m doing that’s any fun at all.”

Thomas’ crimson-and-blue commitment comes despite an economic downturn that has cut into Americans’ spending on so-called “extras” — the items and services that lean away from life and liberty and more toward the pursuit of happiness.

Nearly one in five adults has started to “trade down” when buying vehicles, clothes, coffee, cosmetics, electronics, food, shoes, and health and beauty products, according to a survey conducted by BIGresearch.

So-called luxury services also have taken a hit. The survey found consumers deferring purchases of so-called luxury services, such as haircuts and colorings, massages, maid services and even cosmetic surgeries.

“It’s a different mindset now,” says Pam Goodfellow, a senior analyst at the Ohio-based consultancy, which provides results to the National Retail Federation and others. “It’s not a matter of throwing stuff on a credit card and paying it off later. Now the credit cards are maxed out. People are having to make real decisions about what they’re spending money on.”

So far, at least, Rockie Browning hasn’t seen the downturn cut into his business at Images Salon & Day Spa, 511 W. Ninth St.

Whether it’s $20 for a waxing or $150 for highlights, Browning continues to welcome customers in search of comfort and pampering in the midst of an economic storm.

“People are nervous, but they haven’t cut back on those services yet,” says Browning, who’s weathered several downturns in his 35 years in the salon business in Lawrence. “It’s one of those things: People need to feel good about themselves. Having their hair taken care of is part of that.”

To feel good as a KU fan, Thomas relies on extra work to keep her seat at the fieldhouse. She officiates volleyball games to help cover the $1,000 or so she spends for her men’s basketball season ticket, plus lesser amounts for football and volleyball.

The key for anyone is to make sure to keep an emergency fund, enough to cover at least six months’ worth of living expenses — “although a year to a year and a half is better,” Thomas says. Then tuck some money away for retirement before dropping money on the “fun stuff.”

Thomas makes her own coffee, fixes her own lunch at work and waits four months — instead of four weeks — between haircuts.

“You’ve got to pick and choose what you’re going to spend your money on,” she says. “My splurge is KU athletics.”

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