With the economy shafted and seemingly stuck in a rut and coupon sites popping out like rabbits, Funsherpa sits down with the expert in living cheaply. Stuart Schuffman, the brains behind Broke Ass Stuart, shares his thoughts on cheap travel, cheap New York, and more importantly cheap dates. So stop splurging around and start living the Broke Ass lifestyle!
F: How did you end up starting your broke-ass living cheaply guides? Have you always been looking for the best bang for your buck since you were a kid?
S: I started off by selling zines, which are little pamphlet thingies that you can make from photocopying and stapling at a copy store. The zine was Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply in San Francisco and I distributed with my backpack, the bus and my two feet. At the peak I was in probably 25 or 30 stores. I did a couple versions of it, then ended up doing some writing for Lonely Planet, and eventually found my book deal on craigslist. Yeah, I know how ridiculous that sounds. For a long time I told people I always seem to come through the back back door and then I realized why all those conversations ended so awkwardly.
As for looking for the best bang for my buck, I’ve just never been into fancy shit. I appreciate real interactions with real people, not ones who are trying to make you think they’ve got more money than they actually do. So I think I’ve always been attracted to places like diners and dive bars. My whole thing is that, I’m not necessarily cheap, I’m just broke. So I’ve structured my life to make it as fucking awesome as possible while spending the least amount of money. It seems to be working out so far.
F: It’s that time of the year for fresh college grads wondering how they’re going to survive now that they’re in the real world? What’s one important broke-ass tip that you can share with them?
S: If it burns when you pee, go see a doctor…that’s not the kind of tip you’re looking for is it? Um, I think if I was to give college grads one serious bit of advice it would be this: do what you love and work your fucking ass off doing it. If you do that you’ll figure out a way to pay your bills somehow. If that doesn’t work, you can always just try extorting someone.
F: Say someone is traveling to New York on a real tight food budget, like $10 for food a day? What places would you recommend hitting up?
S: That’s a tough one because there are just so many places to eat for cheap in NYC. One awesome one is Fried Dumpling (106 Mosco St. btw Mulberry & Mott Sts.) in Chinatown. You can get 5 dumplings for a dollar there. But actually there are a bunch of places that do deals like that in Chinatown. I think your best bet though is to go to either The Alligator Lounge (Williamsburg), The Crocodile Lounge (East Village), or The Charleston (Williamsburg). They give you a free personal pizza with every drink you buy. Yeah really. So that way you can kill two birds with one stone. Those fuckers are geniuses they deserve Nobel Peace Prizes.
F: What suggestions do you have on a cheap date, without fear of being called ‘cheap’?
S: Cheap dates are easy. Motherfuckers just want you to seem interesting and thoughtful. Have a little picnic with some cheap wine, then stroll over to one of the museums on one of their “pay what you want” days. Or you can do what I always do: go to some shitty Brooklyn dive bar and drink until you want to have sex with each other. Or better yet, combine the two for super awesome date time!
F: Lately, there seems to be a trend for all these ‘daily deal’ sites, What are your thoughts about it? Any favorite sites?
S: Those deal sites are a brilliant idea. I don’t really have any favorites because they are all pretty much doing the same thing. All I know is that I wish I’d thought of that shit first, then maybe I wouldn’t still be broke.
F: Can you suggest some broke-ass budget friendly countries to travel to?
S: Budget friendly countries? Generally any country you associate with hating America is gonna be budget friendly. I think they hate us because they’re afraid wankers like me are gonna go over there, buy up a whole province for $35 and start running shit like a tyrannical medieval lord. You better watch out Krygyzstan your ass is mine!
Really though, if you’re traveling on the dollar, stay out of the US and Northern & Western Europe and you’ll be fine. Go to Thailand, Vietnam, or Cambodia and you’ll think you died and woke up as Jay-Z.
F: On what things are you or do you suggest not being frugal or cheap on?
S: I buy $50 Levi’s jeans because I wear the shit out of them, like 6 months straight. So If I know something is gonna last me awhile I don’t mind paying extra for them. Same goes with something that has a lifetime guarantee. I really wanna buy this pair of $150 Doc Marten’s because they have one of those guarantees. Plus, I really wanna join a Riot Grrrl band.
Also, I imagine cheap tattoos are not a good thing either. Those shits are permanent; you don’t want some weird cross-eyed junkie fucking up.
F: You’ve been pretty successful with your broke-ass living cheaply guides for San Francisco and New York, and the ‘goddamn’ website, any other upcoming projects that you’re thinking about? A new city? A TV show perhaps?
S: Why yes, yes I do. I’m currently working on a new book that’s gonna be like a “General Guide to Living as a Broke-Ass”. The problem is that my SF book is only for sale in the Bay and my NYC book is only for sale out there. This way I can spread my anti-consumerist propaganda throughout the entire United States. As for a TV show, that is certainly something I’m aiming for. I have poor decision making skills, a plethora of skeletons in my closet, and at least three pending paternity tests. I was made for the spotlight…or at least politics.
But for real. I wanna make some TV dammit. If Sarah Palin can do it, I sure as hell can. I’ve had diarrhea smarter than her.