Monday, June 23, 2008

Is being frugal patriotic?

I'm working on creating a Statue of Liberty costume for the 4th of July festivities. I had been looking at costumes online which range in cost from $16.99 to $99.99 and so I figured I could probably make one myself for less. I found an easy online "how to make a Lady Liberty costume" which includes buying material for the draped dress and making all the accessories--the crown, torch and book. I found the perfect green material on sale (!) which cost $3 in total for a yard and 1/2. I'll use foam sheets for the rest of the accessories and find a book to hold.

But, in preparing for the 4th of July, I found myself thinking about our current economy and whether it's been part of America's history to be frugal. And, for the most part, I'd say, it's been a resounding yes. (In my former life, I taught US History to high school students which is why my mind wandered to our country's past.) I can think of so many times and eras where Americans had to tighten their proverbial belts to make it through. In the pre-Revolutionary era, colonial Americans made their own herbal teas and spun their own yarn to make their own cloth when they faced taxes on products and decided to boycott English goods. In the early part of the 1800s prior to the Industrial Revolution, most Americans were farmers so they were used to growing their own fruits and vegetables and then canning and storing. Just think of the life as described in Little House on the Prairie! Even with the Industrial Revolution in full swing by the late 1800s after the Civil War (another period of deprivation), the majority of Americans were frugal--only the middle-class and the wealthy began to have leisure time. And then, let's not forget the first half of the 1900s included World War I, the Great Depression and World War II. Both World Wars featured meatless days, Victory Gardens, etc. but the World War II saw the imposition of rationing and serious lack of consumer goods and durables. The Great Depression was America's greatest moment in Frugal History where people had to live with less. So, really, the excess consumerism of the Baby Boomer generation from the 1950s on through today accounts for just about 30% of our history, and it's our recent history to boot. So, I'd have to say that there's a long tradition of being frugal and if we were to look back at some of our books on homemaking (Catherine Beecher comes to mind), I imagine we'd find a wealth of great frugal ideas. We should be proud of our frugal heritage and call on it now in these challenging economic times.


jess said...

Hey there!
I've seen you on the blogs etc and just wondering if you were interested in making a comment on this post - I want to try to create a discussion on the subject with your help.


Anonymous said...

What an excellent post! It's interesting how the country turned towards increased consumerism in the post-WWII economy and promoted that as the "American way of life". I truly think that our early countrymen were conservationists.