What with the recession, worldwide poverty, and impending environmental doom, it’s no wonder that bookshelves and the blogosphere are crammed with tales of voluntary privation and experiments in skimp. Last month there was On a Dollar a Day, about a couple's attempt to live on that amount—in San Diego. Last year, it was No Impact Man, and the web abounds with other examples. “It's like everyone is doing their own version of Lent,” a serial experimenter tells Time.
And just like Lent, people sometimes fall off the wagon, which makes for a good deal of ridicule if you’re chronicling your virtuousness online. Still, one blogger who couldn’t quite cut a pledge to buy nothing new but food and medicine still found the experience instructive. It taught her “how mindlessly I’m capable of buying things,” and how to stop. On a rare “jubilee day,” she set out to buy a windbreaker. But “I couldn’t get jubilant. I think my credit-card arm has been broken.”