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In CHEAP We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue Paperback – Bargain Price, October 11, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (October 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316030295
  • ASIN: B005UVVR4M
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,468,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Guilt-free consumption has always been a cherished American value, but this book explores its flip side: a historical engagement with thriftiness, starting in the pre-revolutionary days with Benjamin Franklin, championed by reformers Booker T. Washington and Lydia Marie Child, taken to absurd lengths by the 19th-century miserly millionaire Hetty Green, espoused by economist John Maynard Keynes and married to environmental concerns by contemporary conservationists. Journalist Weber's treatise begins with recollecting her father's conservative habits and ramifies into a far-ranging examination of social programs, alternative movements and mainstream institutions including savings banks, home economics, industrial efficiency experts, freegans, economists and war departments, all of which promote some form of frugality. While failing to provide a satisfying distinction between cheapness and thrift, the author provides a rich canvas from which to consider American ambivalence about saving; she examines how thriftiness became a racist pejorative hurled at Jewish and Asian immigrants. While the rise of consumer culture and advertising undercut individual and social efforts to save, the author also finds structural reasons for our profligacy in growing financial illiteracy, wage stagnation and deregulated financial markets. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"An entertaining, wide-ranging - and very timely - exploration of thrift." (O, The Oprah Magazine )

"Lessons steam up from this terrific book about the history of thrift (and spending) in our great country." (Washington Post )

"A defense of thrift, but a sincere, inquisitive one." (Slate.com )

"A fascinating account of our nation's binge-and-purge cycle of spending and sacrifice." (Fast Company )

"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."
(author of A Beautiful Mind Sylvia Nasar )

More About the Author

Lauren Weber was formerly a staff reporter at Reuters and Newsday. She has also written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, American Banker, and other publications.

Lauren grew up with a father who set the thermostat at 50 degrees during frigid New England winters and once tried to ration the family's toilet paper. She graduated from Wesleyan University and was a Knight-Bagehot journalism fellow at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business. She lives (cheaply) in New York City.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Lauren Weber's In Cheap We Trust is truly a book for these times.
Victor L. Lee
Toward the end of the book the author admits that see goes to her favorite bakery in the evening after they put out the garbage to pick up free baked goods.
R. Golen
This book is an extremely well written easy read that you can't put down, and very thought provoking.
Richard D. Wuerth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By emmejay VINE VOICE on September 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Actually, Lauren Weber's words are "Cheap is the new green," and are her hopeful nod to ecology as the prompt that might finally make frugality sexy in America. Because, to date, nothing else has much tempered its persistent unpopularity and negative connotations with miserliness, self-denial and unworthiness.

To be clear, it's primarily frugality and thrift that Weber explores here (as in the economical use of resources ... living simply and mindfully, without waste), and cheapness (as in consuming inexpensively) to a lesser degree. In a journalist's voice, she writes about the history of thrift and spending from the Puritans and Quakers to Emerson and Thoreau; from wartime rationing to the expanded postwar industrial capacity that spurred consumerism; from the origin of savings banks, through the growth and decline of home economics, to the Depression and today's financial crisis.

She also explores economics, sociology and a number of competing tensions. For example, is it good citizenship to demonstrate personal responsibility through personal savings, or better to support the national (even global) economy by spending? If you do spend, should it be on "productive" (essential) goods with their long-term economic benefit and not on "consumptive" (luxury) goods? Do your personal savings on ultra-inexpensive imported goods outweigh their high political and environmental costs? And what about advertising, forced obsolescence, ego gratification and keeping up with the Joneses?

Readers with any level of interest in frugality will find themselves repeating the WWII mantra, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without," and will see themselves described in this book -- somewhere along Weber's continuum from Dumpster-diving freegans to folks who simply believe that less is more.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Mammal on May 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
While I did enjoy reading some of the historical background of the frugality movement, as well as the presentation of the "Freegan" movement. Overall I found the read quite a bit disjointed, among other things, when it does not differentiate between cheap and smart consumers.

For example, author's father was shouting anytime a light was left on, even though he did not know the cost of the electricity wasted. In many cases switching on and off a light, reduces the life of the bulb, which is wasteful, while saving a negligible amount of electricity. The author continues to brag how her father, despite his cheapness, paid for her expensive tuition at a private college. Again, that's not rational, considering that a state school in most cases provides the best value.

The author also could have touched on how modern technology allows for a more frugal living. For example such avenues like Amazon Marketplace and eBay allow the sale of non-needed goods in a much more efficient way than garage sales (by selling online I usually can recover at least 50% of the original cost of the items, and sometimes more than 100% !). Also, it now becomes more and more feasible to not own a car, even in a suburb with limited public transit, thanks to proliferation of eCommerce (I do more than 3/4 of shopping online, even ordering some of my groceries online from sites like Amazon Fresh. I not only save upwards to 75% of what I can get at local Mall, but also don't need to own a car to transport bulky goods)

I also wish the author talked more on planned obsolescence. I personally like shopping from stores that give a lifetime warranty on their products (like LLBean), even though it require extra hassle, than buying it from a local store.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Beth DeRoos HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Cannot tell you how many books I have acquired on the issue of simple, frugal, cheap living over the years. Its a topic near and dear to my heart,since unlike many of my peers, I valued the wisdom my parents and grandparents had taught me about living well during the Great Depression and WW2, because they didn't waste anything and were wise in knowing the different between a need and a want.

What makes this book fun as well as informative is how the author shows how wasteful we have become as a society in the last forty years. She is also smart because she shares with the reader the difference between being wise and being foolish. Like not eating extreme out of date canned food, and learning the signs of food that shouldn't be saved or eaten. Like temperature sensitive foods, be it seafood that smells spoiled and probably is, which is needed info is you are into the freegan movement also called dumpster diving.

She also reminds the reader to think before they consume, which is the beginning of stopping waste. She reuses plastic bags, whereas I never buy them. Used to save the zip lock bags my flour tortillas came in but now I make my own tortillas. And the book is geared more for the city person.

Back in the 70's Amy Dacyczyn started teaching people about this type of living in her excellent Tightwad Gazette which is still available for purchase. As a rural homesteader I also want to recommend two magazines that are part of my home library. Backwoods Home and Back Home magazines have similar information as In CHEAP We Trust but geared toward saving money if you have animals and grow most of what you eat.

No doubt once the economy bounces back most people will resort to their old ways, which often includes looking down on people who live by the adage 'waste not want not,use it up, wear it out, find a need or do without. This has been my observation.But its refreshing to see a younger person who is sharing her frugal wisdom.
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