Frugality is a fad.
My father just happened to be in fashion every 15 years or so because the style he clung to would re-emerge like a comet that had been circling distant planets. He simply never changed his style of dress and ‘fashion’ caught back up with him. He did not keep up with current norms. He didn’t know the Joneses and if he did he would abhor the thought of ‘keeping up’ with them.
I remember vividly my teacher talking about recycling and the wonder of solar power back in my elementary school in 1979. One of my science projects was devoted to this theme (Give a hoot, don’t pollute?). Gas prices were through the roof, there was rationing and a mild state of panic in the air. Alternative energy was going to be our ticket out of this mess.
Flash forward 31 years. (doodle-a-loop…doodle-a-loop…)
Once the pressure was lifted, the temporary solution went away. It all makes sense, we see it happen all the time. The fix was no longer necessary. In the case of energy, fuel became cheap and abundant which removed any need for alternative energy. Through it all, my father dressed the same and just happened to be out of sync with the world at the most embarrassing times for my sister and I. Being frugal can be a fad or a ritual. Frugality, in large part has been forced upon unwilling consumers like water rationing in a lifeboat. Once ashore, the deprived get to work making up for lost time. Once the veil of anxiety is lifted, we will see a consumer revival like no other. we must strive to make our frugality a permanent part of our life, not a temporary fix to a inconvenient problem.
It might not feel like it but we are exiting the great recession. Our family, friends and neighbors are going to go back to their pre-crisis levels of consumption very soon (if they haven’t already). We have all experienced ‘recession fatigue’ from time to time. The urge to splurge bubbles up more violently when we have gone without for extended periods. These are the welts we have on our waist from the tightened belt. It is the pang we feel when we see the 2010 Lexus beside us, all shiny and confident while we lumber along in our 93′ Oldsmobuick. It is I want breaking through our tired defenses.
The catch to all this is that frugality is the answer to our problem. When times are at their toughest, frugality keeps us from going under. When times are good, frugality pays! As our economy recovers and our earnings increase, diverting more of our income into our investments (rather than our lifestyle) will be the best decision we ever make.
There will always be a new Apple i-something begging for our money and time, it is when we devote both to our financial independence that we become truly wealthy.