Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oh NO! Am I Republican?

Sometimes I actually think I’m a Republican. (I hope my mom can’t see this from her grave! A staunch Democrat, she’d be spinning for sure.)

I hope my in-laws don’t get wind of it either. They already are Republican and I resist giving them an edge in my political persuasion.

But honestly, how can we Americans stand our whiny self-centered selves? New polls out this week say 66% of us report feelings of “frugal fatigue.” We’re tired of being thrifty. We wanna spend again. Or more likely, charge again. We don’t wanna think or plan ahead. We want what we want, and we want it now.

The symptoms of Frugal Fatigue? You’ll recognize them: stress, anxiety, and sabotage.

Being conservative about spending is stressful. It requires us to look at our bank balances. Who wants to do that? It’s depressing. We must put pens to paper and subtract expenses before we go out to buy, buy, and buy. We’re supposed to start with net income (yes, net!); subtract rent or mortgage, subtract electricity, water, insurance, gas for the car…egad! Where’s my credit card?!

It’s easier and more relaxing just to go out and get what you want. Right? It’s soothing to impulse your way through Target. I love unpacking the varied items found (at good prices!) throughout the store. I’ll use this stuff! Come on!

Being frugal makes us anxious. If I shop with my friend, the impulse buyer, I am fretful for two reasons: At the rate she spends, she’ll never get to retire and hang with me during the lovely weekdays that working people pray really do exist.

And I’m uneasy playing the role of killjoy again. Terrific! I thought I retired from managing other people’s behavior. But no, she says she depends on me to stop her, to protect her from her impulsive self when what I really want to do is join her in a house wares spree! Lamps and rugs and pillows, oh my!

Third, those forced into frugality longer than is natural for human beings tend to sabotage their own efforts at living within their means. They put themselves among the Borg of retailers, like Cost Plus World Market or Old Navy, where resistance is futile. Where did you ever see such cute stuff at such reasonable prices? And it’s not for me! It’s for our nieces or our son or … okay this one item is for me. But the rest is for others! What’s imprudent about that?

Of course with our newfound weariness comes advice from the experts: How to overcome Frugal Fatigue.

1. Get a battle plan. Make an agreement with your partner about your spending. Of course, if opposites happen to have attracted each other in this aspect of your relationship, the plan may turn out to be one’s circumspection used to counterbalance the other’s splurges. Not a winning long-term strategy.

2. Be honest about vulnerable spending and set up roadblocks to it. Translated: Stay home. True shopaholics, genuine impulsers are susceptible to just about any good deal in any situation on any day. So just settle in like you’re snowed in. Serve hot chocolate in those darling demitasse cups you got at Pier 1 last week, on sale.

3. Pay cash. Yep. The experts say put debit and credit cards in the freezer in the garage and carry only $50’s and $100’s. Because it’s so painful to break large bills, they theorize, we will hold onto our hard-earned that much longer. What? Cash? Really? I don’t know if I can test this theory.

I have the symptoms of Frugal Fatigue. I want the economy to hurry up and get better so I can go out and spend selfishly, with at least a little bit of abandon, without guilt. In fact, I’ve heard that my spending will help the economy recover. So isn’t it my duty?

I should spend; I shouldn’t spend. Am I a liberal Republican breaking ranks, or a conservative Democrat who’s disgusted with herself?

A full 66% of us cannot suffer a spell of austerity without its end in sight. Like grounded teenagers, we don’t want to keep on restraining ourselves. No wonder our federal, state, and local politicians face such dire scenarios. They represent us.

We want our politicians to do what we’re weary of doing for ourselves. And we want them to do it while we cry and complain and threaten to toss them out if they do.

Whaddaya call that?