May 14, 2008

High living may be giving way to an age of frugality

Posted in International Economy · 27 comments ·

This week, news that Christian Laboutin — designer of his famous red-soled heels– was in Dublin, coupled with the opening of the movie “Sex in the City’ in London, made me think, why do women wear high heels?

I’ve always been intrigued by women’s fascination with high- heeled shoes. Why do so many totally rational, intelligent women become illogical and unstable at the sight of a pair of Jimmy Choos? Even more intriguing is why do women wear high heels at all? It must be hellish to be cantilevered at a most unusual angle by shoes that look as if they are designed to hurt rather than to wear.

As a typical man with a cowardly low pain threshold, I am consistently amazed at what women will put themselves through on a Saturday night. It’s not uncommon to hear our wives or girlfriends say things like, “I hope the restaurant’s not far coz my feet are killing me”.

Why would anyone, willingly, wear a pair of shoes that hurt? We’re not talking about an annoying rubbing sensation here. Orthopedic surgeons regularly refer to the fact that constant wearing of ‘killer’ heels can lead to joint, feet and back problems.

Yet women keep putting themselves through the pain barrier, why? One simple reason is that taller people get laid more. Humans value height, we find it attractive and therefore, women in heels are more likely to be fancied then those in flats. Also, men like what high heels do to a woman’s shape: by forcing girls to arch their backs, high heels push their boobs and bum out, accentuating the positives.

Apparently, this is all Darwinian, in the sense that we like each other to look healthy, fertile and fit because when we are looking for a mate, we want that mate to be as healthy as possible in order to have children. So it is easy to see why women in heels have an immediate advantage over those without. Unfortunately, any advantage that heels can confer will be eliminated if all women wear high heels. When everyone gets heels, women suffer not to stand out but just to keep up!

Now consider the ‘high heels’ dilemma in a greater context. The ‘keeping up’ conundrum affects almost every consumption decision we make. One of the best places to see this process — which US economist Robert Frank likens to an ‘arms race’ in his new book, ‘The Economic Naturalist’ — is to think about the makeover of the Irish kitchen.

In recent years, despite the fact that our families have become smaller, Irish kitchens have become colossal. Irish kitchens are now on steroids, bulked up, pushed out and over-extended. During the boom, because stamp duty made moving house and trading up prohibitive for many, people focused on upgrading their existing houses with an explosion in extensions.

An interesting recent phenomenon has been the emergence of ‘the island’. When we were kids, an island was a geological occurrence, like Lambay or Achill. Today, an island is a stand-alone sink and hob in the centre of these new giant kitchens. But like high heels, it is only a great advantage if no one else has an island. When islands become the norm, the relative advantage and the feel good factor associated with them diminishes. Once this happens, people driving to break away from the herd will pitch for something else, like, for example, a carp pond!

But carp pond envy will set in sooner than they think and, in no time, vast swathes of suburban Ireland will become home to all classes of exotic fish. Interestingly, the exotic fish craze is not that unusual. In ancient Rome, at the height of the Republic’s powers, wealthy Romans became obsessed with exotic fish collections.

Apparently, the type of fish you kept said something about the type of person you were. Unfortunately, all go the same way of the high heels; all advantages are condemned to be wiped out by others trying to keep up.

This might explain why so many studies reveal that when countries get richer, the societies do not appear to get happier. The ‘high heels’ conundrum gets the better of all of us. The data reveals that for poor countries like Ireland in the 1980s, increases in income make people much happier. This is pretty easy to understand: if you never had a car and then you get one, the joy of traveling around where you want and when you want rather than waiting for the bus to take you to a specific place at a specific time, makes you happy. Now that you have a car, the extra happiness you get out of owning a better car falls. It’s the simple idea of having too much of a good thing.

The reason all of this matters is that for many people in wealthy countries, the ‘high heels’ conundrum means they are working harder and longer and yet do not seem to become any happier. So why are we doing it? Why do we keep up these appearances and continue with the rat race?

The slowing economy gives us an opportunity to reassess the values of the society we have created. When things become a little bit less frenetic, maybe we will start to look at happiness, rather than possessions or output per head for the basis upon which to judge whether the society is successful of not.

