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It's getting more difficult to live paycheck to paycheck in America

It's getting more difficult to live paycheck to paycheck in America. What used to last four days might last half that long now. Pay the gas bill, but skip breakfast. Eat less for lunch so the kids can have a healthy dinner.

As an Associated Press story on Page M3 points out, many Americans across the country are increasingly unable to stretch their dollars to the next payday as they juggle higher rent, food and energy bills.

It's starting to affect the spending habits of middle-income working families as well as the poor, and it's affecting the product mix and pricing of merchants such as Wal-Mart and 7-Eleven.

With the fastest-rising food and energy prices since the 1980s, low-income consumers are stretching their budgets by eating cheap foods like peanut butter and pasta. And with many consumers cutting their spending on nutritious food like milk and vegetables, analysts fear they're further skimping on basic medical care and other critical services as well.