In CHEAP We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue by Lauren Weber, Little Brown and Co, published September 7, 2009.
Review From the Publisher:
Cheap suit. Cheap date. Cheap shot. It’s a dirty word, an epithet laden with negative meanings. It’s also the story of Lauren Weber’s life. As a child, she resented her father for setting the thermostat at 50 degrees through the frigid New England winters and rarely using his car’s turn signals—to keep them from burning out. But as an adult, when she found herself walking 30 blocks to save $2 on subway fare, she realized she had turned into him. Should she be horrified… or proud?
In hard times, questions about Americans’ conflicted relationship with consumption and frugality become more urgent and provocative. Why do we ridicule people who save money? Where’s the boundary between thrift and miserliness? Is thrift a virtue or a vice during a recession? And was it common sense or obsessive-compulsive disorder that made her father ration the family’s toilet paper?
In answering these questions, In Cheap We Trust offers a colorful ride through the history of frugality in the United States. Readers will learn the stories behind Ben Franklin and his famous maxims, Hetty Green (named “the world’s greatest miser” by the Guinness Book of Records) and the stereotyping of Jewish and Chinese immigrants as cheap.
Lauren also explores contemporary expressions and dilemmas of thrift. From Dumpster-diving to economist John Maynard Keynes’s “Paradox of Thrift” to today’s recession-driven enthusiasm for frugal living, In Cheap We Trust teases out the meanings of cheapness and examines the wisdom and pleasures of not spending every last penny.
Preview the book and read the first six chapters online free here.
In CHEAP We Trust is an interesting historical journey of American frugality. The first five chapters were loaded with historical facts, figures and wartime economics. History is not my favorite subject, but the frugal focus was really unique and fascinating.
The last four chapters focused on more modern frugality, cheapskate psychology and modern economics. Weber introduced freegans, who dumpster dive, grow urban gardens and squat in unoccupied buildings. At first, I was disgusted by the thought of dumpster diving, but reading this book, I was more appalled by the sheer amount of edible food that is wasted each day.
Overall, this book allowed me to embrace my own frugal upbringings. Weber’s own life and frugal father reminded me of my dad. Although my dad never rationed toilet paper, he did make us eat the same cheap bean soups until they were completely gone, sometimes for up to four days in a row. He once decided to make a cheap whirlpool using an old horse trough, plastic piping and a small engine.
I could continue for pages with stories about my dad’s frugality, but am very grateful for those experiences that have made me who I am today. Weber’s In CHEAP We Trust really reminded me that frugality is financially and ecologically smart and should be celebrated and encouraged in America today. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in American history and/or frugality.
I have 5 copies of In CHEAP We Trust to giveaway thanks to Hachette Book Group. You can earn up to 6 entries for this giveaway. Please leave a separate comment for each entry and a way to contact you.
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This contest will end on Friday October 2, 2009 at 10:00 pm, central time. I will use random.org to select five lucky winners and contact the winners. (If any winner does not respond in 48 hours, I will pick another.) U.S. and Canada entries only. No P.O. Boxes. Good luck and thanks for entering!