Is Frugality Becoming Trendy?

by Andy Hough on December 6, 2008

With the economic downturn tightening budgets I have seen several articles discussing how frugality is now becoming cool. They usually support this claim with a few anecdotes from ordinary citizens. Based on my own observations I doubt that frugality is actually becoming cool or even becoming much more socially acceptable. There are more people becoming frugal from necessity or perhaps because they are worried about the economy. They aren’t becoming frugal because they want to though, they are becoming frugal because they have to or because they feel that they need to be frugal due to the economy. Perhaps people will discover that a frugal lifestyle is a good choice regardless of whether it is necessary. My guess is that once the economy recovers the vast majority of these people will abandon their frugal ways and return to being regular consumers.

1 Carrie December 6, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Cool or not, it’s definitely a hot topic these days. We frugal bloggers are getting asked to be on regular media to talk about the topic, and pretty much every publication you pick up has a feature on saving money.

2 steve December 8, 2008 at 10:33 pm

I work in an independent bookstore, and I have noticed a threefold increase in people paying with cash they pull out of envelopes. Where before I would see that once every month or so, I am seeing it at least once every other day.

The incidence of cash purchasing in general, I would say, is definitely up.

3 steve December 8, 2008 at 10:52 pm

I know, the math on that comment above is a little weird. Basically, I am saying that a lot more people are paying with cash, and of those, an increasing number have their money portioned out into envelopes, presumably for different categories.

One guy came in today with a wallet that was wrapped up with a 1″ thick rubber band. It had a LOT of bills in it. I started talking with him and it turned out the rubber band was to keep the money from falling out of his pocket. But he didn’t end up paying with the wallet for his purchase, he used ANOTHER wad of bills that had a thinner rubber band around it. It turned out that that was his discretionary spending wad of cash, and the other one was for planned spending like groceries and gas and whatnot.

Just an example. Most of these cash payers don’t buy as much stuff as the credit card people, but some of them come in and drop $150 in bills on you. It’s kind of impressive in a way and from my point of view, their money has more psychological weight–you KNOW that they actually have the cash to buy the stuff they bring up to the counter, and it seems like their spending is more considered.

Whenever the xmas and chanukkah holidays come around, some cash payers appear that I never see during the year– The books are clearly once a year expenses for them.

Of course, not ALL of them are frugal necessarily. One guy came in with a list of 4 books for his grandchildren, paid from a big roll of bills, then left his list on the counter when he left. The list was written on the back of a horse racing betting slip! That’s got to be an expensive habit! But the fact is, he HAD the cash to buy his books.

4 Andy Hough December 9, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Steve- Let’s hope that the cash payment is a sign of more responsible money management and the trend continues.

5 kath December 14, 2008 at 8:01 pm

They don’t call it frugal anymore. The new politically correct term for it is “living green.” And that’s what I keep telling my kids – I’m not cheap, I’m green!

6 Andy Hough December 15, 2008 at 11:56 am

Kath- There is a lot of overlap between green and frugal. If calling it “living green” makes it more acceptable that is fine with me.

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