Spending Less Now? How About Later?

by Katy on July 21, 2009 · 25 comments

Frugality Poll Results

I was setting the table for dinner tonight when I overheard a story my husband was watching on the local news.

“A new Gallup Poll finds that about a third of Americans, 32%, say they have been spending less in recent months, and that they intend to solidify this behavior as their “new, normal” pattern in the years ahead.”

I walked, plates in hand into the living room to hear the rest of the story which understandably caught my attention. I was unable to find a link to the news story, although here is a link to the Gallup poll results.

One of the few criticisms that I have received about The Non-Consumer Advocate is that the current mindset of frugality with honor, (okay, I just made that phrase up) will be history as soon as the economic downturn shifts direction.

This poll gives my standpoint that frugality can be a life long joyful choice some validity. Like those who lived through the great depression and created lifelong spending and saving habits, today’s generation (or at least 32%) plan to do the same.

I had considered myself to already be an extremely disciplined frugalite, but the current recession has put the fear in me. I have brought my family’s spending waaaay farther down in the past year. I want our debt vanquished, and as soon as humanly possible!

A good example of this newfound uber-frugality is how often we eat out. Last year we probably ate out once every couple of weeks, sometimes once a week. This especially ramped up in the Summer, when swim classes and other activities kept us out and about. This Summer we haven’t eaten out once that I can recall. (Before you get too impressed, my mother does treat for lunches every so often.) And I’ve been able to build a juicy little savings account that would not have occurred to me as feasible just a scant year ago.

Both big changes.

Will I start to spend money left and right once the recession loosens its grip on us?

No way, fellow Non-Consumers!

But I may start eating out once a month or so. But this would be more related to personal debt elimination rather than any recession abatement. I do so love international food, and that is simply not reproducible in my somewhat white bread kitchen.

Have you brought your spending down because of the recession? If so, do you plan on continuing with this pattern, or will you loosen the purse strings once the recession is over. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia Tucker July 21, 2009 at 5:16 am

At the risk of feeling a bit sanctimonious (hope that is spelled right??), my frugal habits will continue. However, I had far more than I had realized going into this. Just about the time the economy tanked, we made a life change with substantially reduced our income. So I began to read and research all I could do to be frugal in order that I might have money to buy the things (such as material and yarn and giving to my kids) that I had been. Much to my both satisfaction and disappointment, I already practiced many of the frugal behaivors that I found. I am now making my own cleaners, more for health and “green” reasons than frugality, but it works for that too. I also make more from scratch because I have the time and joy to do it. And we eat out less because I take such joy in cooking – and think mine is as good or better than most I can eat out. (I do love the ambiances of some restaurants though). I miss being able to treat my adult children who live far away.


Sarah July 21, 2009 at 5:46 am

Yes, I have brought my spending down/savings up due to the recession. Well, sorta. My DH and I are lucky. Unlike so many, we are not seeing a decrease in our income. Honestly, my DH has *temporarily* seen an increase in his pay (think quadruple) due to being deployed overseas. Also, I’ve always been a little on the frugal side of average. So, we weren’t ever trying to “keep up with the Jones”.

That being said, the recession has still changed our spending/saving habits. About a 18-24 months ago, I had a terrible time finding frugal/simple living blogs. Now, I can find all sorts of great blogs with tips and information on these topics. Additionally, I’m no longer looked at like a freak for making my own bread, jam, soap, etc…. Finally, I’m actually seeing more and more the need for 6+ months of living expense in an emergency fund. So, while the recession hasn’t really hit us [yet], we are now more prepared.


jessie July 21, 2009 at 6:24 am

I personally did not join the frugal movement because of the economy. Then again, if the economy wasn’t in such dire straits, I might not have ever discovered that a “frugal movement” existed! I’m not sure if I would have ever gone this route without the information and support from the internet community.

This is definitely a long term change for me. I have seen my attitudes on consumerism change so much in the last year or so – I can’t imagine going back now.



Sandy July 21, 2009 at 7:24 am

Frugal is a way of life I was brought up with. It just comes in handier when things are tight. I didn’t know there was a movement. Thanks for letting me know 😉


Lisa July 21, 2009 at 7:38 am

I have always been frugal. It was just the way I was raised. My parents are visiting and we went to CVS where I bought several items and ended up paying $0 after coupons. My dad’s immediate comment “That’s the Scots-Irish in you.” Yes, a stereotype, but one that fits me 8-).

I haven’t gotten more frugal in the last few years, but I have become more environmentally aware. Though, I might be tightening my belt further as it looks like California is about to cut education even more and probably my job along with it. I’m just glad that I have enough skills and knowledge to help make it less of a challenge.


