Discussions about the consequences of the financial crisis concentrate on the economy. There is a lot of talk about how governments are expected to handle the emergency and if largely Keynesian measures are likely to bring about a lasting turnaround. Unemployment is a high-profile issue, with some countries waking up to long-time record rates and finding it hard to react with effective methods. Business owners complain about tighter financing policies of banks and put pressure on politicians to extend their assistance, in terms of legislation or other preferences. Individuals are where all these trends coincide, bringing this harsh economic reality into sharp focus. However, quite little is being said about how recent years are putting a question mark over the entire lifestyle that characterized the past decade, obsessed with reckless consumption, XXL materialism and inability to channel rising affluence. It might not be a common topic for chit-chat, but the process is surely taking place in hearts and minds of people.
There are plenty of indications, tiny and large, in support of cutting down to size on a number of levels. Since the credit crisis struck for good in 2008, people have gone a long way towards the saving side on a saver-spender continuum. It could not show more clearly in the savings rate, which has been ballooning up at the speed of sound as individuals begin to reckon that putting away more cash is worth the sacrifice it asks for. Optimistically, it is underpinned by a rise in financial prudence and the realization that living beyond your means has to end.
Prudence is tightly connected to a culture of restraint. After a decade of living big, with gigantic Hummers and in tacky McHouses, out of proportion with actual needs of individuals, families and communities, the trend has shifted having reached the tipping point of unsustainability. It is seen in such things as a revival of plans for ecological cars or rising popularity of blueprints for smaller homes. The mindset that was urging people to ask for more and more, for things bigger and bigger, is on its knees due to irrational costs and a change of heart.
As one keynote speaker put it, time has come for everyone to cap their lifestyle. There are books that capture this spirit by suggesting to live on a certain income level, say 40,000$, and give away the rest. Instead of amassing material goods, reposition your life along a code of quality and economy, a sustainable budget. Why not donate some of your possessions to charity? Surely you do not need another music player or pen tablet. You do not need excess. It takes your focus away. You can also scale down by taking a break from whatever hectic everyday life you are leading, most probably on terms and conditions you have not created, and helping others. Such reassessment and looking at priorities afresh are a requirement for long-range balance, lifestyle sustainability. In lots of ways, it smacks of a return to the good old basics.