The Rich Really Are Getting Richer: Be a Conserver, Not a Consumer


Enseñanzas Oficiales de Idiomas

English Level C1

Lesson 1


The Rich Really Are Getting Richer: Be a Conserver, Not a Consumer

Wikipedia explains Consumerism as “a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts”. Consumerism is often used to describe the effects of equating personal happiness with purchasing material possessions and consumption.

From consumers to conservers

Image by Threephin in Flickr under CC.

When I was growing up my Mom would tell us about her childhood in the Great Depression growing up on a farm, about driving to town with some chickens to sell and eggs to trade for an ice cream cone. They did not feel deprived, but lived simply because they had to. They were not hungry and all of their needs were cared for, but they were not shopping for sport or distraction. They wasted little, with every resource used and reused. When something broke, it was fixed. If it had a hole, it was mended. That was just the way it was.  

For us kids the whole story sounded a little distant and irrelevant to our own lives.  We lived in the suburbs after all, in the land of fast food and shopping malls, ground zero of the consumer economy - what did chickens and farming have to do with us?  

My mom’s stories are sounding a lot more relevant these days. Those chickens are coming home to roost. After spiraling downward for several months the economy seems to have slid off a cliff lately.  Home values have plummeted, millions of people have lost their jobs, the stock market has lost an estimated $10 trillion in value, and we are left with a massive debt hangover.  It could be a long time before our old spending ways resume. If ever.  

Many economists believe that when the economy finally bottoms out it won’t bounce back up, but enter a period of slow growth and a long slow recovery. The trillions of dollars in lost asset values are not likely to recover quickly; those who are waiting for a quick return to old spending habits may be disappointed. We are entering a new era in which consumerism is held in check by economic realities. Americans have maintained for years a negative savings rate, spending more than they make, but you cannot keep this up forever.  Much of this spending was fueled by refinancing to withdraw money from homes that constantly escalated in values. The dramatic declines in home values have taken this option off the table for most. For the first time in years the savings rate for Americans has become positive again.  The consumer economy is being swiftly replaced by a new era in which people are spending less and saving more. Rather than returning to the consumer economy of old, we may be entering a new era, the age of The Conserver Economy.

Source: Croston, G. (n.d.). The Transition from Consumer Economy to Conserver Economy. Retrieved July 11, 2016, from


What does "those chickens are coming home to roost" mean?

Image by Tom Hewitt in Flickr under CC.

Cloze Activity


Match the chicken idioms with their meanings. Write the number.

1. Nest egg 01. not follow through
2. Don't count your chickens before they hatch 02. old
3. Don't put all your eggs in one basket 03. small amount of money
4. Don't spend the egg money before the hen lays the eggs 04. being afraid
5. Chicken feed 05. don't plan on an outcome before it actually happens
6. Feather your nest 06. showing off
7. Hen-pecked 07. trying not to upset someone
8. Up with the chickens 08. to save a little money each week
9. No spring chicken 09. get moving
10. Walking on eggshells 10. bullied or intimidated by one's wife, girlfriend, etc.
11. Like a chicken with its head cut off 11. extremely hard to find
12. Hatch an idea 12. something annoys you
13. Chicken out 13. don't plan on an outcome before it actually happens
14. Shake a tail feather 14. put a plan into motion
15. Ruffle your feathers 15. waking early with the sunrise
16. You're chicken! 16. saving for the future
17. Strutting around like a banty rooster 17. don't risk everything on the success of one venture
18. Cock and bull story 18. young girl or teenager
19. Scarce as hen's teeth 19. tall tales and elaborate lies
20. Chick 20. running around with no direction

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Visit the postconsumers site and play the Get Satisfied Game Show. Let's find out if you know the difference between "just enough" and "way too much".

What are the factors that influence consumerism?

Are there any benefits of consumerism?

Is there a way to escape the culture of consumerism?

Is an ethical consumerism posible?

Do you believe that changing your spending habits can make a big difference in your life?