Sunday, January 07, 2007

I like Ugly Betty: She's Frugal. Her Cheap Tips for a Trust Fund Baby

You don't have to spend a lot to impress work associates and friends. That's the lesson I just learned from Ugly Betty. I watched the show on my computer at

Here's the scenario: Trust-fund baby Dan, son of magazine honcho, is broke. (Totally blew out his trust fund and lives pay-check to pay-check, with expensive tastes). Basically, given his anti-frugal lifestyle, big-ticket costs and busted trust fund, he's in a real bind when Rich dad insists that Dan take out a major Japanese designer -- plus large international posse of fashion posers -- for a meal.

Betty's solution: She recommends that Daniel take the large entourage to a humble White Castle in Jersey.

Reaction: At first the group is put off by this un-glitzy, low-ticket eatery. Where's the A-list crowd? Where's the doorman and the velvet rope and where are the paparazzi?

Re-framing moment: Betty pitches White Castle as a tribute to the Japanese designer's simplified designs and choice of color: Lot's of white walls and lots of brown food.

What I learned from Ugly Betty:

1. Be creative. I can save lots of money by avoiding flavor-of-the month hot spots.

2. Go to Jersey: It's cheaper over the bridge or off the popular road. Location is everything, even in Miami. A cup of gourmet coffee at trendy South Beach cafe shops: $3 to $5. Cafe con leche at an out of the way Cuban shop: 50 cents to $1.50.

3. It's all in the frame: If you pitch White Castle (or any other low-cost restaurant) as a cheap source of food, you just look cheap. But if you frame White Castle as a study on classic designs, simplified cuisine and pop culture, the place sparks interest.

4. Don't make assumptions. I don't eat at White Castle because I keep Kosher. But I've had similar Ugly Betty moments. As a business reporter, I've treated mega-wealthy bankers and investment bankers to humble, but tasty meals at some of my favorite Kosher eateries. And we've had a great time! They loved it and I learned not to make assumptions about what people will like.

5. Look for free connections. We don't have cable or standard television, but through the Internet, we watch select television and cable-channel shows for free. I wrote about that strategy in this post.



The Frugal Duchess Boutique


Kelly Bejelly said...

My pleasure, I enjoyed your post about Ugly Betty (really starting to become addicted to the show).

Rebecca said...

Hi! I got here via Frugal Upstate.

This is so interesting. Of course, I keep hearing about Ugly Betty, but until now I have not been able to watch it; I don't have a TV.

Thanks for the great post!