Rena Fail retired four years ago, not expecting the economic recession that began shortly thereafter.

The Goose Creek resident now checks out prices at discount stores, such a Big Lots, where she recently found mini-blinds on sale for $3.50 instead of $12. She tries not to use her credit card, she clips coupons and she regularly buys groceries and prepares her own meals instead of eating restaurant food.

"I worked for 30 years, and it was easier to pick something up on the way home," she said. "But I'm enjoying cooking again."

A contractor with Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, Sarah Grider watched tensely as a government shutdown loomed last week.

Even before that, Grider began cutting back on her own living costs. The Charleston resident moved from a house to an apartment to save on rent, and she and her father recently converted all her outdoor lighting to solar.

"I work for the government, so I save as much as I can," she said.

Jason Cunningham, a local artist who writes "conscious rap and love ballads," started monitoring his expenses more closely at the start of the economic recession and continued that habit as he pushes toward his CD release.

The Charleston resident works under the name J-Scribbles. He said he plans to release songs within a few weeks and has been saving up for that date.

"I used to spend a lot," Cunnigham said. "People have a problem with reckless spending."

J. Brown, who works in housekeeping at the Medical University of South Carolina, used to treat herself to a few extravagances now and again but realizes that, these days, even the essentials cost more.

"Like gas going up, and the light bills," she said. "People buy less food and just get what they really need."

Then she wondered aloud, "Is it really as bad as they say it is?"