Jeff "Cheapskate" Yeager visits Morenci 2008.08.20

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

By DAVID GREEN

Being cheap doesn’t mean a life of hardship, deprivation and sacrifice.

That’s not the way it is for Jeff Yeager, the author known as the Ultimate Cheapskate. Yeager told a crowd of nearly 70 people at Morenci’s Stair Public Library that living a cheap lifestyle can actually bring some financial freedom.

“I’m America’s cheapest man and I’m really proud of that,” he said, but then added, “I can see I have some doubters.”jeff.yeager.visit.jpg

Yeager suspected he had some brothers and sisters in cheapness among his Morenci audience, and he proceeded to explain his philosophy.

“It’s about choices every day,” Yeager said.

He sees three components that make up his book, “The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches.” There’s the practical side that requires a willingness to spend and consume less. There’s a need for humor to help reach people who don’t ordinarily read personal finance books.

And finally, there’s a serious undertone that affects the quality of life and the environment.

“It’s really not about saving money,” he said. “You may already have enough money if you spend and consume safely.”

Yeager recommends a “fiscal fast,” a spending detoxification process of going for a week without spending any money.

He generally hears one of two responses to that suggestion: either it’s impossible or it’s no problem at all.

Those who give the latter response are often in for a surprise, he said, as they start cleaning out the cupboards to prepare another meal or head to the bathroom cupboard in search of more leftover shampoo bottles from hotel stays.

“I’m challenging people to just do it for a week,” Yeager said, and he thinks it will lead to these conclusions:

• You’re going to save money, of course;

• You’ll learn how how spend and probably waste money;

• You’ll be reminded there are so many things in life that don’t cost a cent.

Yeager explained that when he finished college, got a job and was living on his own, he realized he didn’t want to spend everything he earned. He wanted to establish a basic standard of living and enjoy life rather than move into a new, bigger house or a buy the latest car.

He says to consider finishing in your “starter home.”

“In our grandparents’ day, people tended not to move around so often,” he said. Many people spend their entire married lives in the same house.

Now, with so millions of people hurt by the bursting of the housing bubble, Yeager is glad he’s one of those who didn’t move on to a new house when his old one serves him well.

“Now the cheapskate is a prophet,” he jokes.

Contemporary spending patterns are so different from 40 or 50 years ago. When he was a kid, it was big news to spot a new car when driving out on the highway.

But he thinks we’ve gone from the land of plenty to the land of waste. Only about 20 percent of purchases are made to replace an item that’s worn out.

Yeager said that thrift stores weren’t all that common when he was growing up. Now they’re easier to find because most clothes are no longer thrown away because they’re worn out. Instead, it’s a matter of keeping up with the latest styles or simply the urge to have something new.

His advice for living through tough economic times is to live a simpler existence.

“Simplify your life as much as possible,” he said. “You save money and it tends to make you happier.”

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