Is Cheap Now Chic?

With the economy in a slump, it's become chic to be cheap.
With the economy in a slump, it's become chic to be cheap.
In an episode of TV's "Sex and the City," lead character Carrie Bradshaw cried to her friend, "I spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live!"

These days, spending like that is as tired as a cable re-run. A group of women CBS News met in Chicago are saving in the city.

"We want to look that way, we just don't want to pay to look that way," said 28-year-old Nicole Mladic.

It's not just coffee talk for her. She writes a blog called The Budgeting Babe.

It's dedicated to all the young working women who want to shop like Carrie in a Jimmy Choo store but have a budget closer to Roseanne.

The big-spending of the '80s and '90s has given way to a new cultural mindset, according to forecaster Faith Popcorn.

"Is conspicuous consumption out?" Wallace asked.

Popcorn said: "Consumption is out."

She calls it a mega trend - a toned-down approach to everything from the clothes you wear to the car you drive. And Madison Avenue is listening.

One Saturn commercial says: "Some say what you spend your money says a lot about you, at Saturn, we feel what you save your money on, actually says a lot more."

"We're selling to people's sense of values. We're selling to people who want to associate themselves with brands that share their values," said Eric Hirschberg, creator of the Saturn ad.

In the '80s, Dawn dishwashing liquid emphasized grease-cutting power - on a yacht.

Today, "one pump is all you need."

And no jacket required. The new frugal trend is more about more than saving money.

"It's the squeeze," says Faith Popcorn, "the squeeze in the environment, squeeze in the economy, squeeze on the ethics."

And the retail numbers may be the clearest evidence. While sales at high-end stores like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom are down from last year, sales at Wal-Mart and Target are up.

"There was a time when everyone was using the word Tarzhaay, and it was kind of a clever way to disguise that you actually got it at Target," Mladic said. "Now, no one cares."

Even Carrie Bradshaw.

Sarah Jessica Parker, who portrayed the character, now has a clothing line at discount retailer Steve & Barry's.

"I don't think people are going to say, 'but I want to spend a lot of money.'" Parker said.

The new status…is not how much you spend, but how much you don't.