Friday, August 20, 2010

The epidemic of thrift

Our planet has experienced a number of very troublesome epidemics over the course of our collective recorded history.

Cholera. Influenza. The Plague. Typhus. The Black Death. West Nile. Swine Flu.

Get diagnosed with one of these, and it's bad news.

Thankfully, the medical community has effectively minimized the potential of epidemics by developing medicines that almost ensure that anything called The Plague is nothing more than an English punk rock band.

But there's a new epidemic on the loose in America, and there's no pill you can swallow or shot you can take to keep it from spreading, especially during these tenuous economic times.

It's the Epidemic of Thrift.

I heard about this relatively new epidemic recently on NPR, and I've been stricken by this disease for quite a while. 

In a story by Jim Zarroli, it was reported that, "Economists have been saying for nearly a year that the recession is over. These days, however, they're sounding a little less confident about what will happen over the next few months.

"Two surveys released this week by Bloomberg and MarketWatch indicate that economists are lowering their grown projections for the second half of 2010.

"Bloomberg said the median forecast has fallen from 2.8 percent to a little more than 2.5 percent. It was 3.7 percent during the first three months of the year.

"Nariman Behravesh of IHS Global Insight says weak demand will hurt the economy between now and the end of the year.

"'We have what might be called an epidemic of thrift," Behravesh explains. "Consumers are saving a lot, businesses are saving a lot and they're being very careful about their spending."

"He says the weak job market is hurting demand, and a lot of businesses are reluctant to invest and hire. Behravesh says the surge in imports reported by the government Wednesday has lowered growth."

I'm no economist, but it sounds to me as though everyone - businesses and consumers - are looking at their bottom lines a bit more realistically, and that realism has is being considered an Epidemic of Thrift.

It's an epidemic that was a long time coming. All the dominoes were stacking so beautifully, so impeccably. And all we seemed to be able to see was how lovely and vertical they stood, with no connection to the fact that they could all fall so predictably and so very methodically.

So the Epidemic of Thrift has had its own domino effect. Generally speaking, corporations, businesses and ultimately consumers have seemed to have learned that there's a value to the idea of being fiscal thrift-smiths. 

And depending on the audience, the word "thrift" takes on many meanings. Some may think it's cutting back on catered lunches at work. Others have decided Target has become the Nordstrom of retail, and opt for thrifting, literally.

The bottom line is that there's nothing negative about the Epidemic of Thrift. This epidemic is the same for everyone, whether you're a corporate executive or a financially challenged underemployed single parent. The numbers may be a bit different, but the idea's the same.

The Epidemic of Thrift ultimately translates into being thrifty. And "thrifty" might sound declasse to the well-heeled, but being thrifty is actually a good thing.

Being thrifty means thinking before spending. It means seeing the possibility in what you already possess as opposed to acquisition simply because you're entitled. It's feeding the need as opposed to catering to the want.

We did a lot of catering to the want a few years ago.

And now we have to be thrifty.

Maybe this epidemic should have caught on a long time ago.

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