Sunday, May 15, 2011

Frugal Times

Originally posted on La Vie En Fifi, 4 November 2009
I read an article in the New Zealand Herald last week because the headline caught my eye – ‘luxury’, ‘fashion’ and ‘frugal’ in the same sentence? It was in the business section which I read faithfully (and often first), in my defence. I am happily shallow, but also aware of the world out there.

As I read on, it occurred to me that the ‘news’ is what French, and European women in general have been doing all along.

‘Luxury labels suffer as fashion for frugality thrives.’

‘Women this year opted to ‘shop their closets’ and accessorise to update their wardrobes rather than buy new clothes. When they did buy new clothes, women tended not to snap up fancy pieces that could only be worn on certain occasions, but rather evergreens’. ‘ Frugality is fashionable, even for the wealthiest consumers.’

Interestingly, cosmetic and fragrance luxury brands have been hit too, with consumers trading down to supermarket and chemist names. I have heard the French luxury cosmetic company I used to work for is struggling for sales here in New Zealand. After leaving there, and my generous staff discount, not to mention staff product allocations (free), it was hard to pay retail afterwards, and I have been trialling simple, inexpensive and often local brands with good results.

Something good to come from the hard times we are experiencing currently is the wealth of new books out (which of course I reserve at the library, rather than purchase straight away) on the topic of stylish frugality. It's actually trendy to be frugal nowadays. Five years ago I was definitely out of vogue.

When I looked for these books even a few years ago, the only frugal titles featured nerdy looking families in bad clothing (no offense to the Economides, I love their book America’s Cheapest Family and I am in awe of how they live their life).

Nowadays chic young women write books like The Thrift Book: Live Well and Spend Less by India Knight and The Spend Less Handbook: 365 Tips For A Better Quality Of Life While Actually Spending Less by Rebecca Ash (the first one is better, but get both if they’re at the library) and many, many more as evidenced at Amazon.

Does anyone sense the irony at the rash of books out which want you to purchase them in order to be frugal? I even saw a book at a shop in town which professed to help you stop shopping. But you have to buy the book and then stop shopping apparently.

I also find it very interesting that being frugal almost automatically means you become greener as well. Reusing, recycling, repurposing, using less etc. It all knits together perfectly.

Two other books which I really enjoyed pertaining loosely to this subject are Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre by Dana Thomas (very illuminating, I was glued to it and often would audibly gasp at the audacity of those nasty big luxury brand conglomerates!) and Affluenza by Oliver James (rather dry and wordy but interesting nonetheless).

Image of luxury home in France from I decided against purchasing this chateau in the spirit of frugality.


  1. Fiona,
    thanks for the book recommendations. It is interesting to note how popular it has become. You can also see it in the number of fashion blogs that emphasize minimalism ...
    thanks again for voting yesterday. hope you are well

  2. Yes, thank you for the book recommendations. Too bad our commercial world is so geared to greed. Reading books on economy and smart spending is a good defense for all of us. xxBliss

  3. I tend naturally toward minimalism. As a result of that, I was drawn into the voluntary simplicity movement and thus became very familiar with all those frugality books.

    But they weren't a good fit for me. In my life, I've experienced too much of the downside of scrimping and saving: making do with inferior products, thinking I don't deserve nice things, eating unhealthy food, clutter from "stocking up" and bargain-shopping ... I could go on and on.

    True, when it comes to spending, there are choices to be made, but I want them to be choices made with gratitude, not fear.

    I am so glad to see more fashion writing based on minimalism but not about deprivation. And I'm glad to see some financial writing that takes into account good taste! :)

  4. If I were going to recommend a book about frugality it would be the Complete Tightwad Gazette or Your Money or Your Life (Joe Dominquez). I got the Gazettes when they were a monthly newsletter and it changed how I look at frugality altogether: it's about solving problems creatively, not just throwing money at them. I can't claim to be a fashion guru, but in my trips to Paris the main thing I observed was that women looked as though they just thought about what they put on - just a scarf or a cute pair of shoes or some interesting colour combination - not head to toe designer at all. The best part about being frugal for me is that eventually I stopped having to worry about money. Also, I got to retire at 51. I wouldn't trade that for all the face cream at Creme de la Mer!

  5. Fiona - I couldn't beleive you mentioned the Econimedes Family. I thought they were mostly ok, until a a few months when they were being interviewed by Matt Lauer of the Today Show in NY about their frugality techniques. Lauer mentioned quite snarkily that all the food that was put out in the Green Room for ALL the guests (not just their family) was gone from the Green Room where people being interviewed wait. The Econimedes admitted to taking all the food. I guess they didn't just eat all of the goodies, but bagged them to take home. They tried to respond in a humorous but defense way.
    Matt Lauer didn't look too amused
    at their response.
    This exchange with Matt Lauer didn't put them in a great light.


  6. Frugal ways of maintaining ones style is of great interest to me.

    I balance my budget and splurge on some things while saving big on others! Thrift seems very much the order of the day.

    I had to smile about the book comment and in order to save one must spend on the book...
    the Library is my go to bookstore, I reserve online before the book is even in circulation, if I decide I must own it after I have reviewed the contents then I will.

    Thank you for those titles, they are all new to me.

  7. I love the irony about those books...and books ARE my main weakness...I don't spend a lot on other things...but I do check the library first...hopefully they have these.

    Thanks for the book recommendations...I'm always trying to figure out what to read next. ;)

  8. Rosie, that is horrible about the Economides! I suppose they are called America's cheapest family, and not America's thoughtfully frugal with style and grace family after all.

  9. There certainly are a lot of books out there talking about the subject now. I stopped reading fashion blogs, are there a lot of them now focusing on minimalism?


Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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