Consumers' confidence in the economy fell in March after two consecutive months of gains, according to data from Discover Financial Services.
The Riverwoods, Ill., credit card company's monthly U.S. Spending Monitor index slipped 1.5 points to 85 last month. The index was pegged at 100 when it was created in 2007. The data was released Wednesday.
Forty-nine percent of consumers said they think economic conditions are getting worse, compared with 46% in February, and 57% rated the economy as poor, unchanged from the previous month.
Married couples with children were the most pessimistic demographic group; 62% rated the economy as poor, up from 59%.
Many people said they are having trouble making ends meet. Thirty-nine percent of all consumers, and 42% of families with kids, said they expect an income shortfall this month.
Only 46% of consumers said they expected to have money left over after covering their bills in March, down 2 percentage points from February.
The percentage of people who plan to keep their overall spending flat was unchanged at 57%, a record high. However, there were slight increases in planned discretionary spending; 8% of people said they expected to spend more at restaurants or movies, up from 6%, and 14% expected to increase spending on home improvements, up from 12%.
"Since January, consumers have slightly altered their spending behavior," Julie Loeger, a Discover senior vice president, said in a press release. "More people are planning to increase their discretionary spending — or at least keep it the same — than those who say they plan to spend less. This is the opposite of what we saw for most of 2009 and the beginning of 2010."