Break bad habits for good

Book Review: 'Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success'

I recently read a report for marketers, the upshot of which was that luxury spending took a big uptick last year in the first three months of 2011, especially on nonessentials like clothes and accessories.

The report, and interpretations I saw of it on the Web, chalked some of this up to wealthy people simply being tired of exercising financial restraint due to social pressures, as it has been bad form for a few years now to buy flashy items.

But I was fascinated to see this sentence in the report: "Average consumers splurged more than their ultra-affluent counterparts, increasing spend by 3.3 percent while the ultra-affluent remained slightly more cautious, increasing spend by just 2 percent."

So, the sector of consumers doing all this Louis Vuitton and Louboutin purchasing was actually the same sector that had been so hard hit by joblessness and mortgage woes — not the upper class, but average consumers. This was stunning to me, given ultra-conspicuous frugality I’ve also witnessed in this same sector, post-recession.

Some commentators hypothesized that this spending surge was a result of a sort of frugality fatigue, where people who did actually hear the recession as a wake-up call to change their unsustainable and dysfunctional financial patterns — and did in fact tighten their belts — were, simply put, over it.