Wednesday, August 27

It's not skimping!

On Monday, I read an interesting little piece on MSN's Top Stocks.

It seems there's a mini-baby boom in the U.S. And now's the time, it seems, to invest in certain stocks: Disney (especially because of the Baby Einstein brand), LeapFrog and Gymboree. These are companies that consultants say will see a lot of business from the boom.

So what on earth does this have to do with frugality?

Well, sure, it's not apparent. But it is about parents. (And if you just groaned, feel free to blame/email my mother for that lovely punning tendency.)

Anyway, here's the line that tripped my miser-alarm: "Parents don't skimp on their children."

Above the high-pitched wail of said alarm, I couldn't think of anything. I just kept rereading those words.

I always thought skimping implied forgoing basic necessities and niceties, usually because of monetary concerns.

Sadly, none of this really should surprise anyone. We're in a credit crisis, which is following on the heels of a subprime crisis. All because of a sense of materialistic entitlement that seems to pervade the country.

  • People decided they deserved big houses -- as big as they could get.
  • People thought, "I could get a lot more car if I just leased instead of buying."
  • People decided they should get the biggest, newest and/or best technology -- even if they had to put it on the card

So we end up with a whole bunch of people who are in danger of becoming homeless -- but have great plasma television sets.

And since the average parent thinks his kid derserves everything, well, it's even easier to go crazy.

Since children learn from example, they will, of course, inherit this attitude about conspicuous consumerism. How could they not? They're given more toys than they can play with (not that my parents were somewhat guilty of that). Then, they're put in front of the TV which handily tells them what they need. And there are always new products to want. Something bigger, better and (it practically goes without saying) more expensive.

And as their parents cave to every little quickly-discarded fad -- from Furbies to Tamagachi and back again -- they learn that they deserve everything they want. And what they want is whatever they see.

But doesn't being a responsible parent also include knowing when to say when? Doesn't it include raising kids who know they don't deserve anything?

So many people, in the midst of the economic woes, are wondering where this attitude came from. People blame lax credit standards, but that, I think, was just a case of opportunism. I honestly don't know when it started. Probably, it's been building since mechanization started easing the physical toil of most people's jobs.

What I do know is that, since credit cards have become so ubiquitous, our country has never been the same.

MP Dunleavey points out that credit changes the way we think about money -- and not for the better. Once you've been in debt, you're likely to end up that way again.

And if you don't believe that, you haven't been paying attention.

Heck, I've only been around for 30 years, but I know we've scraped out of a couple of recessions in just the last decade or so. Things were bad, we became more circumspect -- at least initially. But, instead of really cleaning up our act, we were like grounded teens: Biding our time until it was okay to go back out. Then we just started the process over.

That's why I'm pessimistic about how many Americans will actually make lifelong changes to their spending habits. There are too many defensive people out there, blaming everyone but themselves

In a few cases, people were actually lied to. But more often, they were victims of their own greed. They bought into the hype that they deserved it all.

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Blogger Jeni said...

I came here via Kirtsy, and I've got to say I definitely agree about children and consumerism. I want to raise my daughter with a better mind-set about money and the knowledge of what it means to be blessed.

It's difficult to overcome your raising; I constantly struggle with feeling "deprived" as we're paying off our debts, even though I have absolutely everything I need.

August 27, 2008 at 3:24 PM

Blogger zenseeker said...

Girl, you read my mind. I don't think people really "get it" yet that this could very well be the new normal. Just because gas has gone down a few pennies doesn't mean it's safe to clock those extra miles on the family SUV for the unnecessary trips of 2 miles or less. Nor should everyone scatter from public transpo back onto the highways. This is the time to start teaching kids what's up. If you're struggling, let them know. It does them no good to be indulged and shielded from the real world because, like it or not, one day it's going to slap them right in the face. But I guess most people are creatures of habit. Myself, I'm trying to do with less for the long haul. I’ve embraced the law of Simple Abundance. When you are grateful for what you have, you’ll be blessed with all you need.

I've just started a blog over at I'd love for you to stop by and let me know what you think. Frankly, I'm just flying by the seat of my pants. Didn't anticipate all the backend stuff involved in this blogging thing.

August 27, 2008 at 3:24 PM

Blogger Abby said...

Zen, I love your quote on your page! I'll leave a more extensive comment on your page when I'm done here.

I noticed, too, that I've been seeing more SUVs on the roads again. I thought I was imagining things. Surely, I thought, they wouldn't go back to those things just because we've shaved off a few pennies.

Ah, the foibles of American consumerism.

August 27, 2008 at 6:15 PM

Blogger Abby said...


Thanks for coming over. I do so love the Kirtsy crowd! (Any women who doesn't know what Kirtsy is, I demand you go right now to

Tim has this problem too, feeling deprived. We had a long talk about this recently. Frugal burnout is a big deal to most of us. Even I go through it from time to time and I was raised pretty frugally.

I think that's why most gurus tell you to keep reminders of your goals around. Pics of your kids taped to your credit cards, or debt amounts. Something visual so when you're thinking, "Oh, it's only.." you'll be reminded of why you're doing this.

August 27, 2008 at 6:18 PM

Blogger Crystal said...

Abby, well said! I especially agreed with this:

"People decided they deserved big houses -- as big as they could get.
People thought, "I could get a lot more car if I just leased instead of buying."
People decided they should get the biggest, newest and/or best technology -- even if they had to put it on the card.

So we end up with a whole bunch of people who are in danger of becoming homeless -- but have great plasma television sets.

So true!! And now that mentality of entitlement and "I want everything" is being passed down to children! "Skimping," to me, is not deciding whether your child needs a new, $500 giant trampoline for the backyard.

August 28, 2008 at 6:59 AM

Blogger Abby said...


Oh, come now. Every child needs a $500 trampoline!

Sarcasm aside, thanks for writing in! It's maddening isn't it?

Given that my generation was only moderately overindulged and has this sense of entitlement, I shudder to think what this generation of kids will grow up to be like.

Maybe those guys in bunkers have it right...

August 28, 2008 at 10:50 AM

Blogger John said...

Abby, terrific post. I see the baby boom as a huge opportunity for all of us to teach our kids about the value of money. I'd love for you to take a look at my blog and comment on some of my posts - good or bad - as my focus is on teaching young kids about money. I even created a DVD, "The Money Mammals" (I hope it's ok to mention that here) to help teach my kids - and hopefully the next generation of kids - about the value of money.

September 2, 2008 at 11:27 AM

Blogger Abby said...


Thanks for reading! I think it's very important to teach kids about those values.

And be sure to check out the giveaway of the week! We're still only looking at three entries so far. (It's mostly girly pampering products, but I'm sure you know some female who'd love a gift.)

September 2, 2008 at 11:33 AM


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