NEW YORK (AP) — Americans at the low end of the income rung are once again struggling to make ends meet.

A confluence of factors — the expiration of federal stimulus checks and surging inflation on staples like gas and food — are driving an even bigger wedge between the haves and have-nots.

While wealthier shoppers continue to splurge, low-income shoppers have pulled back faster than expected in the past two months.

They’re focusing on necessities while turning to cheaper items or less expensive stores.

And they’re buying only a little at a time.

It’s a reversal from a year or so ago when low-income shoppers, flush with money from the government and buoyed by wage increases, were able to spend more freely.