Friday, April 10, 2009

The Gleefully Frugal

There's a great article in the New York Times today about people embracing frugal lifestyles in today's tough economy.  More than just a practical (or necessary) budgetary act, frugality is being given much broader consideration lately; it's what the article refers to as "the emergence of thrift as a value."  I'm thrilled to see society progressing this way.  

The article primarily focuses on the economic and social sides of the trend towards thrift, but it's not shy about also linking the environmental benefits of embracing thrift.  Regardless of whether you're giving up paper napkins because you've realized they were an unnecessary expense or because they are a waste of paper, you are benefiting the planet with your conscious decision to live with less.

On the economic side, the article also addresses the "paradox of thrift," the concern that when  the economy is already struggling, it is dangerous (even "catastrophic" as the article mentions) for people to react by saving instead of shopping.  However, the argument I'd make is that our economy has reached a tipping point and we can no longer be as focused on material consumerism if we want to be even remotely sustainable.  And I'm not even talking environmental sustainability here, I'm talking the survival of civilization.  I think that the only economic solution that will get us out of this mess is the one that recognizes "gleefully frugal" anti-consumerism as the way of the future, and manages to build an economy from the ground up accordingly.  Exactly what that economy looks like, I'm not quite sure, but I'm certain that with some creativity, that economy is possible.

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