Since when did choosing to live a frugal life become a political issue? I don’t make a huge deal about my frugal lifestyle, but when it “shows” in public, more and more people are feeling perfectly free to slap some sort of political label on me. Maybe it’s because it’s an election year, because the economy is slumping, or because those rebate checks are being sent out by the government, but suddenly it seems that my personal frugal or environmentally friendly choices are big political issues.
Want some examples? Take the cashier at the store last week who, when I pulled out my reusable bags said, “So, you’re a Gore follower, eh? Bet you’re voting for Hillary.” This weekend an acquaintance and I were talking about the rebate checks being sent out and I mentioned that I would save mine. She told me, “You must be a liberal because the conservatives are doing all they can to save the economy.” Another person, upon hearing that I was opting to repair a broken appliance myself rather than replace it, accused me of being a “hippie tree hugger liberal” who should buy a new appliance so as to create more jobs and put more money into the economy (never mind that buying the parts keeps the local parts guy in business).
These people seem to take it as a personal insult (maybe assault is a better word) against their own political beliefs. If I’m acting in a certain way, it immediately puts me at odds with whatever beliefs they hold. If I’m saving money and they identify with a political party that encourages spending, then I’m automatically against them. If I’m concerned about the environment and their politics dictate that global warming is a fraud, I’m acting against them. On the other hand, other groups of people assume that I share their political ideologies and give me the emotional equivalent of a high five or pat on the back. They thank me for supporting their party. Trouble is, I don’t always agree with their party, either. No matter which way it goes, these people feel free to comment on my “obvious” political leanings which, of course, are all based on inferences they’ve made from their own beliefs. They don’t know anything about me or my choices.
So when did frugality go from being a personal choice to a “political lifestyle choice” that makes others automatically assume you have a political agenda? I wish I knew. Frugality used to be admired, not derided. In my grandparents’ day, people were proud of their ability to save and do for themselves. Frugality was much more common then and people of all parties did what they had to to get by. Now frugality puts you out of the mainstream and into the “hippie tree hugger” category, apparently. My ability to save and do for myself is seen as putting the economy at risk or, worse, as the result of some political cult indoctrination. Why can’t it be seen as simply choosing to do something good for myself and society?
Why do my choices have to be the result of a political leaning? Maybe I simply like to save money because I don’t like being broke, regardless of who is in the White House. Maybe I like to save resources because I want to have a planet to live on in my old age, regardless of who I voted for. Maybe being thrifty gives me intangible rewards that don’t change every time a new party takes control. Maybe I just enjoy this lifestyle and always will, regardless of whether I’m a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent.
For the record, my frugal and environmentally friendly choices have never been politically motivated. I was taught frugality from a young age by Depression-era grandparents. I’ve always been concerned about the environment and it’s not because I follow any particular politicians’ views on the subject. It’s simply because I spend a lot of time outside in nature and understand that our choices affect the environment. My reasons for living this lifestyle are motivated by experience and personal satisfaction, not because I’m liberal or conservative, red or blue.
Do my frugal choices mean that vote for any particular party? Nope. I vote for who I think is best for the job, regardless of party. Is my use of reusable grocery bags the equivalent of a political bumper sticker, hawking my candidate of choice? I don’t think so. I would argue that it reflects my personal, rather than political, beliefs. I personally choose to save money, live within my means, and try to ease my burden on the environment for reasons that don’t have anything to do with politics. It doesn’t matter to me who wins the election in this regard; I will still go on exactly as I always have, regardless of who wins or who I vote for.
If you must slap a label on me, don’t tie it to politics. I can simply be frugal, or environmentally conscious, or thrifty without also being liberal or conservative. When you see me using reusable grocery bags or driving a hybrid car, maybe you should simply ask me, “What do you get out of that?” instead of asking, “Who are you voting for?” You’d learn a lot more about me and my lifestyle choices that way.
Image courtesy of ldcross