Such a period of reflection might also be forced upon us by events. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that Ireland’s boom was facilitated by the three Cs — cheap money, cheap energy and cheap labour (in the guise of immigrants). The first two Cs have now disappeared and the third one seems to be leaving of its own accord.

Without these cheap resources, the idea that the rich world can continue to grow and grow doesn’t stack up. We are faced with a Malthusian proposition where the demands of an ever-increasing world population are smashing into the reality of finite resources, making the very idea of limitless spending almost immoral.

As a result, we may be on the cusp of a value change in the western world, where frugality may well become the new extravagance. A greater appreciation of the environmental inconsistencies facing us might cause overspending to be viewed distastefully, like overeating. Such neo-puritanism could easily take hold as the ‘high heels’ dilemma becomes more obvious to everyone. Maybe the lesson from the ‘high heels’ conundrum is: one pair of Manolos good, 30 pairs bad.

  1. Maxdiver

    Interesting article – neo-frugal is the newest thing.

    You could say that the German’s and Scandanavian people are pretty frugal – in fact i remember a BBC article on how since Germany wasn’t spending (and indebting) itself as much as Britian, its’ economy was stagnating.

    However, if there is to be a change in our society – it will have to be a change in our values – bigger, flasher, faster will have to be replaced with something else.
    Perhaps David’s HiCo’s will lead the way – or maybe we can just let $200 oil force us.

    P.S. from the title – i thought that this article was speaking out against the 000′s of luxury executive 2-bed flats everywhere. And in a way it is.

  2. Bob

    Hi David

    I’m looking forward to the time when goin “Green” becomes the “high heels” – then we will truely have turned a corner.

  3. Colin

    Its entirely up to our sisters to, “lose your mentality, wake up to reality” as Frank Sinatra sang. The sooner they leave the workforce and go back to being housewives, the sooner property prices will return to normal levels. They’ll then be having more babies thus allowing our fertility rate to breakthrough the 2.1 children per woman statistic required for maintaining population, meaning there’s less of a pension crisis in the future due to an improved worker/pensioner ratio. Feminism has sold them a pup with many of them realising this now. But most of them I fear still demand “having it all”.

  4. John

    Where do you begin with that last comment…. Maybe men should be allowed/able to have a more active role in looking after their kids. Better paternity leave etc. It makes sense for a woman rather than a man to spend more time looking after a kid after they are just born but not neccesarily so when they start school and beyond. It should nt be placed on women to do less in one aspect and do more in another. It should be possible for it to be spread amongst both parents where possible. As for women in the workplace. Well it was called a Celtic Tiger but it could just have easily been called a Tigress. I would agree with the Feminism point though. It ignores the point that only women can have children and that if women dont make this choice (and men play an equal part post birth at any rate) than society is going to wither.

  5. Stephen Kenny

    I think that John and Colin have raised a very interesting general point. We’ve had a long boom, 10-25 years, depending how you want to look at it. The single greatest social and economic change in that time has centred on women. Along with it, certainly in most of the Europe and N.America, as been a falling marriage rate, rising single occupancy rate, rising divorce rate, rising female employment, falling birthrate, and so forth – all the stuff of developing urban societies, if we are to believe the sociologists. We’ve had a huge increase in state social funding, and indeed corporate costs, relating to women, to some extent men, and children.
    When the going gets tough, where will the belt tightening occur, and what will be the result? A lot of people living alone, or relying on 2 incomes, makes it more precarious. Combine with that, a falling tax take will mean that all these lovely benefits that we’ve got used to, will be, if not cut, certainly linked to an index that, surprisingly, doesn’t keep up with rising costs.
    Then there’s the psychological effect of a downturn. Historically, all the nice things go into reverse – the marriage rate falls and the divorce rate rises – in a downturn. So how will a period of comparative austerity affect people’s lives, in this post-nuclear family world?
    It’s interesting that India is currently starting to recognise that the current rapid decline of the extended family, and rise of the nuclear family, is increasingly going to cost someone a fortune, if they want to avoid a lot of old people living on the streets (or on rubbish tips, which seems to be an increasing problem). The new nuclear families having been hit by, amongst other things, the high heel syndrome, find that having a bunch of old people around is not only expensive, but also just doesn’t fit in with their new urban lifestyles – what do you do with them when Sital-Singhs (IBM Project Manager, Dell Corporate accounts executive) come round for dinner?
    In my view, the reasons for these changes have nothing whatsoever to do with feminism, but are far, far, more fundamental, and they are not reversible. Ever decreasingly do women need to be dependent on men, and therefore equally decreasingly are men responsible for women. With the decay of that fundamental interdependence, comes dependence, especially in hard times, on something else, probably, an increasingly cash-strapped state.

