The folks at The Hartman Group, a consulting and reseach firm out of Washington state that monitors consumer spending with a jaundiced eye, aren't impressd with our collective rush to frugality. In fact, they already see us moving away from it as economic times get better. [A synopsis of their report is here. There's also a link to download the entire report.]
I wish I could disagree with them. I would certainly like to think that the consumer spending lessons I'm learning now because I have to will hold over in more stable times.
Alas, these consultants don't believe it.
And for good reason. As they so succinctly wrap it up:
"We knew it was coming. It always does.
With the start of every recession comes
a deluge of media and analyst reports
highlighting the American consumer's
sudden conversion from foolish, Godless
consumer to wise spendthrift.
They always call it the "New Frugality."
The report is dry and academic but contains flashes of humor, as when one researcher notes a Time magazine article on newfound frugality he came across during his research. "The Simple Life: Goodbye to Having It All," was published in March 1991. That, of course, preceded the era of excess in which consumers spent with wild abandon, turning to their homes' equity for cash when the credit cards maxed out.
I'm scrimping and saving right now. But with more economic stability (and less debt) I can scrimp more, save more, and feel the effects less. This is my goal, but as history (both this country's history and my personal history) can attest, learning from experience doesn't always work that way.