Blessed are the thrifty -- for they are the happiest of all (We told you so!)
A recent Gallup poll said that 62% of us would rather save money than spend it, up significantly from 48% of us in 2001. That would seem to confirm what most of us here at WalletPop have been trying to tell you lo these three years: Thrift is good.
Remember thrift? Your grandparents probably do. Thrift used to be a great American value, but somewhere in the early '80s it got lost in the cult of all that glitters and surpassing the Jones's.
For more than 20 years, thrift became synonymous with "cheap," or "poor." Also, "pathetic." And we naturally thrifty sorts wondered why we were considered so outside the mainstream. Why would anyone want to drive a used car? they asked us. How can you live in such a small space?" And thrift stores? Oh we are so embarrassed for you.
And then came the Great Recession. Remember that? Of course you do.
Suddenly, nobody in the middle class had any money. And suddenly, thrift wasn't a lifestyle choice anymore. It was a necessity. Hard to keep up with the Joneses when your house has been foreclosed on and you can't find a job for all the resumes in China.
And not surprisingly (to us, anyway), Americans are rediscovering the beauty of less.
"My life has changed much from the days when a nice Sunday family outing was a drive to Costco in the SUV," says our own Sarah Gilbert, a mom of three who has mastered the frugal housekeeping skills of old, (and writes about them for us here at WalletPop) "I know I spent a good part of my time wishing for the things I couldn't afford. Oh, if only we could buy a nicer tv/couch/walnut entertainment center/wolf stove." Once an investment banker, she jumped off the track and became a freelance writer, providing her more time for her family ... and just enough cash to make ends meet. The result of her dramatically-reduced spending?
"I feel free of the keep-up-with-the-joneses stuff, and of the constant worry I'm not ever going to make enough money. Making less than we made as a family when we used to hang at Costco -- and I feel so much happier, I have more than enough," she says.
There's even a movement afoot to resurrect the old National Thrift Week, which was launched by some intrepid marketing guy back in 1916 and shelved in 1966, when it was decided that shopping was better for the economy.
"For years we cheapskates picked on gas-guzzling SUVs as symbols of excessive consumption," says Vicki Robin, author of the best-selling Your Money or Your Life. "When GM announced it will shut down Hummer production, some called it the result of higher fuel prices. I call it a return to common sense."