In a World Where Frugality is Normal

I mentioned in my 2016 Goals Update post that I am reading Money Saving Secrets of the Amish. The author makes it clear that Thrift is a virtue in Amish culture. It made me think what would life be like if Frugality were a virtue in my culture?

Would it be cool to flaunt your new clothes and flash your brandy-brands?Would brandy-brands exist?

It seems to me that many brands exist for the sake of having their logos plastered across their customers chests, or breast pockets, or purse, you get the picture. Their names are so much a marker of quality as they are a signal that “Hey , look at me! I spent a lot of money on this thing. I must be super successful. Grin!” Or sadly and more accurately. “I know what is cool, too. Please don’t make fun of me. Sheepish grin…”

In a world where thrift is normal or admired it would be shameful to pay more than necessary to be a billboard for a brand. It would be a different situation if a brand name could be trusted to mean quality, but often that promise doesn’t pan out. It peeves me to no end to pay top-of-the-line prices for a piece of clothing only to discover that the quality is on the level of fast fashion. What would be better than paying for high end retail clothing of any make or brand is to buy secondhand. It wouldn’t make you a “cheapskate” to purchase clothing on consignment or at a thrift store. It would just make you a sucker to do otherwise.

Would the purchase of a new car be a point of pride or a reason to question your sanity?

Trading on your worth on the brand name of your car is analogous to sporting brandy-brand clothing. Luxury brand = success right?

But in an alternate frugal universe, no one would give a rat’s patoot about what brand of car you drive. Why buy a new car to begin with? After all a car is just a piece of machinery that takes you where you need to go. Why not let somebody else pay the bulk of the depreciation that occurs in the first two years? Only a loon would want to buy the luxury brand vs. economy line of car and pay a new car premium to boot!

Would everyone and their brother offer a credit card line?

The author mentions that paying interest on debt is like “paying for a dead horse”. Apparently, “dead horse” is 17-th century slang for pay issued before the work was done (that is, old school debt). This use of “dead horse” to refer to wages that were issued before the work was done was an allusion to using one’s money to buy a useless thing, “a dead horse”.

Could you imagine if we looked at debt this way today? Our conversations at the register might go more like this:

“Hi will you be paying for this purchase with our Dead Horse Card? No? If you sign up for our Dead Horse Card  you’ll save 5% on today’s purchase and receive special offers and coupons in the mail for future Dead Horse Purchases”

Umn. Gross. And also, no thank you!

We wouldn’t worry so much about saving for the things we really want.

It is clear that we don’t live in a spend thrift society. One is not crazy if they wear brand name clothing, or drive a luxury car, or maintain a credit card at favorite store. It is totally acceptable. However, it is also totally acceptable to put off saving for the things you really want. If we change our expectations about what is “cheap” vs. normal it would be easier to save for future large goals. Large goals like retirement, college tuition, a home or even that dream vacation.

Do you sometimes wish we lived in an alternate frugal universe?


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