Women are spending less on microwaves, gifts, hobbies, gourmet coffees, video games, and even organic foods than they did just two months ago. And with the holidays approaching, they are about to get stingier still. But despite this stark outlook, fully 95% of all American women feel they will “make it” through the recession and 64% feel 2009 will find them financially “better off.” These are among the findings of a recent study conducted for Fleishman-Hillard International Communications by the Harrison Group. In “Women, Power & Money – The Shift to the Female-Driven Economy,” a survey of more than 1,600 women conducted initially in early September and again in early November 2008, women acknowledged being financially worse off than they were a year ago, but felt sure they would be able to manage. In the September study, 79% of women stated that their opinion determines family financial decisions, while 91% claim to be the manager of their family’s quality of life. More than half pay the family bills and about half are the shared or primary breadwinners. “It’s clear from this research that we are now living in a ‘mom-ocracy’ — women are setting the agenda,” said Nancy Seliger, president, U.S. East region, at Fleishman-Hillard, the global communications firm that commissioned the study. “We believe the most successful marketers will address concerns of the spouse, the children, and even friends of women. When these individuals are well informed, it is easier for women to build consensus within their families.” The study also examined how women make decisions. For instance, women rank both “articles in magazines and newspapers” and “expert recommendations” as more influential than advertising. Moreover, even as the contemporary American woman controls a greater share than ever of household spending, she leads more by consensus than by decree.