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Anything for a Buck

[ 2010-12-15 09:00]     字号 [] [] []  
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By Julie Rottenberg

石茂杰 选注

My grandmother had a saying: “People are funny when it comes to money.” She could have been talking about me.

I’ve always been insanely frugal,[2] no matter what my financial situation. It’s not just that I bring my own bag of candy to the movies. I also drive miles out of my way to save 70 cents on tomatoes and patronize drugstores only where I have a frequent shopper’s card, and I have been known to return grocery items with the intention of buying them again when they go on sale.[3] When I first started dating Ben (who is now my husband) and he noticed that I was reusing paper napkins, he asked, “Uhhh, did you grow up in the Depression or something?”[4] I remember blushing, crumpling up my two-week-old napkin, and throwing it away.[5] (Sob. Good-bye, old friend!) I understood that my coupon-clipping[6] ways weren’t cool and tried to keep them safely hidden from view.

But then the financial world collapsed and everything changed. The beauty of the total global economic meltdown―for me, anyway―is that now everyone is freaking out about money.[7] I’m not alone anymore! Like never before, I’m free to obsess about my quest for bargains and freer still to worry openly about money―a habit that’s a fundamental part of my identity.[8] I’m in recession heaven.

For years I shamefully hid the generic version of Total cereal in the back of the cupboard, but now I proudly display it on the counter,[9] where it can be admired in all its $2.50 glory. At my local drugstore, I loudly grouse about the price of my hair product being raised without worrying about sounding shrill.[10] I don’t have to explain why I can’t fly across the country to attend my great-aunt’s 90th-birthday party; everyone understands. Pre-recession, if I was out with a group at a restaurant, I panicked if someone ordered sparkling water for the table.[11] Now I request “Tap[12], please,” and no one objects.

My thrifty[13] roots can be traced directly back to my father, who loved a good bargain. While my mother never seemed worried about money (if I couldn’t decide between two types of candy at the drugstore, she would say, “Oh, just get them both!”), my father was constantly looking to save a few cents. And I do mean cents. I remember him taking my sister and me ice-skating one Sunday in Philadelphia, where we lived. When we got to the rink, we learned that, because it was Easter, anyone who brought decorated eggs was entitled to a discount.[14] The word discount had barely been uttered before my father was schlepping us back home on the bus (we didn’t own a car) to find some eggs to decorate.[15] Given that we are Jewish, we hadn’t realized it was Easter Sunday, and none of us had any idea how to decorate eggs. My dad’s attitude was “How hard can it be?” and he found us some ballpoint pens and Magic Markers,[16] which we used to draw on a few eggs. (We now know you’re supposed to hard-boil[17] them first.)

Although I was occasionally mortified[18] by my father’s frugality, I grew up to be just like him. Even after graduating from college and landing my first job with a decent salary, I still kept myself on an insanely meager[19] budget.

That’s not to say that I’ve never been forced to make a staggeringly[20] large purchase or two. After a decade of renting a one-bedroom, third-floor apartment in New York City, we set out to buy something bigger. Our search went on for five years―partly because it was very hard to find something we could afford, but mostly because the prospect of making such a big purchase made me physically ill.

When we finally found an apartment we liked and could afford, I had a massive panic attack. On the one hand, I had saved all this money over my whole life, presumably[21] for just this kind of purchase―a home. On the other hand, knowing I had that nest egg in the bank was what kept me sane.[22]

Or so I thought. In the end, the apartment we chose turned out to need a total gut renovation[23], wiping out my precious savings completely. This had the paradoxical[24] effect of making me feel upset while returning me to the place where I’m most comfortable: having to worry about money. And when I realized later that we had bought our apartment at the peak of the bubble[25], that I had made my biggest investment at the worst possible time, well, all I could do was laugh. It was actually liberating; I had done the scariest thing in the world, and yet the earth was still spinning.

I’d like to think I’ve gained a little perspective[26] over the years. These days I can even drop $20 on a box of chocolates and walk out of the store feeling giddy[27]. (I can―I swear!) But, in truth, I never feel more contented―more myself―than when I’m trying to save money.

And given the current economic climate, that makes me feel downright normal. Just the other day I stopped at the produce stand on the corner and asked the guy to knock a dollar off a box of strawberries.[28] When he looked at me, galled[29], I was seized by a wave of shame. But then the produce guy shrugged and gave in, and I felt that familiar thrill―another bargain had been struck. In those shining moments, I hope the Dow[30] never goes up.


1. 标题直译为“为了一块钱,不惜一切”。

2. insanely: 疯狂地;frugal: 节俭的,名词形式为frugality。

3. patronize: 光顾,惠顾(餐馆、酒店或其他生意);drugstore:〈美〉=〈英〉chemist’s,(兼营美容产品、洗漱用品的)药店,药房;grocery item:(一件)食品或杂货; on sale: 降价出售。

4. napkin: 餐巾,餐巾纸;the Depression: 大萧条(指英美等国20世纪20年代末至30年代初的经济萧条)。

5. blush: 脸红;crumple up: 弄皱。

6. coupon-clipping: 剪下优惠券(并收集起来)。

7. meltdown:(公司、机构或系统的)崩溃;freak out:(使)极为恐惧。

8. quest:(漫长而艰难的)探求,寻求;bargain: 便宜货,廉价货,也用作动词,表示“讨价还价”;fundamental: 基本的,根本的。

9. generic:(商品)没有商标或厂家名的;Total cereal: Total牌麦片;cupboard: 橱柜;counter:〈美〉厨房的操作台。

10. grouse:(常对小事)发牢骚,抱怨;shrill:(嗓音或噪音)尖锐的,刺耳的。

11. panic (panicked, panicked): 感到惶恐;sparkling water: 苏打水。

12. tap: 自来水,在美国自来水常可直接饮用。

13. thrifty: 节俭的,节约的。

14. 到了溜冰场我们才知道,因为当天是复活节,只要带彩蛋去就能打折。Easter: 复活节,是基督徒纪念耶稣基督复活的节日,在每年春分月圆之后的第一个星期日,后演变为西方主要节日。孩子们为庆祝复活节,常常染彩蛋。

15. utter: 说,讲;schlep: 拉,拽(重物)。

16. ballpoint pen: 圆珠笔;Magic Marker: 一种荧光笔。

17. hard-boil: 把蛋煮老。

18. mortified: 非常羞愧的,极度窘迫的。

19. meager: 不足的,贫乏的。

20. staggeringly: 令人极其震惊地。

21. presumably: 可能,大概。

22. nest egg: 储备金;sane: 神志正常的,是insane的反义词。

23. gut renovation: 从里到外全面的翻新。

24. paradoxical: 似非而是的,矛盾的。

25. the bubble: 指房地产泡沫。

26. perspective:(观察问题的)视角,观点。

27. giddy: 非常高兴的。

28. produce stand: 卖农产品的售货台;knock off: 降低价格。

29. galled: 恼怒的。

30. Dow: = Dow-Jones Industrial Average,道琼斯工业平均指数,反映美国经济情况。