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Is Frugality Dead?

4/28/2011 10:21:48 PM

Tags: simple living, frugal living, Yes I Am Cheap, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnail Is the frugal movement over? 

This morning Sandy, whose very funny blog Yes, I Am Cheap chronicles her climb out of six-figure debt, asked that question. I’ve been thinking about it all day.

Sandy says that Starbucks’ increasing sales this quarter are “the harbinger of doom.” Once people go back to buying $3.50 lattes, she predicts, they’ll drop all the other frugal habits they picked up when the world was melting down in 2008. “You’ll stop clipping coupons,” Sandy predicts. “You might hate the price of gas but you won’t be so conscientious about how much you’re really driving. Your savings rate will dip. Then you’ll start spending more on your credit cards.”

Some folks, maybe. I don’t think frugality rises and falls like hemlines with the stock market, though. The financial crash forced a lot of people out of large homes that were beyond their means and put enough scare into Americans to stop the insane spending. It put a spotlight on simpler living as many turned away from the excess that drove our downfall. But frugality is not a movement, or a trend. Frugality is personal.

I once bought so much stuff online that I knew my credit card number by heart. I became a cash-only consignment store scavenger out of necessity when I divorced four years ago, and I’ve stayed on the path because I’m digging the journey. Having less stuff gives me security, satisfaction and freedom. I’m much more content in my small townhouse overlooking a farm than I’ve been in any of the more palatial homes I’ve lived in. The more I get the less-is-more thing, the happier I become. Simple as that. (Although I do still indulge in occasional vanilla lattes, which are about to become a lot more expensive.)

That’s my story. All around me are similar stories, from people living the creative, untethered and self-reliant lives that come from understanding, deeply, what is just enough. These stories are as varied as the American psyche, oblivious to political affiliation and other core values. They’re far too powerful to fade as Starbucks rises from the ashes.

Will you tell us yours?

quietude denise 3 

 Denise Franklin has lived happily in a 280-square-foot home for 13 years. "I still don't want any more space," she says. "I don't need a bedroom. I just don't need." Photo by Stuart Bish

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Robyn Griggs Lawrence
8/23/2011 5:03:17 PM
LOL, believe me...I'd live on the farm if I could afford it! But I'm in Boulder, Colorado, where farms just don't come cheap. So I am content with a view, for now.

8/20/2011 6:26:43 AM
I enjoyed the article and Robyn's heart is definitely in the right place. I grew up on a farm with parents who lived through the depression. I learned to appreciate their frugality. Had to smile when I read the part about "I'm much more content in my townhouse overlooking a farm". That's not quite the Mother Earth News life. I would have thought Robyn would have opted for the farm with a view of the townhouses nearby.

John Kerr_2
8/19/2011 11:49:22 AM
After getting seperated 3 years ago and divorced almost a year ago ,I was forced to take a really hard look at my finances. I was 700,000 in debt. I sold 1 property at short sale, cancelled all my credit cards and got a mortgage modification for my home. My budget has no room for savings,but i will be out of credit card in 5 years, hopefully faster as any debt gets paid off that money will be applied to other cards.

8/18/2011 5:04:10 PM
Maybe the frugal movement is dead but you won't guess that based on me. Almost six years ago I bought a "small", very inexpensive house sight unseen after selling my big house. (The one I was buying failed the inspection and it was the week before Christmas.) Turned out they didn't count the full walkout finished basement and a separate carriage house (or beautiful cottage according to me). I'm trying to pay it off in 4 more years by spending every extra penny on the mortgage, which leaves little spending money. If it's not going to save me money on the long run, it's not in my buying list. Example: I can jams and jellies (to sell at a farmer's market to supplement my SS) but now started canning my own meals so I bought a large skillet since the ones I had were too small. I spend but not much. Do I feel I should be helping the economy? Not really, I need to help me. I'm learning to do things the way my grandmother used to because it is less expensive to make most things from scratch. I've gone down from over $180,000 in debt to $35,000 (mortgage) in five years. It makes me feel great.

8/18/2011 8:55:04 AM
Toni: I do not think you should worry about living simply and costing other people their livelihood. If our society is so far gone that people cannot make a living without selling unnecessary stuff to others, then society needs to change. We have a culture that tries very hard to make people feel like they aren't normal because they don't own certain things so we have tons of credit card debt and many suffering families as a result. Occasionally treating yourself is wonderful and healthy, but people need to be diversified enough in what they sell that when people need to cut back on lattes, they don't go under.

8/17/2011 4:44:17 PM
I personally subscribe to the motto "Living simply so others may simply live"- but I must tell you...Im deeply concerned my frugality is someone elses pain- someone else not keeping a job or getting a job because I stopped spending...I mean if those of us with jobs or retirement income or significant savings....dont spend at least on socially beneficial products and services then are we not hurting many people who do not any means whatsoever ??

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