Shredding credit cards and buying less may sound like consumer America's version of hell, but some—especially those penny-pinchers long scoffed at as miserly—are downright gleeful. "This validates the choices I've made," one tells the New York Times. With the savings rate up a remarkable 4 points since fall, "frugal living" groups have become the rage and stylish "frugalistas" have invaded the fashion world.
Gone are premium cable packages, summer travel plans, and even high-end groceries. "It implies a re-emergence of thrift as a value," says an economics professor. Never mind that less consumption will slow the pace of recovery. "Never waste a crisis," says a Missouri consultant, borrowing a well-worn political phrase of late. She herself doesn't buy paper napkins anymore. "I love it. This is a chance for us to re-examine what's important."