Thanks, Rita, for getting things started!
In terms of cheapness tips, I promise to refrain, whenever possible, from pointing out how much money can be saved through restricting your shopping to Uniqlo, Sahadi's, and a certain fruit stand on Court and Pacific in Cobble Hill. Even though that, plus 99-cent bags of Whole Foods pasta, more or less defines my own cheapness as it manifests itself on a day-to-day-basis.
I second all Rita's suggestions for what this blog should cover. Some other possibilities, in no particular order:
-Where Cheapness Studies meets Gender Studies: does male influence inhibit shopping? Think 'I Love Lucy' and the never-ending stream of new hats that must be hidden from Ricky. Do men spend as much, but on different things (flat-screens, steaks, whatever else stereotype would have it), or is it just easier to be cheap as a man?
-Does the stereotype of Jews being cheap push Jews towards ostentatious indifference to money/generosity in public settings/on dates, etc.? To add a gendered analysis: does the stereotype of Jewish women as spending heaps of (their father's/husband's) money on personal upkeep cause Jewish women who fancy themselves (ourselves) not JAPs to be particularly thrifty when it comes to beauty routines, not only eschewing professional manicures (and in some extreme cases, professional haircuts), but doing so, on some level, to make a point? Insert applicable comparable cases (immigrants, as Rita suggests; the Dutch) as needed.
-And finally, what do we think of Michael Pollan's suggestion that we ('we' as in slop-eating Americans) start spending a greater proportion of our incomes on food? Should we be like the French, who of course spend 1,000 euros a head per day on breakfast alone?
Rita's question, "what am I saving for?" is a tough one. I tend to think saving is basically like dieting - we should all watch what we eat and spend, but taken too far, whether what's counted are calories or pennies, things can get messy. Also, as with dieting, sometimes what matters is less the results (more money, less top-of-the-jeans bulge) and more the sense of virtuousness refusing whatever it is you want can provide. While I seem to have long since grown out of the calorie concern, I do tend to be a fan of not spending any money, ever (although I agree with Rita on the gift/going-out-within-reason exception). Either way, the $6-but-tiny chocolate-domed pastries at (pardon the NYC-specific reference) Bouley Market are, most of the time, at least, out-of-bounds. The $2.75 cannelles at Joyce, however, will be my financial downfall.