In May, Discover launched a new research program, the “Spending Confidence Monitor,” with Rasmussen Reports, a well-known, independent survey research firm. Together, they’re planning to survey lots of us every month – they interviewed 500 consumers daily (15,000 total) in August alone – to find out what we think we’ll spend in the future, what shape our finances are in now, and what our opinions are on the economy.

Granted, our expectations certainly can change unexpectedly for various reasons. However, as time goes on, I think Discover’s monthly surveys will become very insightful for what they tell us about people’s current situation – and what the trends may be. Right now, here’s how I read Discover’s key findings from the May, June and July surveys:

1. No money. The number of families that had no money left over after paying their monthly bills rose from 38% in May … to 50% in July. (There’s only a 1% margin of error.) About 45% of younger adults (18-29) in July reported having money left over after paying their monthly bills.

2. No cushion. Two-thirds in June said they could support their current lifestyle for a month if they were faced with an unexpected loss of income. But 29% in July said they wouldn’t be able to do even that, which is up from a quarter in May.

3. No hope. With credit tight, the housing market soft, gas prices high, and a war going on, it’s no surprise that about 63% in July told Discover that they rated the economy as fair or poor.

If “no money, no cushion, and no hope” is how you’d describe your current situation, as Discover shows, you’re not alone! About half of us – or more – seem to be in the same boat. So don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, tell us what’s up and we’ll try to steer you to people who can help.

Please note that the August survey was just released (click for details) a few days ago and I haven’t had time to completely digest the numbers yet. However, after a cursory glance, I did find it very interesting that the August survey reveals that consumer confidence in the U.S. economy rose and fell week-to-week. This rise and fall seems to reflect fluctuating concerns about the economy, housing market and sub-prime mortgage challenges.

More importantly, though, despite such fluctuations, consumers were relatively upbeat about their personal finances in August, rating them much higher than they rated the economy. With that, I will end this article on a positive note!