If you’re an American living in Europe, this is not exactly the best of times to buy pizza in Italy, shop for porcelain in Spain or swig a Pilsen beer in Germany.

The good old days — way back last year when a buck would buy more than a euro — are gone.

And if some expert predictions come true, the exchange rate will not get better any time.

Lorenzo Codogno, a senior economist for Bank of America in London, expects the dollar to get weaker in the next quarter. He said it could fall to $1.25 against the euro, adding that it might be more than 12 months until one dollar equals one euro.

“I think the trend is well established,” he said. “The next quarter or possibly the second quarter we’re going to continue to see a weak dollar or even weaker.”

That is not good news for people who shop beyond the base perimeter.

The dollar hit new lows against the euro last week, and the poor rate couldn’t happen at a worst time — the holidays. The dollar hit a record low against the euro for the sixth straight day on Friday on weaker than expected U.S. job data. The exchange rate was at $1.2087 against the euro on Friday, according to the European Central Bank.

The rising euro and the falling dollar has U.S. servicemembers stationed in Europe paying more for just about everything off base, from drinks at the bar to souvenirs at tourist hot spots.

It is changing the way many military personnel and their families are spending their money this holiday season. Some are shopping less in town, keeping traveling to a minimum and buying more at the base commissaries and exchanges.

“You just can’t shop off post anymore,” said Spc. Emmanuel Gomez, who is assigned to the Bamberg, Germany-based Battery C, 1st Battalion, 33rd Field Artillery Regiment. “When I first got here, the currency was still marks. I’d go off post all the time, for everything.

“Now, I can find it cheaper at the [post exchange]. If I see something I want and they don’t have it at the [exchange], I just won’t buy it.”

Marine Lance Cpl. Josh Cheney, a member of the Rota, Spain-based Marine Corps Security Force Company Europe, said he can’t help but notice the exchange rate getting worse.

“It affects us quite a bit,” Cheney said. “We definitely notice it.”

Spc. Chris Robinson, Battery A, 1st Battalion, 33rd Field Artillery Regiment in Bamgerg, has skipped shopping out in town.

“I never go off post to buy anything, things are just too expensive,” he said.

But Americans aren’t the only ones suffering.

European business owners who depend on American customers are feeling the pinch.

Alfonso Lara is the manager of a gift shop just outside the main gate to Naval Station Rota. The store sells Spanish-made items, from swords to matador figurines. He said business is down 30 percent.

“The situation is like crazy,” he said. “The rate is changing so often.”

In the spring, when the base served as a stopping point for ships and troops heading to the Middle East in preparation for the war in Iraq, business boomed. Now, air traffic at the naval station airport has slowed and so has the number of American customers passing through the shop.

On a Friday afternoon, the store was empty. He said other stores in town also are trying to weather the dipping dollar.

“Everyone is like, ‘Please don’t go down,’” Lara said. “You have set prices and you can’t change them that often.”

The falling dollar, however, isn’t all doom and gloom for everyone.

U.S. military and civilian personnel are getting a nice cost-of-living stipend to make up the higher cost of living overseas. Plus, Americans stationed at European installations are flocking to post exchanges and commissaries.

Commissaries have seen a 5.4 percent increase in sales this fiscal year in Europe compared to the last, Christine Frey, financial manager for the Defense Commissary Exchange Agency at Kapaun Air Station in Germany. Commissaries sell some products from Europe, but the grocery stores are mandated to sell them at cost.

“For us, it has been an extremely good year,” Frey said.

Navy exchanges have seen a slight increase in sales this year, mostly due to the war. However, the weak dollar is not helping.

More than half of the Navy Exchange System’s workers in Europe are locals. The Navy exchange stores in Europe have lost $1.5 million in payroll expenses in a nine-month period this year because local-national workers are paid in euros, said Gary Shirley, NEX European district manager in Naples, Italy.

Because the prices are fixed worldwide at Navy Exchange stores, Shirley said it is difficult to recoup what is lost.

“We just don’t make that much money,” he said. “We’ve basically had to eat it.”

So, what’s the reason for the weaker dollar, especially when there are signs that the U.S. economy is making a turn around? Numerous factors can influence the exchange rate, and theories differ on which is more dominant. If you put 10 bankers in a room, you would likely get 10 different opinions, Codogno said.

He blames the deficit, trade wars and the threat of another terrorist attack for the lower dollar. He predicts an exchange rate of $1.25 against the euro might be the peak.

“Then, there will be some stabilization,” he said.

Americans living in Europe can only hope.

— Reporter Rick Emert contributed to this story from Bamberg, Germany.

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