Marie July 21, 2009 at 9:25 am

I’ve always been more concerned with my own personal economy than the national economy. During the boom years things were especially bad for us. Now that we have been graduated for 18 months with two MS degrees (I’m a SAHM to 3 kids) we’ve been aggressively paying down the student loans.

When my husband gets bonuses and over time we’ve been using it to kill the debt. But when the debt is gone I plan to increase my spending gradually but I do intend to buy more. I love to eat out and hate cooking so I plan to do more of that. I also plan to enroll my kids in swim lessons and get new clothes for me since I have bought nothing but a few maternity pieces in the last 5 years.

Of course we plan to ramp up our savings more than we plan to ramp up our spending. We put more than 29% of our gross into savings and student loan repayment each month. I would like to scale it back to 20 -25% when the student loans are cleared.


Meg from FruWiki July 21, 2009 at 9:37 am

The recession didn’t cause my frugality, either. My husband and I chose this path slightly before the recession began (yeah, it’s all our fault, we must have been BIG spenders!). Though being in debt did encourage us, as it has many others, I don’t think we’ll change much when we get out of debt because this has and will be for us a long-term process consisting of many long-term habits.

And it’s been an attitude change, too. Now instead of thinking “It’s only $1″m we think “Why pay for something we don’t have to?”, and instead of saying “Why should we fix this?”, we think “Why shouldn’t we fix this?” We now really truly hate waste — and also pride ourselves on not just our new found wisdom and financial progress, but also on the impact we’re having in the world (or less impact, as it may be).


sandy July 21, 2009 at 11:49 am

My husband and I have always been frugal and now that we are in our 50’s, we have no debt and I don’t have to work if I don’t feel like it. I have been slightly more frugal lately, mostly because I have just about everything I need–tons of clothes and household stuff from thrift stores and yard sales–so I don’t feel much need to shop. We go out to eat about once a week. I find that if we go out too often, I get tired of it (even though we prefer ethnic places like Indian, Thai, Greek, etc). Most of our entertainment is pretty cheap–movies from the library, playing games with friends, potlucks, camping. We like those sort of things much better than activities that cost a lot of money, so I doubt if we would do too much more spending even if we suddenly had tons of money and the economy was great. We’re set in our frugal ways.


Angela July 21, 2009 at 2:31 pm

My so-called frugality has come about gradually, and not in response to this recession. As another commenter said, sometimes when the economy is supposedly doing great, we’re not, and when it’s bust we’re flush.

Mine started first from wanting to do what I love (writing) and so I needed to be able to live on less money. It branched out from there into wanting to simplify and declutter, and then into wanting to waste less and stop supporting a consumerist culture of throwaway. So it’s been a 4-5 year path.

Also, the support of your blog and some others have placed me more firmly on the path. I’ve always been somewhat frugal, but I didn’t know there could be so much value in living with less.


WilliamB July 21, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Those polls sound like the guys who go to the gym in Jan & Feb but then gradually stop. I’m skeptical. Let’s see what happens in 5 years.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl July 21, 2009 at 4:15 pm

I was frugal way before frugal was cool. lol and I will keep being frugal after the coolness of it has worn off.

I think frugality is just in the core of my being.


Meg from FruWiki July 21, 2009 at 4:15 pm


Yeah, but going to the gym involves actually doing stuff. Spending less means doing less (generally speaking).

I think the new frugality is going to appeal to people’s laziness. Certainly has for me! “You want me to shower & dress, drive across town, wander around stores, wait in line to check out, etc. etc. etc.? Nah! I’ll just stay home.”


Julie CO July 21, 2009 at 6:56 pm

Our family’s view of income and debt has been irrevocably changed over the last three years. As a single income household, we have seen a progression from no regular bonuses to no raises to a 10% paycut to a layoff. We are preparing to sell our house, so that we can live on less than half our income from here on out. We plan to rent until we can pay cash for a house. This layoff is that last straw…. we’re sick and tired of feeling in bondage to a home mortgage.

Also, now that we are living off savings/severance, we’ve drastically changed our spending habits. Somehow, we’ve more than halved our grocery budget, cut out lots of little non-essentials, and ultimately changed our view of what a “need” is in our life. I think that is the biggest change- learning what a real, honest-to-goodness need actually is in our consumer, middle class living culture. Funny how when you’re spending from a finite amount of cash that gets clarified rather quickly…. and also funny how we haven’t viewed paychecks as finite in the past.


Kristin @ klingtocash July 21, 2009 at 7:46 pm

I was frugal before the recession and I’ll be frugal after the recession has ended. I hope those figures in the Gallop poll are correct. We, as a nation, cannot continue to live the way we did before October 2007. It is not feasible to keep spending more than you make. I think the best thing to come out of this recession is the tightening of the credit market. If people can’t get credit, they’ll have to live within their means.


