What if everyone in the world was as frugal as the most frugal? Inspired by conversation on the Early Retirement Extreme forums about the ethics of the Early Retirement Extreme lifestyle. So, the beginning of that linked conversation (if you haven’t read it) is based on the premise that if everyone did as Jacob does and lived the ERE lifestyle, would the world collapse? And, if so, doesn’t that indicate that the ERE lifestyle is not socially responsible (ethical)? Which, got me to thinking. What if everyone was as frugal as most of the frugalers we know? What if frugal was normal?
I’m not talking about the people who hand wash their Mercedes, either. When it really comes down to it, the ERE lifestyle is pretty similar to the frugaler lifestyle. Each has their extremists. So, what if everyone was frugal?
Would we all make our own shampoo? Would we all have a sustainability garden? Would we all coupon? Would coupons still exist?
It’s an interesting question. Many of the things we all see and do each day exist because a much larger section of the population use them far more regularly than we do. Disneyworld, for instance, probably wouldn’t exist if it’s only customer base were frugalers. What about those Mercedes cars? Probably not in the U.S. But, if you think about it, there wouldn’t be very many used cars available for purchase, since we’d all be busy driving them until the wheels fall off. What would that do to the auto industry? If all the people who buy a new car every year, or even every five years, stopped doing so? You thought they needed a bailout a couple of years ago! They’d really need one then.
We might see more local farms growing a larger variety of goods because more people are shopping at farmers markets and taking advantage of the Co-Op farms. We might see less McMansions and more smaller houses with big yards and gardens. We might see some pretty drastic changes in the pricing of some things. Without all the willy-nilly spenders out there paying whatever the manufacturer asks for the product, you might see more reasonable pricing to get people to purchase a product. We would likely see a return to a more craftsman foundation, much like the early retirement extreme lifestyle. People might be interested in making things themselves if the market dynamic shifted that drastically towards the frugal side of things.
How do you see the world changing if everyone was as frugal as the most frugal?
photo credit: kenteegardin
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The markets for goods and services would diminish. There would be less choices. Everything would be negotiated. There would be widespread unemployment until demand was redirected. It would be a disaster!
Any instant change to any part of the economy, including changes to the tax code, would have an unintended consequence.
There could be a very nice world with frugal living as you suggest, but only if it had a slow, steady move over the next few decades. It’s the shocks to the system that are devastating.
That may not be too far off from where we’re headed in the next few years, anyways, Krant. The markets have certainly diminished, although not nearly on the scale that I think you’re imagining. I think, to some degree, choices are starting to diminish as well, again, not to the same scale. People should want to negotiate, I think. And, as for unemployment, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere good anyways.
I can’t argue with the disaster bit though. It would be one heck of a mess for a while, until things got adjusted.
That certainly seems to be true, Joe. If housing would have deflated a bit more gradually, as it seems to be doing now, I think there would have been far less repercussions felt.
If everyone was that frugal to begin with, it would be normal and there would be no word for frugal. We would be hunters and gatherers and live in caves. Now if everyone suddenly gets frugal from where we are now, demand would collapse and a depression would follow would be my guess.
If you take a bit of a different tack on that, cashflowmantra, if everyone was became that frugal, would any of us care if there was a depression?
101 Centavos says
More local markets and backyard gardens? Sign me up, I’m there.
Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter says
Krant cents has a point but I think this would be awesome. The more people that would be saving money and living greener would have such a positive impact to future generations. I would love to at least have it tried and then evaluate it.
If everyone was a frugaler, imagine how different the internet would be! There wouldn’t be any advertisements because frugalers don’t click on ads and don’t allow themselves to be solicited to. Without ads, the internet wouldn’t be nearly as “free” as it is today. Heck, without millions of spendthrifts clicking on ads and buying junk, we might still be buying internet access through AOL by the hour! 🙂
I definitely see the unemployment rate going up, if frugality becomes widespread.
Chris Huntley says
This sounds like a pretty ideal work if you ask me. We have been trying to move more towards this way of living – although it’s tough in a city.