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Cell phone vital, air conditioning not so much

What would you give up first, air conditioning or your cell phone?
/ Source: Reuters

What would you give up first, air conditioning or your cell phone?

In tough economic times with people looking to cut costs many Americans said a cell phone or computer are must-have items and regard a clothes dryers, air conditioner and microwave as less of a necessity, according to survey by the Pew Research Center.

"A relative newcomer in the everyday lives of most Americans, the cell phone is among a handful of newer gadgets that have held their own on the necessity scale from 2006 to 2009," Pew researchers said.

The number of people who said microwaves were a necessity for their homes fell 21 percentage points in 2009 from 2006. Air conditioners dropped 16 points while dishwashers slumped 14 points, the poll showed.

Job losses, the months-long recession, and tight access to credit have convinced U.S. consumers to reduce their spending in the past year on anything they consider unnecessary or a luxury.

It has left a big hole in sales for many retailers. The 2008 holiday sales season was the worst in nearly 40 years as consumers clamped down on shopping trips.

But as tech gadgets increasingly find a place in homes, cell phones, flat screen TVs and Apple's iPod are now part of the must-have category, according to the survey of 1,003 adults.

While there was a three point increase in the number of people who thought flatscreen TVs were essential, the iPod's following rose one point.

Despite the difficult times, consumers have not abandoned their love for automobiles. From 2006 to 2009, there was only three percentage point decline in the number of people who see the car as an everyday necessity.