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.
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