I grew up in Connecticut with a father who rationed toilet paper, set the thermostat at 50 degrees during the winter, and rarely used his car’s turn signals (to prevent them from burning out). After years of complaining about my dad’s behavior, I turned into him – and realized he was on to something. Combining my personal beliefs about frugality with my background as a financial journalist, I wrote my first book, In Cheap We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue (Little, Brown and Co., 2009). I came to journalism at the relatively advanced age of 29, after stints as a non-profit administrator, self-defense instructor, and popsicle entrepreneur. In 1994, I graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in history and women’s studies and then moved to Seattle, where I worked for a small Robinhood-type foundation: We raised money from wealthy individuals and gave it to organizations that were fighting for social and economic justice. I moved to New York City in 1999 and set up house in my grandmother’s old apartment in Queens, the same sixth-floor apartment where my mother grew up (my father grew up two floors down, in the same building). I started a popsicle company called Chilly Girl Pops, and, after grossing about $83, quickly realized that I’m not the entrepreneurial type. So instead I enrolled in the business journalism program at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York. I received my master’s degree from Baruch in 2002, and went to work as a business reporter at Reuters. After two years there, I moved to Newsday, the daily newspaper serving Long Island and New York City. During the 2006-2007 academic year, I was a Knight-Bagehot fellow at Columbia University, which gave me the opportunity to study at Columbia’s Graduate School of Business. There, I earned about half of an MBA (though I dodged the corporate finance class). In addition to my staff reporting jobs, I’ve also written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, American Banker, and other publications. Since 2007, I’ve been working on my book full-time and trying to live as cheaply as possible.
The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue
Little, Brown and Co.
Sept. 7, 2009