Michael on May 15th, 2009
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A recent Time magazine cover story, Thrift Nation, demonstrates “The New Frugality” of Americans.  Nearly everyone will recognize someone familiar, be it an ER doctor, a blackjack dealer, an autoworker, restaurant owner, or the unemployed; each is profiled in this thought-provoking piece that attempts to demonstrate how truly broad the impact is of our current recession.

Here are some of the statistics from the story I found most interesting:

Although people are spending 27% less on health clubs, they are spending 29% more time exercising.

Could it be that unemployed people workout more?  Let’s hope that’s only one part of the equation.  I know that the more I have to do, the more I get done and have often found the opposite to be true.

Less than 40% of Americans think the economy will start to recover within one year.

That’s uncharacteristically negative for the typically overly optimistic (financially-speaking) American.  I love to play the contrarian, so I might be more aggressive simply in response to this survey.  Clearly, no one knows when this ship will turn around. That includes me and the 60% who say more than one year.  Still, if I were a betting man, I’d say we’ll at least see the beginning of a turnaround before another year is out. Heck, the WSJ reported that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last Tuesday said that the U.S. recession appears to be losing steam, with growth likely to resume later this year on the back of firmer household spending, a bottoming housing market and an end to inventory liquidation.

36% of people are spending less on newspapers and magazines.

Okay, c’mon.  As shocking of a statistic as that is, how much of it is due to the economy vs. what’s going on in that industry due to the enormous technological shift in the way we receive media (i.e., free via the web)?

What do you think of the new frugality?  Is it real in your life? Is it temporary or will it be long-lasting?

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4 Comments to “America’s increasingly frugal habits”

  1. Abigail says:

    I think it’s a short-term trend. I wish it weren’t. But I think we’re already starting to see signs of frugal burnout. Restaurants are certainly not hurting for business. The movies seem plenty full when my husband and I go (with free passes).

    I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t think the American consumer is trained for long bouts of self-deprivation.

  2. Ang says:

    I don’t think that frugality should be about self-deprivation. To me, the best kind of frugal living is when we make decisions that help preserve our long-term financial health without depriving ourselves to the point where we are miserable. I think it’s entirely possible that there are others at the movies who are there on free passes, or for whom this is the splurge of the month. It’s not for me to judge what people splurge on, or to assume that going to a restaurant or a movie means that someone has an un-frugal lifestyle.

    I think what this economic downturn has done is help people realize that conspicuous consumption is unrealistic and unhealthy, and I think that will stick, at least for my generation (18-35 year olds).

  3. threadbndr says:

    I’m hoping it will stick. I’ve been frugal all my life and I haven’t changed my game plan with the recession. I’m still saving, still trying to decrease the outflow and increase the income.

    But now I’m not ‘weird’ for doing it LOL – that’s been rather fun.

  4. Michael says:

    @Abigail: Thank you for sharing your opinion. Only time will tell and you make some excellent points. I, too, have noticed how busy the restaurants remain.

    @Ang: What you’re talking about is the importance of balance and I whole-heartedly agree. I also think you’re right in that the downturn will cause different reactions based on where you are in life (relative to income, previous wealth, amount lost, home ownership status and age). Would be great to see how these statistics look a couple of decades from now, won’t it?

    @threadbndr: I hope it sticks too and I certainly think, at a minimum, it will be a growing trend. I hear you on it being less “weird” now to save – a good thing for we “weirdos!”

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