In CHEAP We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue (Hardcover)

The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue

By Lauren Weber

Little, Brown and Company, 9780316030281, 320pp.

Publication Date: September 1, 2009




Cheap suit. Cheap date. Cheap shot. It's a dirty word, an epithet laden with negative meanings. It is also the story of Lauren Weber's life. As a child, she resented her father for keeping the heat 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.

In this lively treatise on the virtues of being cheap, Weber explores provocative questions about Americans' conflicted relationship with consumption and frugality. 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.

Weber 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.

About the Author

Lauren Weber was formerly a staff reporter at Reuters and "Newsday." She has also written for "The New York Times," The Los Angeles Times, American Banker, and other publications. A former resident at Yaddo, Lauren graduated from Wesleyan University and was a Knight-Bagehot fellow, a fellowship that invites 10 business journalists each year to study finance and economics at Columbia's Graduate School of Business.

Lauren grew up with a father whose creative and eccentric ways of saving money included rationing household toilet paper and developing a gas-saving method of driving in which light pedal taps substituted for full braking.

Praise For In CHEAP We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue

"What's the fine line between thrift and stinginess, self-control and compulsion, purpose and obsession? Lauren Weber's fresh take on the quirky side of saving and spending couldn't be timelier."

"Never preachy or sanctimonious, In Cheap We Trust
is one of the most fascinating and life-altering books I've read this
year. Its insights are profound. If you want to lighten your
footprint while deepening the quality of your life, you'll love this book."

"Consumers have been researched to death. It's about
time the tightwads among us got the same kind of loving attention. In Cheap
We Trust
is immensely readable and highly illuminating - the perfect guide
to the oncoming era of like-it-or-not thrift."

"This book has a far better chance of making
cheapness socially acceptable than Ben Franklin, Jack Benny, and my father

Coverage from NPR