The other day, I went to pick up some 12-packs of (my favorite) Diet Coke, and something blew my caffeine-addled mind. Apparently, the price increase from Coca-Cola Enterprises (NYSE:CCE) and Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) has come to pass, and it ain't pretty. I had my own mini-financial crisis standing in the aisle of the grocery store.

The "sale" price at my local Harris Teeter was $5.39 for a 12-pack of Diet Coke, and according to the price tag displayed, a 12-pack is going for $5.69 as the regular price now. $5.69! My brain blanked, and then it rebelled: "I'm not paying that!" Once I'd recovered my senses, I settled for Dr Pepper Snapple's (NYSE:DPS) Diet Dr Pepper, since the special price for those was three 12-packs for $8.88.

In July, I was moved to write about the prospect of not being able to afford my Coke habit when I heard a price hike was coming. Granted, my local Harris Teeter does seem to be more expensive than other local grocers, and I haven't checked out what rivals' regular prices are for Coke 12-packs, but I suspect that theirs may be nearly as jarring.

This just underlines the continuous squeeze on the American consumer. It's not just the still-high prices at the gas pumps, but also the major price increases on all manner of everyday things. The litany of companies talking about raising prices for their wares is ongoing -- everybody from General Mills (NYSE:GIS) to Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) (NYSE:CMG-B) has talked about increasing prices to offset higher commodity costs.

Sure, it's logical, but it also stands to reason that at some point, many consumers may choose not to pay the higher prices, and worse, those who are drowning in debt and have extremely limited cash resources will realize they can't afford certain items. Given America's recently debt-fueled lifestyle, it may sound un-American to say, "I can't afford that," but the dangers of a high-debt, instant-gratification lifestyle are coming home to roost. (And you know, before the past decade or so, it certainly wasn't "un-American" to admit, "I can't afford that.")

Financial crises aren't limited to major corporations such as AIG (NYSE:AIG) -- some of them are already hitting consumers hard right on Main Street. Many companies, including Coke, are going to have to carefully monitor whether they're overestimating just how much consumers can -- or will -- pay for their products in a slowing economy. Investors: Prepare for a bumpy ride for some stocks that make the wrong moves. Consumers: Prepare for a thinner wallet.   

For related Foolishness:

Chipotle Mexican Grill shares have been recommended by both Motley Fool Hidden Gems and Rule Breakers. Coca-Cola is an Inside Value pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns no shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.