Last week William Safire declared his favorite new word of 2008 to be "frugalista." Defined as "a person who lives a frugal lifestyle but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying secondhand, growing own produce, etc..", the frugalista, he declared, "could become the nom de guerre of the 'recession warrior.'" Well, she is being joined by a cast of new characters among them:
The Coin Collector: This is a more sophisticated version of the penny pincher. He sweeps up the loose change that has been left gathering dust in desk drawers, under seat cushions and on desks for the past decade. Nora Ephron would direct him to rummage in the bottom of women's purses. If he could get access to the coins in all of Manhattan's "It" bags, we may be able to finance the Second Avenue Subway. Poster boy: Dale Hemmerdinger, head of M.T.A., who has announced that he plans to grab an extra fifty cents from every subway rider next year.
Ms. BlahBlahBlahnik: The last women holding court in the shoe departments of Bergdorf's, Barney's and Saks (its own zip code, remember) refuse to believe that anything as ugly as a credit crunch could ruin their fashion daze. "Blah, blah, blah," they mutter as people discuss the economy. Until their cards are denied, they will soldier on buying Manolo Blahniks and enabling luxury retailers to believe that the rich are immune. Picture Samantha from Sex in the City.
The Negocianado: He's been a connoisseur of wine, cigars and cars and always paid full price. Now, that his bonus has been abolished and his portfolio has plummeted, he's decided to take paying retail personally. He swaggers into stores on Madison and demands discounts. He is usually alone in the store, but if he is afforded the presence of another customer, he stokes up his performance as he grinds down the salesperson. "You know what the rent for this space is?" He'll ask. "You need a piece of my black card, and I know how to make deals." Think Harvey Weinstein and imagine how pissed he must be thinking of what he paid for Halston.
Obama Mamas: These optimistic babes will replace the Yummy Mummies of the past decade who pranced around, thanks to endless Pilates and plastic surgery, looking hotter than 20-year-olds even when they were in their mid-40s. Idealism is their new elixir, so they will exchange campaigning and gym classes for group street clean-ups, doing squats and lunges as they collect trash for recycling. If Susan Sarandon were younger and less strident, she would be their leader.
Chicken Loudest: Mad Money's Jim Kramer and the New York Times' Tom Friedman are contenders for top town criers, but every neighborhood will have one who gets to be anointed as the man who called the crisis loudest. Friedman has confessed that he feels like going table to table in restaurants and telling people to go home and save their money. The name of the contest is no longer he with the biggest bonus wins, so the competition has switched to who can be the gloomiest forecaster of doom.
The Escape Artist: Whether he got laid off or fed up with the rat race, he is one of the early ones to decamp to a more bucolic way of life (some may be forced to do so later). His inner farmer and/or philosopher is unleashed so he sows his wild oats and may start teaching at a local college and dressing as he did in college. Ron Galotti and Ted Turner were ahead of the times.
Austerity Jane: She's been reusing tinfoil and saving wire hangers since she was tiny. She knows how to make leftovers out of leftovers and now sees herself as a savior for the hopeless profligates all around. Count yourself lucky if she invites you to a potluck where she will give out tips on how to live on a lot less. You may learn something, and it's likely that once the housing market hits bottom, she will own the biggest house on the block paid for with all the cash she's been holding.
Spend Therapists: Yes the rich will always be different from the regular folk. In recent years, they have had an army of specialists rise up to serve them, including Art Curators, Aviation Counselors, Household Management Advisors and Philanthropic Strategists to advise them on how to give money away. Spend therapists will be the next operator to become essential to the dwindling ranks of the super rich because they will need to repackage how they justify their expenditures to themselves and the suffering masses around them. Hybrid Bentleys and G4s that advertise good works flights for dead legs and allowing foreclosed families to camp out in one of John McCain's seven houses could be possible. Suze Orman crossed with Deepak Chopra or maybe they will team up.
Who have I forgotten?