Home economics, that lost art in which generations of students learned to keep a household going on a tight budget, is making a comeback. Only this time, lessons in pinching pennies are being taught not in the nation's classrooms but in its stores.
While it might seem counterintuitive for stores to teach shoppers to cut their spending, several chains have concluded that providing such knowledge can spur loyalty and keep customers from trading down to cheaper competitors.
So the Stop & Shop grocery chain is offering "affordable food summits" where consumers are taught how to lower their grocery bills. Home Depot offers classes on how to cut energy bills. And Wal-Mart Stores hired a "family financial expert" who has used online chats to teach several thousand shoppers how to save money for college, whittle away debt and sell a house.