  6. joe

    ”disappeared and the third one seems to be leaving of its own accord.”

    I find this depressing.

  7. walnut

    Romantic Ireland is dead and gone,
    It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

  8. John Q. Public

    Or with O’Leary in Ryanair. No bad thing either, it’s a pity there are not more entrepreneurs in Ireland. Frugality IS a day to day way of life for many celtic tiger cubs and has been for some time as they have to pay the mortgage, car loan, creche etc. and battle rising costs. Many people have ‘good jobs’ but have no life whatsoever with sleepless nights worrying about the bills. We don’t all splash out on jimmy choos and islands in the kitchen. There is a section of society that you have overlooked David in your TV programs/books and they are the ones who just make ends meet. You will have to make up a name for them, maybe ‘pensionless Peter’, ‘no savings Sharon’ or ‘negative equity eddie’.

  9. Jack

    I have seen first hand over the last 10 years how the country has changed and the people with it. I have seen just how stressed everything has become and how the effect of ‘too many rats in the box’ has brought about social happenings that before Tiger were as rare as hen’s teeth. People’s wishes stirred up by the advertisers selling them the dream, causing an ‘aspiration inflation’ of epic proportions in the shortest period of time in modern times.

    At times i have been repulsed, at others entertained by the antics of the auld sod’s people (of which i am/was one). It was, perhaps in hindsight never stoppable, only inevitable. I’m reminded of the film ‘Gremlins’ where the old chinese shopkeeper advises the young boy that ‘one must not get water on the mogwai (uncurbed inflation) ; and, most importantly, one must never feed it after midnight’ (proper credit controls). What happened in the film seems to have mimicked the Celtic Tiger quite accurately!

    I was badly bitten (financially) a decade ago and must confess to being somewhat risk-averse since then, much to my detriment at times, but one of the effects has been that i live within my means and have done so for a number of years. I realize that ‘going-without’ is not the mantra that the young guns of today want to hear, but i concentrate on those things that bring me real pleasure and you know what ? I’m happy and contented more than i’m not and the stress of trying to keep up with people that aren’t really important to me is minimised. I still buy ‘luxury’ products, but also utilise Aldi/Lidl for products where it doesn’t make any difference to the quality.

    The economic horizon which is upon us will cause those in highly leveraged positions a good deal of pain, most just varying levels of discomfort, but perhaps, just perhaps when i come home on my regular visits to family, people will have a bit more time for each other, stop to say hello and realize that more isn’t always better. It’s better to have more of what nourishes us as people, something that will last long after the last frisson of excitement is gone from looking at the heap of Manolos in the bedroom cupboard

  10. coldblow

    Ah, reassessing our values. This will be, er, interesting, even entertaining — from a distance. What’s the most likely scenario? Probably a return to good old “hard money”, once the masses have first been allowed to find their level after impoverishment by inflation and rising costs. Our value-lite Kommentariat will then pretend to reassess our (ie their) priorites and will solemnly ordain a secular version of sackcloth and ashes for the common good. Then it will be all cutting your cloth, etc, Thatcher-style. The top dogs will continue to enjoy their relative advantage. only discreetly now. The casino mentality they helped create will be projected onto others and suitably frowned upon. Just a guess, but a possible outcome on past form and probably pessimistic.

    A few obstinate souls will have retained inherited habits of frugality. It’s probably meanness or greed, or it might just be the result of having great-grandparents who were born (outside the Pale) at the tail end of the Famine, but why am I the only one who finishes the plate in a restaurant, or who brings sandwiches to work, or who attempts (with comic results, needless to say) to get a radio cassette repaired – as I did recently, not to save costs but because you can’t buy decent ones new anymore. There’s a lot of pride in this kind of frugality but it probably won’t be sufficient this time round without a bit of humiliation thrown in too. The recurring image right now is of the shopkeeper and his family in McGahern’s “The Dark”.

