The East Bay’s Premier Magazine of Culture & Commerce

The East Bay’s Premier Magazine of Culture & Commerce

Cheap Thrills

Cheap Thrills

A (kind of) down-and-out dude on holiday shopping.

Like everything else in his unconventional life, Broke-Ass Stuart (Schuffman), who grew up celebrating Hanukkah, approaches the holidays from a unique perspective. This is a guy who’s got a lot of himself to give, just not a whole lot of moolah to spend. Mr. Broke-Ass graduated from U.C. Santa Cruz with an in-demand American Studies degree, then migrated north to work in a North Beach candy store. Somehow, despite his meager circumstances, he managed to pull off a pretty enviable lifestyle, which led to blogging, books, an Independent Film Channel TV show, and an ongoing web presence—all focused on being “young, broke, and beautiful.” Intrigued, I met up with the king of cheap recently for some tips on how to make it through the holidays..

Paul Kilduff: I don’t care how much of a hipster you are—at some point you’re going to be stuck with having to buy gifts for your relatives. Even hipsters have to do that. What do you do when the funds are a little low?

Broke-Ass Stuart: Just giveeverybody a fake mustache for Christmas. It shouldn’t matter how much things cost as long as you give something to somebody that you love out of love. Make them a card if you don’t got no money. You can make a mix tape or mix CD or put it up on Soundcloud. Go to places like Indie Mart [in San Francisco], a big artisan and designer craft fair where you can support local artists and get really unique gifts.

PK: We are not breaking new ground here. I mean, obviously, the personal touch is going to mean more to someone wheth-er you have money or not.

BAS: Absolutely. I mean, if I had all the money in the world, I’d buy people really special intimate gifts just for them, but I don’t have any money. For the people I’m close to, I give something special.

PK: What are you getting your mom?

BAS: Have not even thought that far ahead yet, man. In the past few years I’ve been getting my mom and my dad really awesome PBS documentaries. Because that way I’m supporting PBS and also getting my parents something they can really appreciate.

PK: I like that. It almost sounds like a pledge break for KQED right now. What does Broke-Ass Stuart get a new parent for a baby gift?

BAS: Oh, it depends. A cute little onesie.

PK: You’re doing a lot of onesie shopping?

BAS: I’m going to get a big one for myself. I waited tables for many years, so for a while I would get people this placemat . . . that has a trough. So when the kid makes a mess it all goes to the trough.

PK: Wow! A placemat trough for your sloppy baby.

BAS: Totally. Your waiter will love you for it and probably buy you a drink or something.

PK: Dessert’s free—you brought the placemat trough.

BAS: Right. It’s like a hat tip towards the service industry.

PK: What about just the concept of no gifts? If it’s not going to be something that you can spend the time on to make personal, and you don’t have the money to get something really nice, what about just saying “the gift that I’m giving is my presence, my time”?

BAS: I’m into that. “All right, everybody, look, I’m not getting any of you gifts this year and nobody get me gifts, we’re cool. Let’s go hang out and just spend time together, yeah.” Or you make people a little booklet of coupons they can redeem from you. Like one big free hug. There’s a million creative ways you can do it.

PK: So have you actually done that?

BAS: I’ve thought about it.

PK: You’ve got to spend a little time going to the copy store. There’s some folding and cutting involved. Pasting.

BAS: It’s the creative process that can be fun.

PK: And that’s going to probably cost about what? Ten bucks.

BAS: And that covers everybody.

PK: And then what happens when people actually want to redeem some of those things?

BAS: Well, it depends on what coupon they are redeeming, I guess. What you put on there and how naughty you want to make it.

PK: Well, how about something like “I’ll come and clean out your garage”?

BAS: That’s a big f-ing coupon. I don’t know. How about “I will come over and watch ‘Friends’ with you”?

PK: Is it that painful to watch “Friends”?

BAS: I don’t know. It’s pretty bad.

PK: A lot of people get lazy with the whole gift-giving thing and end up getting gift cards. Retailers love it because people forget about them.

BAS: It’s like the tail wagging the dog. I’ve got gift cards that I haven’t spent. It is genius for the retailers. “I thought about you: Here’s $25 to Bennigan’s.” Whatever.

PK: I don’t think we have Bennigan’s here.

BAS: No, but you can go to Safeway and they just have rows of gift cards. Anything you could imagine. I’m a music head so when people got me coupons for iTunes, that was pretty cool. But now with things like Spotify you don’t even really need iTunes anymore. You don’t even need to buy music.

PK: We’re talking more about experiential stuff that is really going to be far more valuable and appreciated in the end.

BAS: It would be cool to take somebody on a walking tour for a day. “Here’s your gift: Why don’t we go explore North Beach and I’ll tell you all the weird things I know about it?” Or: “Why don’t I buy you a six-pack of beer and we can go hang out in Dolores Park? It’s nice out. Happy f-ing Christmas.” You know?

PK: What you are saying is, be creative, be personal, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money.

BAS: If the people that you are getting gifts for care that much about how much you spend on them, maybe you’re hanging out with the wrong people.

PK: But there is a lot of that in the world. “Wait, you got this at Sears?”

BAS: Well, my whole world outlook is that what matters in life is not what you own but what you do. I mean, who cares if you have the newest pair of Air Jordans? Not to sound like a hippie, but it’s what you do with your life that is interesting. The adventures you have. I grew up Jewish so I had Hanukkah. I had Christmas once with an ex-girlfriend. Christmas was amazing. Hanukkah is like seven days of socks and one good present at the end. So maybe my outlook on present-giving is particular to that.


For more Kilduff, go to Kilduff File Super Fan Page on Facebook.


Age: 31

Birthplace: Los Angeles.

Astrological sign: Sagittarius.

Motto: Work hard, be nice, but don’t let people walk all over you.

Latest Book: 
Young, Broke & Beautiful: Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply

Book on nightstand: Burner, by M.C. Mars


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