Your Saving Habits Make You a Revolutionary

by Kentin Waits on 12 February 2013 4 comments
Photo: DCist

It’s true, Wise Bread reader — you’re a revolutionary. Although you may not know it or feel like it every day, your money-saving ways and consumer consciousness put you in the distinguished company of rebels and renegades. At a time when our society is awash in chronic debt, you’re swimming against the tide of easy consumer credit, bucking the trend of living beyond your means, and breaking the cycle of perpetual wanting. Congratulations. (See also: 30 Signs That You Were Raised by Frugal Parents)

Still not feeling like a revolutionary? Missing the funny hat? Well, consider these facts and then think about how they don’t (or for the newbies here, soon won’t) apply to you.

1. In 2010, the average consumer debt per person in the United States was $7,800.00.

2. According to the credit reporting agency TransUnion, the average credit card debt per US card holder was $4,996.00 in 2012.

3. In a November 2012 study by NerdWallet, for those U.S. households that have credit card debt, the average amount owed was $15,422.00. That equates to about $7,000.00 for every household in the US.

4. Again, from the same NerdWallet Study, 47% of all U.S. households carry a credit card balance.

5. According to a recent article by Motley Fool writer Molly McCluskey, the average student loan debt in the US is $23,000. In 2011, for the first time, Americans owed more on student loans overall than they owed on their credit cards.

6. In that same article by The Motley Fool, today, the average American carries a total debt of $47,000.00.

7. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that the average savings rate (as a percentage of income) in the U.S. hovered around 4%.

8. According to a study by the American Research Group, with results published in an article by Investopedia, the average American spent $646.00 on holiday gifts in 2011. Though the numbers aren’t in yet for 2012, forecasters expect the average figure to be $854 per person.

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9. According to a 2012 survey completed by the Employee Benefits Research Institute, 61% of respondents aged 35-44 reported having saved less than $25,000 for retirement. For those aged 55 or older, 40% had saved less than $25,000.

10. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2011 the average American spent $2620.00 on dining out.

While the facts are sobering, I don't want to paint everyone’s circumstances and motivations with the same broad bush. No doubt these numbers reflect some families who have little choice in suspending savings and using consumer credit just to survive.

But the sheer magnitude of these national statistics shows that debt, over-spending, and under-saving are still quite a large part of our culture — regardless of circumstance.

Periodic recessions notwithstanding, our habits are set, and those habits involve the heavy use of credit combined with razor-thin savings rates. Anyone who defies this way of thinking and living can confidently call themselves a revolutionary. Anyone who fights overconsumption, shops for the best value, buys only when there’s cash enough to pay for it outright, and lives frugally is doing something akin to revolt — and what a welcome revolt it is. So, the next time you’re feeling a bit dragged down with budgeting or wiped out from pinching pennies, take a look at those statistics and revel again in being a revolutionary.

Do you have a renegade's attitude when it comes to spending and saving? In what other ways do you think frugality is a revolutionary idea these days?

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Corinne

I try to save around $1000 per month. It's a mandatory item in my budget. But I also calculate in restaurants and coffee shops and what not so I'm not feeling deprived.

Guest's picture

It's crazy how the little things add up; when you actually see the figures it's mind-blowing. I have to go to the store every week for foodstuff, and I don't buy anything excessive or unnecessary really.

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Edward

GREAT ARTICLE! ...And us revolutionaries are consuming less, watching our mileage, lowering our heating, growing food at home, etc., thus conserving/protecting resources, and not cluttering up the planet with needless waste.

Guest's picture

Great article...really amazes me how people live on the edge. The two best financial lessons my parents taught me were:

1. Never spend more than you make
2. Save at least 10% of your salary

Follow those rules and you will be sitting pretty.