Marj July 21, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Frugal IS me, always was, always will be.


mountain mama July 21, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Frugality has always been a way of life for me. Again, because of how I was raised. I got a heavy dose of it in the early 1990’s in graduate school when I lived on $400/month. Granted, it was in the State of North Dakota where the cost of living is less, but nevertheless, it was still a tremendous challenge. Recently, I have gotten my husband more on board by listening to Dave Ramsey. We now really do adhere to a budget, and for the first time in a long time, we have some good savings in the bank. I truly feel that if I want to have more choices in life, frugality is the route for me. I value time and relationships much more than stuff and appearances. I also feel that for the sake of the planet, it is important to consume less. The new frugality movement is a win-win, I hope, for the generations to come!


Karen July 21, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Kristin, that’s of course true that credit given to consumers has been too loose. What a great thing, for consumers to learn to live within their means! But unfortunately the current tight credit hurts so many small businesses who depend on credit to pay employees, buy stock etc, the loss of which has just added to the downturn. If only we could find a middle road somewhere where the appropriate, creditworthy but cash-strapped people were still getting the chance to fund/run their businesses rather than the hit or miss credit meltdown created by the banks. It would be a sensible goal, but is not likely to happen any time soon, with the big banks so entrenched in D C.

As for me, I’ve always been frugal but have become more so lately, more conscious of how little really needs to be bought, as opposed to what I’d like to buy (mainly books and pens). I’m also laughing because so many people are discovering frugality, while so many of us have been practicing it for decades. But better late than never, for sure.


jenn baron July 22, 2009 at 7:07 am

I haven’t always been frugal. Twice in my life I’ve gotten myself into credit card debt and with some attitude adjustments and reality checks, I’m not going there again!

My Dad never wastes anything which can be positive and negative. I’ve been working to live by Katy’s great mantra and actively create the financial future of my dreams. Be debt-free, travel often and go to a nice dinner with my beloved once a month. With the help of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University we will get there.

Frugality is who I really am and I feel great about that!

Keep up the great work everyone!


Tracy Balazy July 22, 2009 at 10:19 am

I recently got a raise in my copy editing job, and my husband’s heating and cooling job is doing OK, but we’re frugal nonetheless. We’re growing a big vegetable garden this year and want to start making our own wine, but these are mostly for the satisfaction of creating our own stuff and knowing the source of what we consume.

We’re not interested in having children, and we prefer to drive our older-model cars, and I have no need for an iPhone or a computer any newer than my 2002 Dell desktop and my Windows 98-running, $50 used Toshiba laptop, so we have no debt.

I’ve stopped buying anything new, inspired by you, Katy, and buy all my clothes and household goods at thrift stores and garage sales. I like benefiting from others’ impulse buys! Except for things that, to quote you, would “skeeve me out” to buy used, like underwear and stuff.

We could eat out less, but we like Middle Eastern and Indian food that I’m not likely to make at home. We consider a little eating out the tradeoff for our lack of interest in buying a lot of “shiny new stuff.”

You guys who post on Katy’s site are all an inspiration to me, thanks!


Tracy Balazy July 22, 2009 at 10:21 am

P.S.: I wanted to add to my comment above, I live in Michigan, where we have the highest unemployment rate in the country at more than 15%, so it’s good to be frugal here, JUST in case!


Kris-ND July 22, 2009 at 12:49 pm

May I say that my husband blames you for making me a weirdo? Oh yes he does..lol I have used the coinstar machines before, but now I check them and grab change dropped in parking lots, etc…lol

My state isn’t really in a recession, so in that way, we are in a bit of a bubble financially and my starting to really pay attention to frugality isn’t because of personal suffering, but rather, as Dave Ramsey says “live like no one else, so you can live like no one else”. Not being frugal is taking away choices for our family. My husband likes his job, but if we had more choices about how many hours he can work and the salary he needs to make, he would be doing something else, that he loves, but doesn’t pay well.

My major change in attitude and why I WILL continue to be frugal? My husband is a disabled veteran. He works in a job that is taking a physical toll on him. Almost 21 years of service in the defense of freedom, and he doesn’t have the freedom to choose a new career because we have a certain level of obligation financially, so he has to work where he makes the needed amount of income…lack of choices.

One day I just thought about how wrong that thought is to me, and decided that *I* was going to do everything I could to give him that choice, which gives our entire family better choices.


Pennie July 22, 2009 at 9:49 pm

I hope that an enduring change after the economic meltdown is that people finally learn to live within their means.

I’ve always been frugal by nature, but never cease to be amazed at the unwise spending patterns and utter waste of the typical “consumer.”

We all deserve (and are) better than that!


Darcy June 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

I would be so curious, now that it’s 2016 and the recession has eased up, to read a new article or hear others’ perspectives on whether they or their neighbors are still committed, never were or have eased up. Just a thought for a future post!


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