Along with the Great Recession came the inevitable decrease in spending, as discretionary income fell for individuals and families across America. TV channels cut shows about diamond-studded toilets and replaced them with instructional home-cooking videos. BMW sales dropped, and companies like Saks (NYSE:SKS), Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN), and Neiman Marcus have all reported a plunge in same-store sales. Meanwhile, sales grew at Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO) in November, and the company's earnings have been surging the past two years.

Although the economy seems to be recovering, with a 10% unemployment rate, businesses aren't experiencing the benefit of the overall rebound. According to The Wall Street Journal:

But businesses ranging from shoemakers to financial services to luxury hotels don't expect American consumers to return to their spendthrift ways anytime soon. They see consumers emerging from the punishing downturn with a new mind-set: careful, practical, more socially conscious and embarrassed by flashy shows of wealth.

How true this prediction is remains to be seen. Companies such as Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) and Coach (NYSE:COH) are doing surprisingly well and have reported continual profits throughout the downturn.

I guess only time will tell. What do Fools think -- will American consumers continue in their cost-conscious ways, or will we revert to the extravagant spending of the past? What companies should benefit the most in the next five years?

Jordan DiPietro doesn't own any of the companies above. Coach is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy loves getting something for nothing.