This thought came to mind while I was reading an AP article about usually frugal people. Now that the economy is tanking, these penny-pinchers are bringing frugality to a whole new level. The women in the lede says, "I was already cheap...now I am neurotic about it." Cutting lotion bottles in half to scrape the sides, concocting homemade laundry detergents, letting cupboards go bare before visiting the grocery store. The actions aren't jaw-dropping, per se. But what is surprising is that the people quoted are financially stable. They have jobs. They have savings. They aren't one missed bill away from living in a tent city.
So what's driving the belt-tightening? Fear. I admit this mindset creeps up on me, too. There's that little voice in my head that says, "Maybe I shouldn't paint my apartment. If I get laid off tomorrow, I'll feel so stupid for having spent x-amount of dollars on paint." I think there's more to it, though, for the type of people in this article. It's a control thing. They can't control what happens on Wall Street or who gets laid off, but they can control how much product they get out of a lotion bottle, how many coupons they clip, and how few bottles of laundry detergent they use. In a helpless situation, they search for things they can control. It's reassuring, even if the net gain is minimal.
I'm definitely not saying the people in this article have any sort of compulsion. But it's a fine line between spending wisely and becoming OCD about saving every penny. Some people spend to fill a void or mask pain; isn't it possible that other people just stop buying things to exert control over a fearful and uncertain environment? Do some become "saveaholics," just as it's possible that others are "shopaholics"? Or am I reading too much into this? Tell me your thoughts!