    But how does this fit in with the parallel universe of skyrocketing house (sorry, “property”) prices, where the stamp duty alone is more than you could hope to save in a lifetime, where CEOs are rewarded for ruining their companies, etc etc. And before this all started, as I mentioned in a previous post referring to Ray Crotty, there was already something odd about the place. So it’s not easy to decide who was mad all along, those who went with the flow or those who stubbornly refused to leave their own little worlds. And that’s without even straying beyond economic values.

  11. Rob

    Frugality might not be such a bad thing at all. What happened during the Celtic Tiger (I assume it is officially dead now??) is that there was a glorification in spending in the excess. Not being sexist but women seemed to revel in spending inordinate amounts of cash on….handbags? I could never really figure out why. Much of the chat concerning the ‘latest must-have’ item has seem to have died down and to be honest it was about time.

    Such habits that we may perceive as ‘frugal’ are in other countries seem as sensible. Many people spend inordinate amounts of cash on lunch every day whereas really a packed lunch would do just as fine. The savings on an annual basis are pretty staggering by bringing in a lunch and it also might be a lot healthier for people….look at the rising weight gain in Ireland.

    I started working in Ireland in the eighties and to be honest, although the pay wasn’t great, everything i needed was affordable. Now we have so-called good jobs yet everything seems ridiculously expensive. Maybe belt-tightening will do us no harm although i think there is a generation in their mid-twenties who don’t actually understand the concept…yet!

  12. SpinstaSista

    I was brought in a frugal farming household, started work in the late 80s and was appalled by the way Celtic Tiger people spent money they didn’t have on consumer goods and took out 100% mortgages. I have my fair share of handbags but a good few of them were got for a song in the Blackrock market at a time when buying vintage wasn’t cool. Funny but the quality of vintage goods was a lot better than and they were a fraction of the price they sell for now. I’m amazed by the poor quality of raw materials in some handbags selling for over €500 in upmarket department stores.

    Rob says that in the eighties everything he needed was affordable. Perhaps we don’t need as much as we are led to believe. Quite a few people mention the exorbitant cost of buying your lunch every day, but has anyone mentioned the price of drink in pubs? We spend a crazy amount on going out and getting drunk. Time to cut back on the pints and look after our physical and financial health.

    As for Manolos what’s the point? You can’t walk to the bus stop in them.

  13. SpinstaSista

    SpinstaSista said,

    on May 16th, 2008 at 10:12 am

    I was brought up in a frugal farming household, started work in the late 80s and was appalled by the way Celtic Tiger people spent money they didn’t have on consumer goods and took out 100% mortgages. I have my fair share of handbags but a good few of them were got for a song in the Blackrock market at a time when buying vintage wasn’t cool. Funny but the quality of vintage goods was a lot better then and they were a fraction of the price they sell for now. I’m amazed by the poor quality of raw materials in some handbags selling for over €500 in upmarket department stores.

    Rob says that in the eighties everything he needed was affordable. Perhaps we don’t need as much as we are led to believe. Quite a few people mention the exorbitant cost of buying your lunch every day, but has anyone mentioned the price of drink in pubs? We spend a crazy amount on going out and getting drunk. Time to cut back on the pints and look after our physical and financial health.

    As for Manolos what’s the point? You can’t walk to the bus stop in them.

  14. Jack

    Spinstasista’s comments about the quality of women’s products got me thinking that “in the old days” we all had less……less choice, less money, less opportunities and less things. Were we less happy though ? Today it’s all about show, it always was of course, but less in your face. The ability to “show” your peer group that you are the top dog (sorry lay-dees) is the aim. Perhaps it’s all about plumage to attract the males/females, i must ask Desmond Morris next time i see him ;-) The images that are flung before the young(er) of the population through the media are all about looking good is number one, being cool and popular a close second. How many of those ‘redesign yourself’ programmes have been on the 4 channels these last 5 years ? More than i can remember….

    Most of the population cannot afford the real Mc Coy, so they buy knock offs, not just from the market stalls, but mainly from every department store and catalogue. The price is right, but the quality is wrong if looked at under the spotlight, let alone considering the conditions in which they were produced. But, of course they don’t need to be, they only need to be worn/used for a short period before being cast aside for the next ‘must have’. Nothing is cherished anymore it would seem, it is just a means to an end. Good for you that you were able to plunder the antique clothing stock before the masses caught on to the game!

