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Monday, December 27, 2010

Will Frugality Be on the Wane in the New Year?

Not wanting to influence your spending one way of the other (who knows what effect THAT would have on the world economy!!!), I saved this post for the post-holiday period of reflection.

As I write (December 23), I have just learned that, according to the Wall Street Journal, people are spending. Other indicators that I read here and there suggest that the economy will improve in 2011. Something--as Hamlet said--"devoutly to be wished."

I wonder: will frugality fly out the window too? The easiest time to be frugal is when you don't have to be. To inoculate myself against the temptations of spending, I looked at a video done by New England Public Television in 2009. The video features Amy Dacyczyn, someone who practices a far more pathological mode of frugality than I do. You can see the clip on Boston Gal's Open Wallet, which is where I first saw it.

If you don't want to take the time to watch Amy, let me paraphrase some of her words of wisdom. The reporter asked her for ONE PIECE of ADVICE. Amy said she would urge people to practice frugality during the good times, so that when the bad times came, they wouldn't be so bad.

if you want more Amy--for philosophy as much as for tips--see the book. Take it out of the library. Interestingly, if you look at Amazon, you will see that the book retained its value better than most of its genre and vintage.

Do you think the lessons of the financial meltdown will stay with people as we--hopefully--move to better times?


Jane said...

That's a very good question - while I wish I could say that frugality will continue to be practised widely my gut tells me that it will fall by the wayside as it has so many times before. Historically we don't learn our lessons very well...our memory is short and I think many people will feel inclined to "live for today" as who knows what tomorrow will bring.
But that's just me.

Deja Pseu said...

I've developed more frugal (in my own way) habits quite deliberately over the past year that I anticipate will carry over, hopefully for the rest of my life. I'll never be described as a "tightwad" by any means ;-) but I'm more conscious of making every dollar spent count and reducing wasteful spending.

Duchesse said...

I became FAR more frugal beginning in '08, with the double event of the recession and semi-retirement. All I had to do was channel my mother, who was somewhere b/t you and Amy D.

Now find myself lightening up slightly, e.g., lunch out when shopping instead of stashing a sandwich in my purse.

Wise spending habits are like muscles. You have to build them, then enjoy the results- or you'll lapse back.

I think there is still an enormous entitlement mentality in North American culture, and a disturbing indifference to debt. (I'll be blogging about this shortly.)

Anonymous said...

We have been discussing the need to tighten our belts again after the new year. After we paid off our mortgage in July, we sort of "celebrated" for a few months. My young adult children though have ALL become devotees of Amy.

Funny about Money said...

It'll depend on how much longer the recession-that-is-not-a-depression goes on. The unemployment and suffering of the Great Depression went on for many years. It was so traumatic that it instilled lifelong habits of frugality in our parents and grandparents -- they were permanently terrified.

This is the first time that large numbers of middle-class Americans in our generation have experienced extended financial stress. IMHO it hasn't gone on long enough to stick in most folks' minds forever. But if it goes on for another two or three years, it sure will.

Shelley said...

Obviously the readers of your blog are a skewed sample and I suspect folks who are interested in frugality will continue being frugal. People who have tightened their belt out of need will likely loosen up as soon as possible and go back to their old ways. Now that Bill is here with me all day, I find I'm more willing to turn on the heat when it gets chilly. I wouldn't ask another to put up with my 'pathology'.

see you there! said...

I don't think frugality will be a habit with those who only became "frugal" of necessity. As long as they can blame someone else (the banks that lend money, the credit cards that give you high limits) and don't learn to think financially for themselves they are going to repeat the in debt over their heads behavior I'm afraid.


I am the working poor. said...

Many will drop their frugal habits. However, many more have learned a great lesson here and may keep their frugal habits to help themselves reach financial goals that they may not have been able to reach before.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Jane--Probably true. I fdon't think that frugality is opposed to living for today...but I'm odd that way.

@DejaPseu--You are right. Consciousness is key.

@Duchesse--That double event must have been stressful. It is a tribute to your skills that you got through--still semi-retired. I am impressed.

@Terri--That mortgage payoff is great! It is really like a giant burden suddenly lifted--as in Little Women via Pilgrim's Progress.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Funny--Interesting--permanently terrified. I guess I qualify.

@Shelley--But if you are home together, you don't need as much heat!

@Darla--Assuming that others are responsible is kind of what got us into this pickle? thanks for the thoughtful comment.

@Iamwp--Wonderful to note that we can reach financial goals with our newfound skills. Thanks!