Consumers' caution may bring on era of frugality

Ryan Cole's life changed the past two years — all because of the economy. He grew up the son of a cardiologist, "wanting for nothing," he said.

But then the national economy went south — and took his job in marketing. At first, his spending habits didn't change. Then, they changed dramatically.

"I got slapped in the face," said Cole, 28. "Frugality was something that was not taught to me. I am now trying to figure it out firsthand."

He is starting a social media marketing business and keeping a firmer grip on the money he earns.

"I bought a used car over a leased beauty for longer-term savings," he said. "I now drink more water instead of soda. I eat at home rather than go out to eat.

"I'm just glad I'm figuring this out at age 28 instead of being 55."

Welcome to a new age of frugality.

After a year of economic crisis and an even longer slump, the nation's retailers are facing consumers who are more reluctant to buy.

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