Five Tenets of Yankee Thriftiness


| 12/26/2007 5:33:14 PM


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



Seth R.
1/8/2008 2:41:42 PM

These guys like Dunn never get over not having had the courage to live the coke and beamer lifestyle. I hear regret there, no doubt. Not to advocate extravagant wastefulness, just the opposite, but dropping out, moving to BFE and isolating yourself is not the answer. If you want the world to change you've got talk to other people and convince them to work with you. This primitivist hogwash is just another kind of sprawl in my book - a reimagining of the myth of the American frontier. Loners are part of the problem! These back-to-the-land people here just got lucky that some reporter didn't drop out of society and instead decided to trek up to the middle of nowhere to talk to them. In the bigger picture, they got more accomplished doing a 20-min interview then they did in 20 years of reusing their old clothes for shoe strings and whatnot.


A.M.R._5
1/2/2008 12:03:49 PM

Nice little article. The piece itself was short implying frugality of words/information. I was raised by survivors of the depression so am well aware of such tenets although it was out of economic survival that we practiced frugal living rather than by any great desire to live simply although for my father I think it gave him a sense of adventure... for my sisters and I, we were just plain hungry at times...


A.M.R._4
1/2/2008 12:03:12 PM

Nice little article. The piece itself was short implying frugality of words/information. I was raised by survivors of the depression so am well aware of such tenets although it was out of economic survival that we practiced frugal living rather than by any great desire to live simply although for my father I think it gave him a sense of adventure... for my sisters and I, we were just plain hungry at times...




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