How to earn your penny-pincher credentials
Americans are shifting into an era of frugality.
Millions of Americans are forging new responses to today's tough financial times. This economic crisis is serving as a warning siren, blasting many people out of their decades-long reliance on credit cards to fuel lavish lifestyles.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Americans in growing numbers are adopting new values-based lifestyles, focused not on an endless accumulation of possessions, but on a profound realignment of priorities.
This change is reflected in a January study on the American dream by MetLife. Attitudes toward work are radically shifting from job advancement to job stability. This concern cuts across all income and generational groups. Three out of 4 Americans reported that they have been affected by unemployment this year with either themselves, a neighbor, or a family member losing a job. While more than 70 percent of Americans remain optimistic that they will achieve their personal dreams, nearly half worry that they will not be able to sustain their financial security.
One adjustment likely to become permanent is a dramatic drop in consumer spending. That's reflected in a decrease in credit-card debt in the past two months. A renewed focus on personal savings and a commitment to rebuilding personal balance sheets has catapulted the national savings rate from zero in the middle of 2008 to 5 percent in January.
Americans are also fleeing the stock market, selling their mutual funds, and even migrating out of Treasuries to other safety areas.
"The situation is getting worse, not better. Quality becomes very important for investors," Mohammed El-Erian, CEO of PIMCO, told Reuters. "It's hard to say what inning you are in because the rules of the game are changing and you don't know whether you are playing a nine- or a 15-inning game. It is very difficult to call a bottom, as more than half of the job losses have occurred in the last four months."
Frugality has now become the fashion, with a surge of interest in a variety of tactics to stretch a dollar further – off-season vacations, early-dining discounts, and book exchanges, to name just a few.
Suddenly, what used to be negative epithets – miser, tightwad, cheapskate – are now almost revered acclamations. So if you want to earn credentials as a penny pincher, here are a some additional steps:
Share housing – According to a recent AARP recent poll on multigenerational living, 12 percent of respondents reported moving into shared housing over the past six months and 15 percent of respondents answered that they are likely to move in with another family member or friend this year. A change in job status or loss of income was frequently cited as the trigger for such action.
More important, over half surveyed expressed being comfortable with a shared-housing situation.