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Five Tenets of Yankee Thriftiness

by Staff


Tags: back-to-the-land, Vermont, conservation, frugality, Yankee thriftiness,

Vermont’s tradition of frugality has been traced by some observers “to the short growing season, when nothing could be wasted,” writes Kirk Kardashian in the Vermont weekly Seven Days. Through his interviews with Vermont “back-to-the-landers,” Kardashian discovers that members of this otherwise unaffiliated group share an almost Depression-era sense of economy. The simplicity and intentionality of their lifestyles is perhaps more impressive than ever in an era of unparalleled American opulence and consumption.

Vermonter Robert “Dunnz” Dunn tells Kardashian, “I could have bought a BMW, did cocaine, and worked on 128,” referring to a highway outside Boston that’s lined with big engineering firms. “But it seemed like I needed to be one person saying, ‘I don’t want to contribute to the way the country’s going.’”

“If there are any hard and fast rules of New England frugality,” Kardashian concludes from his conversations with this thrift-oriented strain of conservationists, they might be distilled down to these five tenets:

  • First: “You shouldn’t buy stuff you don’t need. The old farmers couldn’t buy frivolous things, so they didn’t.”
  • Second: “Everybody needs some stuff…If you’ve got to buy something, make it as cheap as possible by amortizing its cost over a score of years.”
  • Third: “Heavily research your major acquisitions: Know exactly what you’re buying.”
  • Fourth: Buy things that are serviceable. “We always ask: Is it serviceable? If it is, it means we can buy parts and fix it.”
  • Fifth: “Take the same conservationist approach to non-mechanical items that don’t break so much as wear out.”

For all but the handiest of us, mending our wares may mean making the acquaintance of our local cobbler. “In the comings and goings of daily life, we walk through soles, we pull off zippers, we come unstitched,” Kardashian writes. “This is where the cobbler comes in—if you can find one.”

Jason Ericson