(CNN) -- Across the country, a sudden shift is taking place.
Bobbie Cleave, a retired teacher in Utah, has put off plans to get a badly needed car.
Brian Chandler, a data manager in metro Atlanta, is delaying buying a house, despite needing space for his second child due any day now.
Retired police officer Richard Huffman of Michigan may ditch plans to re-enter the work force.
U.S. 27 days away from fiscal cliff
And several families CNN spoke with said they're shrinking the gift pile beneath the Christmas tree.
As the nation approaches the so-called "fiscal cliff," people are taking steps to cushion their families from the plunge.
To them, the threat to the nation's economy requires preparation -- particularly with President Barack Obama warning that going off the cliff could cost the average family of four more than $2,000.
But some say the fears are just hype.
And others see an upside.
"We need to go over the cliff," says Valerie Stayskal, 58-year-old owner of two small businesses in Addison, Illinois.
As Congress and the White House battle over the $7 trillion worth of tax increases and spending cuts that could start to take effect in January, CNN reached out to people in various walks of life to find out how they're already being affected.