It’s no secret that the economic ups and downs of the past few years have made many of us rethink our finances—not to mention our lifestyle choices.
Gone are the days of buying bigger and better. In fact, since the financial crisis hit, more Americans have been paying off credit cards, shopping at thrift stores and purchasing smaller cars. Plus, based on census data, the median size of a new home in the U.S. shrunk by nearly 5% to 2,169 square feet between 2007 and 2010.
And it seems that austerity is here to stay: According to a Deloitte’s 2013 American Pantry Study, 94% of consumers said that, even if the economy improves, they plan to remain cautious and keep their spending at current levels. “Frugal attitudes and behaviors have endured,” noted the study’s authors. “The impact of the recession lingers, and resourcefulness lives on.”
This stalwart frugalness is reflected in the latest data on consumption: Sure, consumer spending has risen 9% since the end of the Great Recession—but that gain is less than half the average rise in consumption compared to previous economic recoveries.
“People are rightsizing their relationship to debt following the global financial crisis,” says Bruce Piasecki, a management consultant and author of “Doing More With Less: The New Way to Wealth.” In fact, he forecasts that a sizable chunk of consumers will take the lessons learned during the recent recession with them for a lifetime.
So who are these people who are actively spending less and buying small—folks who are essentially shunning the desire to upsize? We tracked down people in their twenties, thirties and forties who profess that they aren’t swayed by the “Keeping up with the Joneses” effect to find out how—and why—they prefer to embrace the less material life.
The high cost of living in New York City made Michael DeMarco, 37, question his lifestyle. “At some point, I was working three jobs just so that I could afford to live in New York, and I decided that enough was enough,” DeMarco says. “I quit my jobs, moved to a cabin in the woods—and began to downsize.”