Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ah, that is the question

Jaimie wants to know "Is Frugality A Fad Or a Trend That Will Last?" (Frugal Hacks)

Well, the way I see it is kind of like this: I heard on the radio that McDonald's profits are up, not in spite of but because of "times-like-these." And yeah, even when I was pretty broke as a student, I ate out a lot (at the cheapest places I could find), because of various difficulties maintaining anything resembling a kitchen in a couple of the places I lived. There will always be people in boarding houses, single people, people running between one part-time job and another one who just need something to shovel in before the next shift starts.

But that aside, the fact that so many people are still holding onto the fast food lifestyle says to me that "frugal" hasn't really hit home yet. It's still seen as a choice. That's a fad.

When times are really bad, it's not "frugal" so much as "broke," and you don't have a choice about it. If times stay tough, it doesn't matter if the rich and social are playing frugal and buying economy-brand bottled water; the people out of work don't care if it's cool to be frugal, they just have to pay the bills and eat. Or not, if they can't, sometimes with tragic results. (There's been another story in the news about a family who couldn't face unemployment, but I won't link to it.) You might say that many of the "broke" aren't necessarily frugal, especially if they don't have many coping skills to stretch a small income.

That leaves the question of the rest of us, those who have been choosing to spend less for whatever reason or on whatever income, some of us since the last big recession, some much longer. We do know how to stretch recipes, how to make a whatsit out of what we have, how to keep wearing a pair of winter boots with a crack across the top (or, better, keep the boots from cracking in the first place). Some of us--like Kit's Aunt Millie--were raised to be frugal and will keep on being frugal; some have found ways to pass those values on to their children, others of us struggle with that. Frugal for us isn't a fad; some of us may have been pushed into it because of finances, and we don't necessarily find it 100% fun 100% of the time; but it's also a reflection of our values--environmental, spiritual, whatever--and those values are what will keep our frugal energy high, no matter what the economic times.

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