How do I know that? I have super-secret inside sources that feed my political intelligence from the Keystone State — my parents!

I grew up on a small family farm in Pennsylvania. My parents and my siblings and their families still live there. Most of my extended family lives there, too.

So I have a bit of an inside track on what “regular” voters are thinking and which way a good chunk of Pa. might be inclined to go in the presidential primary in April. They’ll be focused on the candidate they believe can deliver a real change in the direction of the economy. As James Carville still likes to say about the key to winning presidential elections, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

How do I know that? Because my parents are already pinching their pennies so hard they scream.

My dad drives miles out of his way to buy lunch meat that’s less expensive than at the grocery store in town. My parents wanted to take a vacation to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary last year. Even though we all chipped in so they could swing a few days away from the farm, they had to postpone it because my dad needed to fix some things around the farm and they needed the money for that more. They reasoned that maybe spring would be a better time for a road trip anyway. Now, they don’t know if they can afford their holiday because the price of gas gone up so much.

Oh, and they haven’t had a vacation for about 20 years.

My parents have to carefully scrutinize their budget to decide if they can afford the $50 tank of gas to come visit our house, about 4 hours from theirs.

But I’m not the only one with a family story like this. Others are starting to lament, as well.

Bookish on a Budget is dealing with unexpected expenses and focusing on her budget in terms of where she can “trade up” and where to “trade down”:

Target has done a fabulous job of capitalizing on the true consumer insight that people like to trade down in some areas so that they can save their money and trade up in others. People can do both at retailers like Target. But they’re also mixing the concept across retailers. Shop for home decor at Target so you can shop for handbags at Gucci. You get to value what you value, and both retailers win. As a marketer, I’ve thought about this a lot in my professional life. Brand loyalty is irrational behavior, and yet, one of the most normal behaviors in our consumer culture.

And while families are already in belt-tightening mode, there are some “luxuries” the Beyond Mom family won’t scrimp on:

Well, you know what…I think that millions of households are probably talking about recession and belt-tightening and scaling it back. My household is one of them. We live very simply here, and the one thing we do that is special (i.e. bringing in take-out for dinner on Friday night, because I’m too exhausted to cook one more meal) is going to continue.

But Julie Pippert from Using My Words (and a fellow MOMocrat!) sent me an E-mail on this topic, which started my head spinning in another direction — what will a recession do to families who already have bare-bones budgets?

We don’t take trips. We do free summer camps (read: vacation Bible school…I’m nondiscriminatory, any religion will do). I take hand-me-downs and shop at resale shops. We maintain and don’t replace unless necessary. I buy local produce through an organic CSA [community supported agriculture program] because it is 1/20th the cost of stores and better, too. I haul 90 lbs of trailer and kids around on my bike to drive as little as possible (double benefit: free exercise! Gyms cost too much). We don’t use cell phones, have no video games, iPhones, laptops, etc. Our television was free; my husband won it.

I’m a Luddite and Green by necessity. LOL

What can I cut…

I can take the little one out of preschool, but then I’d have to stop working, basically.

We could drop the life and or health insurance (we just have catastrophic coverage and an HSA). Home or property insurance. Flood and acts of God insurance. That could save us tons (or cost us tons).

We could downsize our house again, or move into an apartment, but we haven’t seen any with a cheaper mortgage (not any place we’d live with kids, anyway).

Well, that’s about it. We’re pretty bare bones.

What about you? Summer vacations? Summer day camps for your kids? What thing will it be that you cut back on that will lead you to say we are in a recession? Or are you already in bare-bones mode, hoping and praying that things don’t get worse before they get better?