Recession Behaviors – Will They Stick?

Reporters, economists, politicians … even a few businesses are starting to hint that the “Great Recession” might be coming to a close. Alleluia!  Sure, unemployment is still at record highs, home prices are in the tank and consumer confidence is shaky, but there just might be a recovery on the horizon.

In another time, we might be whipping out the plastic to celebrate, but research companies like DYG believe the American consumer is forever changed. No more frivolous purchases. Say goodbye to living large. Adios to Barney’s and Niemen Marcus, hello Big Lots and Target.

It’s now chic to be savvy, smart and thrifty. And as someone who has been labeled as “tight” with the funds, I’m ecstatic that my spend-thrift ways are now recognized as “cool.” So what if I brown-bag it everyday? My insulated lunch container is the equivalent to carrying the latest Coach bag in today’s recession era. Who would have thought I could be a fashionista?

Now I am only human. I splurge. I shop. And I sometimes covet what others have. It’s the American way.

But I do hope we’ve turned a corner as a culture and make a greater effort to save … to be grateful for what we have … and to simplify.

In fact, here are a couple of traditions/trends I hope we can say goodbye to forever …

  • Over-the-top birthday parties. Enough with everyone trying to throw the most entertaining, swankiest bash for your toddler, pre-schooler, tween… A birthday cake, some balloons, a basic goody bag (wish we could get rid of these, but doubtful) and let’s call it a day.
  • Outfitting our kids in high-end, name brand clothes. Now I have young boys, so this really hasn’t been an issue for us. I could care less, and their only request is to have super heroes present on their attire. But I know some other families – those with girls especially – and it just gets insane with the fashion. Going to play dates and school is not a Red Carpet event. Keep it basic. Embrace hand-me-downs. Invest in a few pieces where it makes sense, but otherwise, go for the cheap.
  • Lame business lunches. As a working mom, I want my lunch hour to be MY lunch hour. I typically work out during my tight one-hour break or run errands. If I do elect to do lunch, I want to go out with friends to converse and catch-up. I don’t like to be guilt-tripped into going out with people I don’t want to hang with. There are only so many hours in the day, so let’s keep these to a minimum people. (See, this is where I’m hoping my brown-bagging ways continue to be cool.)
  • Over-scheduling our lives. Since I still have relatively young children, we’re not quite into the gazillion different sports, music lessons, and scouts … yet. During boom times, it’s easier to shell out big bucks for our kids multiple activities, but when the dollars are thin, we have to prioritize and make choices. Less can be more, and I think many families are beginning to realize kids need free-time, lazy-time and open hours to simply explore and be creative. They don’t always need to be entertained, so let’s kick back. And I’m sure us parents could benefit with less chauffeuring and jam-packed evenings and weekend.

Of course some of us have been hit harder than others during this recession, but I do hope the trend reports and research firms are right. I embrace the new conscientious consumer – and not just because I’m a thrifty chick (some might say cheap) – but because I’m ready for a simpler life. Are you?