    Talking of food and drink, in a month the average joe could save themselves a few hundred euro by having sarnies for lunch, but perhaps not the respect of their fellow workers unless they are the top dog and then everyone will follow their lead. It shocked me (a few years ago) just how much i was spending per week on muffins and lattes, lunchtime meals and other assorted unnecessary necessities. The irony was, was since then i’ve lost pounds around the middle and added pounds to my pockets, so a win-win situation. Frugality rules ok !!!

  15. Malcolm McClure

    Excellent article David, and thanks for responding comments that might point the way ahead for most of us. Perhaps we are heading towards a new Victorian era, in which it is accepted that bourgeoise housewives organize home economics and raise children, and live-in domestic service is recognized again as a worthy occupation that helps others make ends meet. Shoe, handbag and label obsessions are simply a measure of women’s boredom with the status quo.

  16. MK

    Hi David,

    I doubt if frugality will become fashionable enough to be noticeable. However, people dont want to waste as is clear with the growing popularity of the eco-green movement and people should/will get more efficient over time in not being the cause of waste, as waste means carbon cost (usually).

    A suggestion for an article for you: Which is the best way to vote in the Lisbon Treaty for:
    a) The Irish Economy
    b) The EU Economy


  17. Rob

    Are you not setting up a false opposition there, surely (whether we like it or not) the Irish economy is very much interrwined with the EU economy), to try and separate the two is an impossible task. As I see it we are to a large extent reliant on trading with our EU partners. Have we a strong enough economy to in some way go it alone? Given the depressing loss of manufacturing jobs etc. we should be strengthening our ties with the EU bloc not weakening them. Doubtless there are downsides to our being part of the EU, but Ireland since the 1970′s has vastly improved.

    The wholescale immigration etc has stopped and we are much more prosperous. If anything our expectations now are higher than ever and we are disappointed that we each don’t possess a luxurious lifestyle but in real terms we are much better off today. The thorny issue is that most people are rapidly reaching the (correct) conclusion that buying lots of stuff doesn’t necessarily make you happy. This will require a lot of reflection on the part of Irish people when we start respecting money rather than flinging around it.

    Mind you given the lastest March stats this has already happened and people are probably thinking do they really need an item before shelling out the hard-earned shillings.

  18. Philip

    Frugality is a matter of choice. It is nice if you can be frugal and not pay taxes or have to put up with crap services or be forced have very long commutes. It is nice to to be foot loose and fancy free and not have kids to rear and school etc.

    Penuary on the other hand is not a matter of choice and is being foisted on the once enthusiastic go getter 30 something who suddenly find they are 40 something, stressed out, un-rehirable and with teenagers hanging off them. This is the reality. These are the people who work hard and long and then get screwed. Why? Well, we can go on about their lack of frugality etc. tut tut, but in reality – the lack of happiness is really about exhaustion and a feeling that one is on the sticky end all the time. Many are probably diabetics, have high blood pressure/ cholesterol and the bills for the GP visits and medication is not that avoidable either. And one can go on about poor public service, the crap health services, the rubbish infrastructure etc.

    Lets face it, the property nonsense, the jobs going east etc is a global phenomenon. And the once 30 somethings of a decade ago are now finding their jobs axed. But what is tricky here is the rather brittle and undiversified nature of the Irish economy. IBEC and indeed a lot of the buiz community here are a waste of time…most are just brokers. Hardly any of them do real industry. This needs to be recognised before we fool ourselves into believing we have sufficent skills to that can just be left to the private enterprise to sort out.

    What I’d like to know is how these usually very skilled 40 and 50 somethings are going to be co-opted into getting this country going? Before they get too stale. This is the crisis I see emerging and I see no one joining up the dots. It needs serious action at a national level or we will revert pretty quickly to a situation where for example people inside the pale will have circumstances not much better than those outside the pale (whose circumstances never really improved during the boom) and within a decade, a lot of the closet minded parochial mindset of the 50s and 60s will re-establish itself.

    If we can get to the stage where people choose to be frugal…we are doing fine.

  19. Jack

    I think that two very good points were made by Rob and Phillip, these being that Ireland ISN”T strong enough to stand on it’s own legs without outside help (EU, GB, USA) and that frugality perhaps isn’t always a choice.

