Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/2/2009 (2760 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Frugal is the new green, a chic way of expressing that you are perfectly aware the sky may be falling, that a penny saved is a penny earned, that spending $50,000 on a used luxury car is not the same thing as buying a monthly bus pass.
People all around me are bragging about being thrifty as though they invented the notion.
It's somehow daring to eat at home, cook from scratch, only subscribe to magazines you read and contemplate spending money when you actually have money to spend.
In other words, to live like our parents did.
I know: It's crazy talk.
A faithful reader named Joni sent me an email recently asking for help.
"I was wondering if you could make my daughter and many others just like her give their heads a good shake," she wrote.
"Too many people are cutting corners on things that matter most (clothes, food, diapers) but are blowing the farm on useless devil junk.
"It seems that frugality has become the trend as of late; however, people seem to be cancelling out any obvious savings by spending more on other non-necessities. You know the type. I think you should write an article about people who are penny-wise and pound foolish in what should be frugal times."
A couple of things came immediately to mind.
First, I wouldn't want to stand between Joni and her daughter on a really cranky day.
Second, this woman knows what she's talking about.
Before I reformed my shameful ways, I wouldn't think of carrying a bag lunch to work, making coffee at home and putting it in a thermos, and buying most of my wardrobe at Superstore.
Then I'd swan off to Ten Spa at the drop of an emery board. All pain, no gain was my motto.
Those days are over, Joni, I swear they are.
And not just because the spa is closed for renovations.
I'm not clear how Joni defines "devil junk." Salad in a bag? Four dollar lattes? Expensive face creams? Good Scotch? Cellphones for 12-year-olds? Fancy men with fancy cars?
You need a few luxuries to keep life worth living, my friends.
I'll abandon the salads, lattes and cellphones for children.
I can tear my own lettuce. As for the rest of the list?
Life has to have some purpose, even in these desperate times. You've got to give the devil his due.
We're all worried, those of us who read the papers and listen to the news and see the thousands upon thousands of jobs disappearing.
In my age group, there's a sense of heightened anxiety as mutual fund portfolios wither and retirement appears a distant dream.
Many of us were greedy or indifferent to the day when the chickens would come home to roost.
Some of us (hello, newspaper columnist who loves to climb on airplanes) were, indeed, penny-wise and pound foolish.
I comfort myself with the thought that when my daughter finally plants me in the Motel 8 of nursing homes, I will still have my memories.
But now we're torn between flinging our spare change in a coffee can and burying it in the backyard and going out to do something to move the economy along.
I have four daughters. They're out there on a daily basis stimulating the economy.
Me? I'm looking for a sturdy shovel to dig a deep hole.
Until this crisis passes -- may that not take too long or damage too many dreams -- I'm going to stay close to home, get my books from the library and my clothes from a designer named Joe.
I can't stop the sky from falling but, if I'm careful, I won't encourage it to score a direct hit on my head.