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I come from a long line of cheapskates. Our family crest looks like the flag of Japan, only with a big, anxious rear end.

The curse, legend has it, started with a sorceress who appeared as a beggar at the door of my great, great grandfather...

"Dear steward, have ye any spare change for a weary drifter?"

"Spare change?" he said. "You mean money I don't need anymore?"

We've all been pinching halfpence ever since.

My shrink says that stinginess derives ultimately from a fear of death. I think that's what he said: I could hardly hear him over the fact that he was costing TWO DOLLARS A MINUTE.

The curse has spared no one in our bloodline, but it has churned out some pretty good lines...

"Slow down before you fall and crack your skull. You know how much that would cost?"

"Two dollars a transaction?! We're being robbed by the bank!"

"No, I distinctly said that you can halve your allowance. That's why we ask for things in writing."

As a boy, I spent a lot of time with grandpa, whose blood was closer to the curse. One day I mentioned how I liked convertible cars.

"Convertibles are for idiotic idiots," he said. "You can stick your head out the window any time."

I was afraid to walk in one day and find grandma doing a headstand...


"It's okay, sweetie. I'm getting a facelift."

Sometimes grandma got fed up with old Ebenezer. They'd be sitting in the den while the parakeet chirped in its cage -- "Cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep" -- and grandma would say, "He's talking about you, you know." Then grandpa would fan toward her the air around his butt. So it goes.

So, no, I didn't come from money so much as double coupons. I really can't blame my parents. They struggled financially ever since that day when my dad, in a fit of passion, uttered those fateful words: "Yes! Yes! Oops."


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