With high unemployment and big debt numbers at play, more people are realizing the truth about the saying, “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Now that frugal is IN, it seems that those who are living in the most frugal cities in America are setting the trend for the rest of us. Now that everyone is talking about frugality, what does it mean? It means “characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources”, as per Merriam-Webster.
Frugality and green living seem to go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and jelly. If we use our resources wisely, we are not being wasteful. Less garbage means a cleaner planet. Saving money on a small scale saves our households and on a larger scale, it can even help save the world. All in all, it’s great to have this mindset, and it would even be better if more people embraced these ideas. So how popular is this mentality?
Is Frugality Genetic or Cultural?
I delved into the psychology of frugality some time ago, and it was an interesting trip. There’s actually some proof that frugality is hard-wired in our brains — so how about a few head-scratchers: do you wonder whether being frugal is genetic? Is it cultural? Or maybe it’s both. Is this the reason why you’d find the cheapskate behavior more prevalent in certain regions of the world vs others? More accurately though, there are studies that point to genetics being a factor in our miserly vs spendthrift behaviors, which by the way, determine the level of happiness we get out of spending or saving. While there is no hardcore scientific evidence that helps us isolate a “frugality gene”, these studies in the field of behavioral science are a step towards pointing out the reason for our squirrel-like behaviors.
Where Are The Big Savers? The Most Frugal American Cities
Now let’s look at the other half of the equation and explore the idea that frugality is cultural or is influenced by our environment. It makes sense that being around budget-conscious people can rub off on a person. It also makes sense that financial behaviors are different once you cross state or town lines. In the same way that religious or political views can be vastly different when you find yourself in a different place, the same thing can probably be said about financial perspectives. Now is this because the environment influences you or because your views create the environment? I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of these questions.
So are you in a city with other frugal people? Coupons.com is a pretty popular site that is frequented by frugal folks everywhere, and they’ve collected user data to come up with the top 20 frugal cities in the U.S. And sure enough, I was not in the least bit surprised that the U.S. coasts such as California and New York are not represented. It also follows that the cost of living in these areas seem to be in line with the frugal tendencies of the local population. The environment can do a lot to develop the general attitude of a community — imagine living in a town hard-hit by unemployment. Or what if you live in a very prosperous area where money, wealth, investments and opportunities are abundant. Money saving activities are shaped quite a bit by our surroundings too. So what does this say about the top 20 list?
|Raleigh||Kansas City||Washington, D.C.|
|Columbus, Ohio||Wichita, Kansas|
If your city isn’t in this list and you’re the frugal type, then you may just be a little bit disappointed. But you can always try to get your neighbors motivated. You can start a coupon exchange at your local library or community center. Try sharing coupons with friends for items you know they purchase. Send email links to coupon websites. Before you know it, friends will return the favor and you’ll cash in on even more coupon savings.
Being Frugal Is “In”
Decadence and excess defined an era but those days are gone now. Today, being savvy about your spending is cool. Nobody is celebrating wasteful behavior in the face of unemployment and foreclosure.
If you are embarrassed about using coupons, get over it. Before our financial crisis, my husband used to cringe when I pulled out my folder of coupons. Now he asks if I have any to use before he goes shopping. He even clips his own coupons to save money on everything from auto repairs to light bulbs. Recently, he bragged about a $20 savings thanks to having a coupon. As this example shows, anyone can be converted!
I often advocate that when you save, you should be thinking about saving on the big stuff. Your time is much better spent by evaluating your spending patterns and focusing on ways to save on large, fixed expenditures. But once you’ve done all you can to trim the fat in those areas, you’ll find that smaller items can use some of your attention too. Collecting and using coupons is an effective way to save, although I must say that unless you enjoy doing this, it’s an acquired taste.
Coupon collecting is one frugal habit that’s catching on and may also be indicative of the new economy. People are realizing that coupons are as good as cash and now we’re seeing more consumers opening their minds to this activity. College graduates and professionals are using coupons as often as those who are on a tight budget or are unemployed. What’s more interesting is that with technology advancing the way it is, we are now seeing iPad, iPhone and other mobile applications that support coupon use and that reward loyal shoppers.
Given that technology is quickly capitalizing on financial trends and behaviors, I expect to see the frugal movement become more widespread, especially in cities that aren’t known for being financially conservative. If technology makes it easier to save money, will people actually bother to save more? I certainly would!
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