Frugal fatigue is now officially what ails us

Enough of us are apparently experiencing frugality fatigue that it's not only made it into the lexicon but may well soon be declared an official psychiatric disorder.

I am personally so relieved. Perhaps someone will come up with a 12-step program fashioned to control it? Forget group hugs; let's organize a group shop!

It seems it goes like this: Frugal fatigue, according to Word Spy, is the mental exhaustion caused by constant frugality during hard economic times. Gee, and here I thought it was plain old garden variety anxiety over losing my job and worrying about paying the mortgage.

Wrote Christopher Muther in last month: "[I]t seems that after a year of watching our wallets, bank accounts, and 401(k) plans with the tenacity of a wheelchair-bound Jimmy Stewart in an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, some are throwing up their hands, taking out their credit cards, and wading back into pre-recession spending habits. The official term for this behavior is frugal fatigue. It started creeping into the lexicon last spring, and now frugal fatigue -- the idea that we're getting worn down and stressed out by constantly watching our budgets -- may as well be an officially diagnosed psychiatric disorder."

This followed with cautious optimism over Black Friday spending. Would we frugally challenged be lured into the stores and part with our preciously hoarded greenbacks?

The San Francisco Chronicle
quoted economist Marshal Cohen with NPD Market Research as saying a strong Black Friday would induce consumers to relax the spending restraint they have exercised since the financial crisis erupted last fall.

"Once the consumer starts to engage in spending, a momentum starts to build," Cohen said. "Consumers have been frugal for over a year. They're tired of not buying anything." Amen, brother.

When the recession first started, many regarded scaling back as a challenge -- fun, even. The preachier types among us even declared it good for us, something that would help us realize the true blessings of our lives, return to core family values. Being poor, they argued, could be a good thing.

Then, it stopped being fun. People missed going out to dinner, taking vacations to places that didn't involve in-laws, buying the little impulse purchase gadgets at the pharmacy checkout counter. But still, we were afraid to spend. And the collective result: We suffered mental exhaustion over the daily reminder that our lives are no longer what they were once were and being broke pretty much sucks.

For me personally, I had a shopping breakthrough last week. With wanton abandonment, I dusted off my credit cards and went on a shopping spree for my children. I had a fleeting flash of remorse but it quickly evaporated when I realized how good it felt.

Was this a momentary lapse in sound judgment or has the economy just been waiting for me to signal that the recession is over? For me, earning a living as a freelancer is akin to juggling water balloons. Just when I think I have a rhythm going, one of them bursts and I get drenched again.

But I've been at this long enough to know that when one freelance job dries up, another one will come along. And until that happens, you can find me at the mall, doing my part to help America.
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