Declining consumer confidence is being felt throughout the economy as people cut back on nonessential spending and try to limit purchases to items that are absolutely necessary.
In a recent monthly survey of 15,000 consumers by Discover Financial Services, a record 48.5 percent felt their finances were deteriorating.
An additional 43 percent said they plan to spend less on discretionary expenses, household improvements and major personal purchases such as vacations.
But the cutbacks didn't provide much relief in February as only 48 percent expected to have money left over after their monthly bills were paid. It's the third straight month the results have fallen below 50 percent.
"Given recent economic news of record oil prices and a 26-year high in food and energy prices, there seems to be no relief in sight for any increase in consumer spending beyond the essentials," said Margo Georgiadis, executive vice-president for Discover Financial Services.
Even those making $75,000 or more were pessimistic about the economy, as only 27 percent viewed the economy as good or excellent.
Among the same group, only 14 percent felt the economy was getting better, down from 17 percent the previous month.
The pessimism was most pronounced among women -- only 8 percent thought the economy is improving and 75 percent said it's getting worse. Fourteen percent of men felt the economy was getting better, while 65 percent thought it was deteriorating.