As the recession drags on I have seen a very subtle shift in the types of web searches that result in visits to Frugal Dad. I’ve always thought watching search trends is a great way to gauge popular opinion – Google must have a field day watching trends considering the data they have available to them.
When the economy started to head south I noticed many people became quite proud of their frugality. Those who were once quietly going about their simple lives were suddenly very happy to share how they saved money, reduced their utilities, rejected new cars and new clothes, etc. Frugal people were suddenly very popular. Just months before, they were laughed at and mocked by those who thought frugal people were alarmists, or too conservative, or somehow less intelligent or sophisticated than wealthy people.
On the opposite extreme there were plenty of people still doing quite well, and living in a bit of denial that we were headed towards a recession. To prove their solvency to the world they continued to spend shamelessly buying fancy cars, high-end clothing and big homes. And in an instant, the roles were reversed.
Stories began appearing about people being ashamed of their affluent spending habits. Designer stores were putting purchases in non-descript bags so patrons wouldn’t stand out. No longer was it “cool” to show off a designer label, or a high-end store bag, in public. Sales at most retailers plummeted, except those stores offering extreme discounts to customers such as Wal-mart and Dollar General.
A few months into the recession the media started to slowly turn on us frugalists. Were we responsible for the lack of recovery? Were we to blame for the lack of sales, and the avoidance of debt? Many of us, myself included, refused to accept that excessive spending and running household deficits was a reflection of our patriotism. In fact, it was quite the opposite. We felt it was time for everyone to reign in the wild spending of the last several years.
As a result, some started to feel ashamed over their frugality. And that trend continues today, as many land here at Frugal Dad while searching terms related to “ashamed to be frugal.” Funny how two extremes with the same line of thinking can take vastly different approaches. At least half the “extremely frugal” people I meet proudly proclaim their thrift, eager to tell how much they paid for everything, and how much you could have saved if you asked them before buying. The other half seem almost afraid to admit they shop at the thrift store, or drive a beat up car.
I believe the struggle is compounded by the media, who often go to great lengths to project people leading a simple life as weird, or extremists, while building up the idea that everyone is rich, no one has to work, and 16 year-olds deserve $10,000 birthday parties and new cars. That is simply not reality, but it is certainly the perception of some who believe everything they see on television. And it is this perception that causes people to reject a natural tendency towards simplicity, and instead pile on as many goodies and gadgets they can while accumulating more and more debt.
So do not be ashamed to be frugal. Wear your frugality as a badge. Be proud of driving a clunker, and wearing everyday clothing, and living in a modest home.