Posted with permission from Clark.com

Dinged by slow auto sales, U.S. consumer spending softened in August, according to Commerce Department figures released Friday.

Consumer spending ($18 billion) rose just 0.1%, a marked change from the previous month, the department said. Its Bureau of Economic Analysis said much of the lull could be attributed to Hurricane Harvey, which slammed into Texas and Louisiana last month.

“The August estimates of personal income and outlays reflect the effects of Hurricane Harvey that made landfall in southeastern Texas on August 25th,” the agency said. “BEA cannot separately quantify the total impact of the storm on personal income and outlays because most of the source data used to estimate the components of personal income and outlays do not separately identify storm impacts.”

The Federal Reserve is closely watching the numbers as it gauges whether to raise interest rates once again later this year, market watchers said.

Before a rate increase is a given, the Fed is on the lookout for “some firming” in the months to come “but it doesn’t need to be substantial,” Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, told Fox News Business.

Consumer spending slowed in August, U.S. says

The Commerce Department also said that auto sales dropped 1.8% last month and was a primary reason for slowed spending. The good news is that inflation remains resiliently low.

While consumer spending is a main indicator of the health of the U.S. economy, money expert Clark Howard says Americans should be saving as much money as they can. One of the primary items that households spend big on is the grocery bill.

Here are three ways consumers can save money at the grocer

  • Change where you shop 

  •  Save money with store brands

  •  Compare prices at different stores

RELATED: 21 ways to spend less money on your grocery bill

As household spending dipped in August compared to previous months, Clark is always looking for ways to help consumers save on clothing purchases.

For instance, the best time to buy clothes is Thursday evenings, before the busy weekend crowds. Also, negotiating for better prices is a time-tested money saver. Even though they are coy about advertising it, many retailers are willing to the prices of a competitor — you just have to ask.

Interested in more ways to stretch a dollar? Here are 9 tricks to slash spending on clothes.

RELATED: Best solutions for automatic savings

Budgeting is about spending smarter