Home » Blog » Recession Anxiety: How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Thrift

Recession Anxiety: How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Thrift

Anxiety is a sneaky thing. It starts with watching the news of yet another company closing doors. Then we hear about a friend who just got laid off and we think, “There but for the grace of God….” The unopened envelope holding the latest report on our 401K sits on the desk mockingly. Sleep becomes elusive. The future, once so bright with promise, becomes the dark tunnel of the Haunted House ride.

Anxious? How about terror stricken? And yet it could very well be that none of the things mentioned above affect our lives today. That’s the thing about panic. We don’t have to be directly threatened to feel as if we are.

A recent article in the New York Times, Recession Anxiety Seeps Into Everyday Lives, reports that across the country latent anxiety, triggered by too much bad economic news, is bubbling to the surface. People are returning to or increasing their therapy sessions, trying meditation (not medication, but that too, actually) and yoga, re-engineering hobbies into cottage industries, etc., all of which is good news.

The point is they are treating their anxiety about a threat they can’t do anything about with “can do” action!

Then two days after the recession anxiety article the Times offers another antidote in Austere Times? Perfect. People combat their anxiety by taking up the banner of creative frugality. Being a cheapskate is the ‘In’ thing now!

This reminds me of a dear friend who has the kind of style common in France but that you don’t see much in the U.S. She and her husband are quite comfortable financially, so she could easily shop at Neiman Marcus. Instead she has always enjoyed finding just the right piece at the thrift store or garage sales, peppering her wardrobe with the occasional retail item. She always looks like a million bucks. Now everyone wants to be my friend.

The antidote to anxiety is action. In this case, saving money in creative ways type action. So here are a few thrifty recession-anti-anxiety-take-action suggestions:

  1. Clean out your closets. Cull out anything you or your kids haven’t worn in the last year. Be brutal. Then take the pile to a consignment shop. Not only will you lower your anxiety, you might pick up a few bucks on a resale.
  2. Since you’re in the consignment shop anyway stop and smell the bargains.
  3. Time to dig. Plant a few food crops among the dahlias and azaleas or go for broke and plant a Victory Garden. The cost of sweat investment will pay off at harvest time.
  4. Consider a garage or yard sale. I think these ventures are easier and more fun when a few neighbors—or better yet, the whole block—is recruited to do a massive neighborhood yard sale at the same time. Don’t do this by yourself or you’ll just get anxious.
  5. Dust off the sewing machine and get out your inner clothing designer. I found some great patterns online and, for me, the ritual of sewing is almost meditative. This works best if you have toddlers who will actually wear what you sew. Same goes for knitting or crochet.
  6. Take meal planning seriously and make it a family affair. By planning the week’s meals together my kids don’t complain as much as they used to and the grocery bills are down.
  7. A friend of mine said that before she buys something new she asks herself three things: Can I afford it? Do I love it? Can I live without it? Adopting this habit has saved me from many impulse buys and even a few well thought out ones where the answer to all three is yes.

PS. Just found a fabulous pair of Juicy Couture pumps at a consignment shop for $10! I could afford them, I loved them and I couldn’t live without them!

Recession Anxiety: How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Thrift

Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D.

Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, founder of Explore What’s Next, wife, and mom of two teenagers. Dr. Aletta is a writer whose articles have been featured on the New York Times Well blog, the Wall Street Journal Online, Parents magazine, NPR and the BBC London Radio. To learn more about Dr. Aletta and Explore What's Next, visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter!

One comment: View Comments / Leave a Comment
APA Reference
Aletta, E. (2018). Recession Anxiety: How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Thrift. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 18 Apr 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.