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“India is to frugality as Bethlehem is to Jesus”

That’s a line from Anand Giridharadas’s Letter from India in today’s IHT: “For tips on frugality, look to India

VERLA, India: Watching Americans try to make themselves frugal is like watching Mongolians try to make Bordeaux wine.

Thrift does not come naturally to a country that turned layaway, zero-interest home loans and pre-approved credit cards into a mode of living. And so as they trudge through a cruel holiday season, Americans are cutting back, but hesitatingly and maladroitly.

They are standing in line by the thousands at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, pushing and pulling, and on one occasion trampling an obstructive employee to death with their frantic, frugal feet.

They are embracing the alien idea of sacrifice. Mothers are forgoing personal shopping to spend on the family, and, according to Consumer Reports, pet owners are depriving themselves before shortchanging their pets.

Fourteen percent of Americans are making gifts, not buying them, that magazine reported. Twelve percent are plotting to pass on to others the gifts others give them. Many plan to tip less, scale back charity and go shopping accompanied by that leafy commodity so foreign to Americans: cash.

And then it hit me. The jostling in line, the stampeding, the motherly sacrifice, the homemade presents, the regifting, the thick wads of rubber-banded cash: America is becoming India!

By Newley

Hi. I'm Newley Purnell. I cover technology and business for The Wall Street Journal. I use this site to share my stories and often blog about the books I'm reading, tech trends, sports, travel, and our dog Ginger. For updates, get my weekly email newsletter.

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