The organizers of the first World Thrift Day of 1925 quite clearly had in mind what it should be about. Saving was considered to be an expression of the maturity of both the people and the country.
October 31 was declared World Thrift Day at the end of the first International Thrift Congress in 1924 in Milan. In the resolutions of the Thrift Congress it was decided that ‘World Thrift Day’ should be a day devoted to the promotion of savings all over the World. In their efforts to promote thrift the savings banks also worked with the support of the schools, the clergy, as well as cultural, sports, professional, and women’s associations.
Of course the idea of World Thrift Day was not born out of nothing. There had been some examples of days that were committed to the idea of saving money in order to gain a higher standard of life and to secure the economy, e.g. in Spain where the first national thrift day was celebrated in 1921, or in the United States. In other countries, such as Germany, the peoples’ confidence in savings had to be restored because many people didn’t even think of saving since they had lost close to everything in the German monetary reform of 1923.
The celebration of the World Thrift Day took various forms: posters, lectures, brochures, leaflets, press-articles, chorus singing, broadcasting, educational and propaganda films.
In 1928, even a Hymn of Thrift was composed by Gino Valori and Giuseppe Pietri. For the subsequent editions of the Hymn of Thrift, it has been proposed consecutively to Belgium, Great-Britain, Austria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Spain and finally Germany.
Special interest was also paid to the promotion of savings in schools and several savings campaigns were organized in the schools. In the week of thrift, special courses were organized to educate children about the virtues of “Thrift”. Money boxes and savings bank passbooks were distributed in schools. Overall, the introduction of the World Thrift Day had a clear influence on the increase of school savings.
World Savings Day was at first an educational activity, at least partly. In 1928, the WSBI stated that saving was “a virtue and a practice which are essential to the civil progress of each individual, of every nation, and of the whole of humanity!” Correspondingly, the World Savings Banks Congress declared schools the most reliable ally in the field of teaching future customers. As they put it, thrift education was not only about “the usefulness and necessity of spending their money wisely and of fortifying themselves against the uncertainties and adversities of the future”, but also about “opposing and fighting everything which may be an obstacle to the practice of thrift”*, such as gambling and lottery.
After the Second World War, World Thrift Day continued and reached the peak of its popularity in the years between 1955 and 1970. It practically became a veritable tradition in certain countries. In Austria, for instance, the official mascot of saving, the so-called ‘Sparefroh’ (literally: ‘Happy Saver’) reached a higher degree of brand awareness than the republic’s president and even a street was named after him. In the 1970s the ‘Sparefroh-Journal’, an educational magazine for younger people, reached a circulation of 400,000 copies.
Nowadays, it can be said that thrift education in developed countries, where most people save money, was a success since there are practically no people that do not yet own a bank account. The field that is now to be played is the developing countries where, in the worst case, the number of saving accounts does not exceed 10%. Savings banks play an important role in enhancing savings in these countries with certain campaigns and initiatives such as working with the Bill and Melinda Gates in order to double the number of savings accounts held by the poor.
* International Thrift Institute (1931), ‘World Thrift 1931 No. 4’ p. 174, ITI, Milan