Frugality: bringing people together one penny at a time.
I'm thinking about having that slogan printed on T-shirts or bumper stickers or something, because it's really true. The Great Recession is prompting more and more people to economize and, in the process, they're looking to their friends, neighbors and communities for help in doing so.
See also: How much is "enough" money?
Could it be that a silver lining of these tough economic times will be a return of the good old-fashioned ideals of better living by sharing and building stronger communities? There are a lot of examples — from old school to high tech — of how the recession is pulling people together in an attempt to economize and weather tough times. Consider:
Community Gardens: Backyard vegetable gardens are on the rise (up nearly 20 percent last year alone, according to the National Gardening Association), and so are community gardens, where neighbors plant and maintain their crops on a common plot of land. Not only do they share the gardening space, but at many community gardens they also share tools, seeds and plants, and their own labor as well. The American Community Garden Association estimates that there are now more than 18,000 community gardens throughout the U.S. and Canada. The group's website (communitygarden.org) provides a nationwide directory of community gardens and information on how to start one of your own if there's not already a community garden near you. And if you don't have a green thumb, consider banding together with other horticulturally challenged folks and buying a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share (see localharvest.org). You'll get a portion of the fresh harvest every week from a local farm and help out the farmer and local economy in the process.
Sharing Transportation: Why pay to own a whole car when you use it only part of the time? That's what more and more Americans are asking themselves, and why "car sharing" companies are becoming more popular. Last year Zipcar (Zipcar.com), a leader in the relatively new U.S. car-sharing industry, reported a 70 percent increase in membership since the start of the recession. Car-share members pay a nominal annual fee for 24/7 access to a fleet of cars parked around the country. Make a reservation by phone or online (last minute is fine), and use an electronic key card to access the car you want. Hourly fees and per-mile rates apply, but all of the hassles and other costs of car ownership — including gas, insurance, maintenance, parking, registration, taxes, etc. — are the company's responsibility. More evidence of cost-sharing: The U.S. Census reports that both carpooling and the use of public transportation have become increasingly popular since the start of the recession.