This Q & A between me and Matt Gross, aka the NYT’s Frugal Traveler, covers some of the joys of seeing the world on the cheap: street food, public buses, the hassles and serendipities that ultimately make a trip memorable. If there’d been more space, I would’ve liked to have included one of my experiences where it paid to spend the big dollars: seeing the mountain gorillas of Rwanda in 2007. The permit cost $500 alone — and it was worth every penny. Still, I love the challenge of visiting new countries with a small, fixed budget and then letting the adventures unfold.
We all want to understand ourselves a little better, preferably without spending a fortune in therapy. So I’m not surprised to find that my chapter on “Cheapskate Psychology” has elicited the most response from readers. In it, I delve into Freud’s theory that cheapness springs from unresolved potty-training issues, along with some of the latest behavioral economics research on “tightwads vs. spendthrifts.” Turns out that the future feels closer for cheap people — we sense challenges or outright crises around every corner, and so we’re compelled to save money just in case.
Adam Sternbergh, a reporter at New York Magazine, used my book and my family’s example as a jumping-off point to investigate whether cheapskates are born or made…. and he comes to the conclusion that frugality might be a character trait similar to shyness, in the sense that it’s something we’re born with. You can shift your habits/psyches a few degrees through conscious effort, he says, but basically, if you’re cheap, you’re cheap, and you’re always gonna be that way.
PS: The article is illustrated with a family photo from my brother’s bar mitzvah, circa 1982. Note the giant specs, the wall hanging in back, and my dad’s Gabe Kaplan Jewfro. The racy picture of the naked lady was painted by my grandfather.
Since leaving the 9-to-5 world, I can often be found from noon to 2 PM in my tiny kitchen, defrosting some lentil soup for lunch and listening to the Leonard Lopate Show on my favorite radio station, WNYC. On Tuesday, Sept. 8, I was honored to be a guest on the show. You can catch the interview here (and read the slightly nasty comments, some of which imply that I’m mentally ill… or maybe they say that about my father).
Friends and readers,
I’ll be visiting Chicago and the West Coast in the next few weeks for a series of readings, and then heading back to New York City and the Northeast for more events. Please try to catch me at one of these great independent bookstores, libraries and literary venues.Thursday, Sept. 17 WORD Brooklyn 126 Franklin Street Brooklyn, NY 7:30 PM This is the official launch party for ICWT! The evening will feature a short stand-up routine by my father about — what else? — being cheap, along with a clothing swap (bring something, take something; whatever’s left at the end of the night will go to Goodwill). ***
Monday, Sept. 21 Barbara’s Bookstore 1100 Lake Street Oak Park, IL 7:30 PM — Reading and Q&A ***
Tuesday, Sept. 29 Elliott Bay Book Co. 101 South Main St. Seattle, WA 7:30 PM – Reading and Q&A ***
Wednesday, Sept. 30 Powell’s Books 1005 W Burnside Portland, OR 7:30 PM – Reading and Q&A ***
Tuesday, October 6 Green Apple Books and Music 506 Clement Street San Francisco, CA 7:00 PM – Reading and Q&A ***
Thursday, Oct. 8 Atwater Village Library 3379 Glendale Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 3:30 PM — Reading and Q&A ***
Tuesday, Oct. 13 KGB Bar 85 East 4th Street New York, NY 7:00 PM – Reading and book signing (I’ll be doubling up with Rachel Shteir, author of the forthcoming Nation of Thieves, a book about shoplifting) *** Friday, Oct. 16 RJ Julia Books 768 Boston Post Road Madison, CT 7:00 PM – Reading and Q&A *** Saturday, Nov. 7 East Lyme Public Library 39 Society Road East Lyme, CT 2:00 PM – Reading and Q&A *** Tuesday, Nov. 17 American Antiquarian Society 185 Salisbury Street Worcester, MA 7:30 PM – Lecture and Q&A