    Whatever smoke was blown up the backsides of the country these last 10 years or so, the fact remains that some major readjustment is/will be taking place in the near future as the reality of the misplaced confidence will be dawning on the populace. Once a good portion of the American corporate dependancies move on to cheaper/more centralised economies in Europe, there will only be a certain amount of ‘industries’ left in the republic and they won’t be enough to sustain much of anything. Service industries are great, that is until the customers you were serving no longer have the discretionary purchasing power they once did. What’s going to happen when ‘we’ only buy books through Amazon or music through iTunes ? Or fall out of love with ‘double skinny mocha lattes with wings’ ?

    However, as David has expounded many times before, one area where the Irish are ‘up there’ is farming…….I know, i know, it’s about as sexy as Mary Harney in suspenders (although to be fair her new haircut suits her), but farming always was, is and could well be an industry whereby Ireland could lead the way and therefore remain at least somewhat independent in the future. However, there will, i’m afraid, always be a need to ride on the shirt tails of Brittania, cuddle up to Tex and swim with Pierre, Per, Pekka, Pieter, Piero, Piet, and Piotr. There have been serious attempts by the government to forge links to China with an eye to the future, but i can’t help having an uneasy feeling about such alliances with this giant when one takes into account their ‘borg-like’ relationships with various African countries and their raw materials. Ok ireland isn’t Africa, but size counts and Eire needs to be thinking of it’s very existence if and when energy sources become a bit short in supply. If it were me, i’d be cosy-ing up to the UK and near Europe as my safety net. Some clear and workable solutions are needed NOW! by the planners to be implemented in the near future so as to protect and nurture the future. Sorry to be alarmist, but simply put this island is isolated, with few real energy resources and wholly dependent on transport to export/import that which it needs. There are so few real assets anymore that it’s (IMHO) scary :-(

    As for the choice of being frugal…… well, i know that it must be pretty hard to have soared with eagles and now one is faced with sitting on the sh1t covered perch with those mangey looking pigeons and that isn’t a nice feeling. I don’t have teenagers, i was a late starter, so i’m sure that i don’t appreciate the pressure on todays parents to ‘keep up with the O’Learys’. I remember watching how children’s birthday parties became ever more extravagant in the last decade, and that wasn’t even for the moderately wealthy. Bouncy castles of ever larger sizes, various theatrical shows, birds of prey, themed events and on and on. It seems that children cast ‘things’ quickly away and there is an insatiable need for the ‘next big thing’. Are girls or boys more susceptible to this phenomenon ?

    I take your point about lack of happiness stemming from being tired/unappreciated/taxi driver/cash machine etc as parent, but you have to ask yourself how did ‘you’ get into this state in the first place. That there are more obese people in Ireland now than ever before is a tragedy (funny how the masses of Poles/Lithuanians/Latvians are mostly slim). Our health should be our number one priority, yet ‘we’ happily abuse ourselves every week in the name of having a craic, yet at the expense of the health we will need to look after our children/obligations and so on. Small, regular steps are all that is needed to put ourselves in order, that is before it is out of our hands and has turned into a chronic illness. Your example of diabetes (type 1) can be massively reduced by consuming minimal sugar and exercising regularly for example. Unless one has purchased a home in the last year approx, the mortgage payments shouldn’t be crippling to the family budget. Petrol…… well if the car is a necessity, then drive smart, accelerate slowly and read the road, so as to decelerate slowly and don’t speed unecessarily, all things that will improve fuel consumption markedly.

    Shopping HAS become expensive, but needn’t be a killer if done with an ‘eye on the game’ being played within the food industry. When you walk into the supermarket, the cheapest foodstuffs are mainly on the exterior of the store, that is to say ‘unprocessed’. The stores make their money on the processed food ‘products’ where things are ready to go (microwave/oven ready) usually found towards the middle of the store, so if you are prepared to cook, as in the old days, then meals become really economical again. I even use left-overs in other dishes and it’s not half bad! Just the other night my better half whisked up a lovely bread and butter pudding using bread that would otherwise have been given to the birds and it was lovely. Even with busy lives, setting aside 3 hours for a cookathon one day a week, whereby several meals are prepared, then frozen for use in the week can be turned into a family time event, where conversations and the craic can be had. Just don’t argue when chopping the carrots ;-)

