This frugal economy - is it the new normal?

22 August 2013
When the GFC started in 2008 I remember writing that although many people would lose jobs and there would be a lot of heartache, it might also put a lid on consumer spending for a while.  It did that and there were job losses and suffering but now, five years later, even though we've been told the crisis is over, businesses are still closing and caution is in the air. There is no such things as unlimited economic growth and it looks like what we've got now might be the new normal. But I'm no economist, I have no idea what will happen in the future, I just don't want us to go back to indiscriminate spending and debt.

If we believe our politicians, Australia got through the crisis better than most other countries. However, we have problems with the car industry, food farming and retail at the moment and we are told the mining boom is coming to an end. I'm thankful that we were already well and truly into our simple lives for a few years before the GFC hit. We had already seen for ourselves that moderation and prudence brought its own rewards and it wasn't a big stretch for us to cut back even further, just in case.

When we first made our change we looked at what we could live without. We gave up a second car, pay TV and a few other things and I can honestly say I've never missed them, not for a minute. I think we give possessions and the services we get used to more importance than they should have. Doing without hasn't made me feel deprived. I feel strengthened by it; we needed to make changes and now I feel that we could do almost anything.

When we first started living as we do, I was surprised by how much we could save simply by making a few changes and adjustments. Now that I look back on it, I see the most difficult part was deciding to do it. After that, the biggest and best changes came after we cut back all the obvious excess, and then saved more by changing the way we shopped, stockpiling and making a lot of what we used to buy. Through all of this, we've never felt deprived, we've never missed what we gave up, we never wanted to go back. This frugal economy suits us.

When I see what is around me now, the life Hanno and I have built here, I'm proud that we made every change we thought was necessary. Shopping has been replaced by home production, stress has been replaced by contentment, waste has been replaced by sustainability, and anxiety about the future has been replaced by the certainty that we have all we need. We have enough.

I know now that when we made all these changes, it wasn't only physical changes we made, it was also a change of mindset. We have happily gone from being rampant spenders to being frugal stewards of our land and I can't see that changing. There are conflicting messages about the end of the GFC with many "experts" telling us that the good times won't return any time soon. As far as I can tell, the good times are here now. Hanno and I might not have the money (or the inclination) to spend like we did in the past, but we're happier. Even if the economy boomed, we wouldn't change how we live; we would never go back.  How have you faired over the past few years? Have you changed for good?

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