By DAVID GREEN
They used to call him a cheapskate. Now Jeff Yeager is just looking practical.
All right, so Yeager is still known as a cheapskate—the Ultimate Cheapskate, according to Matt Lauer of NBC’s Today show—but his approach to life is looking more and more sensible to a lot of people facing tough economic times.
Yeager will talk about his life as a cheapskate when he visit’s Morenci’s Stair Public Library at 1 p.m. Aug. 14. The Grand Rapids, Ohio, native is back in his home area for several appearances in Toledo Public Library branches and he agreed to make a visit to Morenci to present his humorous approach to living on the cheap.
Yeager wrote his book, “The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Roadmap to True Riches,” two years ago and it finally made it off the press early this year, about the time that economic hardships were becoming more and more apparent for many Americans.
There’s a silver lining to tough times, he said. It forces many people to reign in their spending habits.
“Most people would be happier if they spent less money and bought fewer things,” Yeager said in an interview Monday.
During the economic expansion of the 1990s, two things happened, he said: Americans went further into debt than any previous generation, and they didn’t become any happier.
“They became stressed out and they wanted more,” he said.
It’s odd, Yeager said, how in the last few years shopping has been billed as a patriotic duty—go out and buy more. If that’s the case, he says the most patriotic thing would be to buy something that’s going to break right away or something that’s going to soon become obsolete. This will lead to more trips to the store.
Yeager brings some humor to his financial philosophy, but he realizes there are people who are losing their jobs, losing their houses and genuinely hurting.
At a talk he gave recently, a woman wasn’t so keen on his light-hearted approach. She was nearly crying when she told how her family was forced to cut back. How had it affected them? They had to cancel their cable television service.
Yeager doesn’t expect everyone to go to the lengths of cheapness he does—he once tried to weave dryer lint back into clothing—but he does see value in living on less.
“It’s the only financial advice that will work for almost everyone,” he writes in his book. “It’s about a quality of life you cannot buy, a sense of satisfaction you cannot fake, and an appreciation for other that gives life value.”
Some people are touting his book as a survival guide, but Yeager prefers to call it a revival guide—how to return to some simpler times, to a more sustainable level of consumption.
After Yeager’s book was published, he went on a promotion tour by bicycle.
“It was a blast to do it,” he said. “I stayed with cheapskates.”
All the money he saved by couch-surfing was turned over to libraries along the way.
His next book is due out in 2010. This is where he will get to know “the cheapskate next door.”
“I’ll be writing profiles of people who know the secrets of living below their means,” he said. “It’s a very positive thing to live below your means.”
Reporter’s note: I wrote an e-mail to Jeff Yeager on a busy afternoon, listing some questions and inviting him to give me a call if it was convenient.
I could have called him, but I kept on with other things I needed to accomplish. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that cheapskate called me and he had to pay the bill?”
Sure enough, I got a call from the world’s biggest cheapskate.