The economy is experiencing one of its worst recessions since The Great Depression. The real gross domestic product decreased at an annual rate of 5.5 percent in the first quarter of 2009 after contracting by 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. The unemployment rate has risen from 7.2 percent to 10.2 percent over the past six months, and mortgage and auto loan delinquencies are hitting record levels.

Consumers have responded by tightening their belts, examining every purchase and every expense, determined to get the most value for their money.

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