Playing Recession: What'll We Do When The Novelty Wears Off?

Illustration for article titled Playing Recession: What'll We Do When The Novelty Wears Off?

It seems some marathon shoppers are learning the difference between "want" and "need." Now that the credit crunch is wreaking havoc with our bank accounts, one-time necessities like new Jimmy Choos getting passed over for last year's model. Says the Wall Street Journal's Christina Binkley, "After years of gluttonous shopping, forgoing our wants feels virtuous, like using up leftovers. That's why many people these days are boasting that they are 'shopping' in their closets." Which is great — while the novelty lasts.It's no secret that a lot of people are losing jobs, and obviously in such a situation cutting back on luxuries is a necessity. Then too, the unstable market makes rash spending feel, well, rash. But as the piece points out, even those on solid financial footing find themselves abstaining from shopping sprees out of guilt — or sensitivity. Says one former shopping maven,"When I see people around me who are struggling and frightened, it really doesn't feel like a good time" to shop, she says. "It's not appropriate." Plus, thanks to the media's wholesale embrace of the novelty of economizing, cutting back is fun!

As more people economize, it's become cool to pay less rather than more. It's worth boasting these days about buying faux-leather Anya Hindmarch for Target handbags for $30 — rather than the $500 versions at Ms. Hindmarch's boutiques. The digital marketing agency Zeta Interactive has measured a distinct increase in the buzz — recorded by the volume of Web-site and blog postings — surrounding discount retail sites. According to Zeta's research, for instance, discounter received 25% more buzz in October than in September, while full-priced received 19% fewer postings on blogs and Web sites.


As we've chronicled before, literally every day brings a new raft of tips and solutions on how to stay fab and save pennies. While it's nice, I guess, to feel like we're all in this together, something about this whole trend makes me slightly uneasy. It's like this level of enthusiasm and excitement for the "let's play recession!" game can't keep up, and as the months and years of economic hardship drag on, the everyday realities of cutting back and being sensible will feel all the drearier in contrast. Self-sacrifice is something most of us on modest incomes practice to some degree every day; while it's laudable that those women who were wont to throw down $800 a month on shoes are realizing they don't "need" them, they're probably the ones who will have the luxury of abandoning the game when it loses its novelty — even if in the process they gain the inestimable pleasure of wanting and valuing again. For the rest of us, it's called life. The Latest Style: Self-Denial [Wall Street Journal]



Swapping designer bags for the Target version is great...for people who used to buy designer bags. But what about the people (like me) who racked up credit card bills buying too much "affordable" stuff at places like Target and TJ Maxx? I used to think I was being thrifty for finding "deals," but the truth is I was still shopping too damn much. Playing recessionista for me means shopping less, period.