    The bad feeling of being superceeded in one’s 40s-50s by younger guns and/or foreign migration is not to be underestimated, but there are heartening stories of people giving up the mindless commute to start up their own ‘micro business’ trading on the broad knowledge that they have accrued over the years, this advantage not being enjoyed by the younger wannabees. Like Mr Buffet said, when the tide goes out we’ll see who has been swimming naked, along perhaps with a few shopping trolleys and the skeleton of my grandfather’s push bike that went missing back in the early 70s. Better to be an ‘early adapter’ i would say and reap the benefits of choosing to be frugal now, rather than having it forced (penury) upon you later. It’s always amazed me how the hardcore ‘chavs’ always have enough money for the ciggies/beer/satellite tv/trainers etc when otherwise things are in penury by any measure. It’s all about simplifying your life, working out what’s important and letting the rest dissipate and the stress that accompanies it too.


  20. Jack

    Correction! Type 1 diabetes should have been Type 2



  21. SpinstaSista


    The closet minded parochial mindset of the 50s and 60s never really went away. Even at the height of the Celtic Tiger most jobs in Ireland were got through who you knew and/or political connections. Ireland’s parochial self-serving me fein attitude is one of the reasons that only a few people benefited from the Celtic Tiger and the rest of us got shafted.

  22. Nick

    Frugality? Read this…

    Surely this is hype?

    Ps. anyone who puts themselves into debt problems by getting caught up in this kind of BS,
    1. deserves their lot and 2. should not be given a public safety net (same could be said for anyone who gets up to their neck in hock). People have to learn that sometimes the pain comes for a reason ie to teach tough love.

  23. JJ Tatten

    I’ve just looked at Nick’s link and – once I’d picked my jaw up off the floor – it occurred to me that a recession will never change these people. They have neither the interest nor the will to be anything other than vulgar, self-absorbed little parasites – and there are an awful lot of them. If this is the calibre of individual manning the decks of SS Ireland then you really are up the proverbial creek without a canoe – never mind a paddle. Sometimes you get what you deserve.

  24. SpinstaSista

    Nick’s link is shocking but not surprising. It puts Brendan Behan’s “The Confirmation Suit” in the shade. Maybe these people are splashing out (albeit very foolishly) because deep down they know this is the last year they can do it.

  25. Jack

    Ditto on Nick’s link, it has so little to do with religion, in this case the official coming together spiritually with God, but with the coming together of ego and money and the chance to show everyone that ‘you’re not a have-not’…….and have an arse in your trousers.

    Just 3 weeks ago, I was at the “wedding” of a young male member of the extended family. They’re both in their early 20s and have a young child and not a penny between them. Her parents, who also have no money paid out £25,000 for the wedding that wasn’t even in a church, it was in a hotel, where the reception was held afterwards. It was nice enough alright, but the day was over quickly and the young couple who have been living together with child for 2 years have only memories and photos and little else. Oh yes, the father took out a loan for that £25,000……..

    Said pair are living in a run-down council flat, mum a part time cleaner, dad a sometimes employed decorator and their daughter now following suite with her husband, both with nothing and to be honest little hope of salvation, but with a wedding day to show the neighbours who they are dealing with. Pathetically sad, but that’s the mentality in certain quarters. Think what that money might have achieved if invested differently.

  26. Stephen Kenny

    After such an extended boom, anyone under their mid 30s is going to have trouble really believing that it’s over, even if, intellectually, they can see the signs. After so much easy living, when making reasonable money was just so easy, the adjustment is going to be incredibly difficult for many. They’ve worked hard, done what they thought to be the right thing.
    Just remember that the mainstream was yelling at them to get into debt, and warning that if they didn’t, they’d live in penury for the rest of their lives. It was a new economy, this time it was different, and they could be, if not rich, then certainly well off. The media was choking on the sheer number of rags-to-riches stories. 25k just doesn’t “feel” like much in that world, especially when your house (cost: 50k) is apparently worth 500k. People feel rich, think rich, act rich, because everyone else is. Bankers were assuring them that they were being very prudent, only borrowing 75% of the available equity in their homes. It’s not necessarily a selfish, greedy, “keeping up with the Jones’s”, in most cases it’s just a desire to do well.
    They’ll learn. Life’s going to give them a sharp kick in the gonads, no need for everyone else to join in.

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