We take ‘cheapskate’ as a compliment

Marketplace Staff May 25, 2007
HTML EMBED:
COPY

We take ‘cheapskate’ as a compliment

Marketplace Staff May 25, 2007
HTML EMBED:
COPY

TESS VIGELAND: Tightwad, cheapskate, don’t like being called those names? Well, Annette and Steve Economides don’t mind. They not only enjoy being cheap, they actually wrote a book about it. It’s called America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money. And yes, Economides, that’s their real last name. Hey, guys, just how did you get the title of America’s Cheapest Family?

STEVE ECONOMIDES: It started, basically, with a reporter who was writing to write an article on us, and he couldn’t come up with a positive adjective to use. Because in our language, there is nothing positive about being frugal. It just, it doesn’t come across, so he used cheapest. But he opened the segment by saying, I wanna introduce you to the cheapest family in the valley, but I mean that in the best way possible.

VIGELAND:
Now, this cheapness, if I may use the word, has really been with you for the length of your marriage. How did you two come together in a way that made you both realize the value of money?

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
Basically, we learned about it, believe it or not, at a church marriage prep class. They had a week on…

VIGELAND:
Well, good for the church.

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
Yeah, they had a week on finances, and we both looked at each other and said, have you ever heard this stuff?

STEVE ECONOMIDES:
And we started off putting money in envelopes. Do you know the old envelope system? You get your paycheck, you divide it up, and put a little bit into rent, a little bit into food, a little bit into clothes. And I was only earning $6.50 an hour, $838 a month to take home. And within a few months, we had thousands of dollars sitting in our apartment. And we’ve been doing it ever since, and it helped us pay off our first house in nine years. It’s incredible.

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
But what we encourage everybody, because it is a little bit overwhelming, we’re gonna be married almost 25 years, and…

STEVE ECONOMIDES:
We got married when we’re about 3.

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
Very funny. Anyway, we, we tell folks, just start out with baby steps because any decisions you make today are gonna start to improve your financial picture no matter what it is.

VIGELAND:
Well, let me take you back to an example that you just gave, which is paying off your house in nine years. How did you do it?

STEVE ECONOMIDES:
Well, it started with, first off, we didn’t buy the most expensive house we could find. And that’s a big mistake that a lot of people make. So, you buy small and you make a commitment to find ways to cut your expenses so that you can pay that sucker off. And we started with, no joke, with two dollars extra principal. Over time, we ended up having, you know, $100, $200.

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
Yeah, even $500 extra each month. It just grew from there, and it was diligence and faithfulness that got us there.

STEVE ECONOMIDES:
But the coolest thing is, when we got down to the last $5,000 to $10,000 we got in cash, we got enough money in savings, let’s pay this thing off. And it was, it was just so electric to be at that point. And when we did make that final payment, well, we just, we just celebrated.

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
Yeah, we did. That was great.

VIGELAND:
But my guess is that you did not celebrate by putting a dinner on a credit card.

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
You would be correct on that one.

VIGELAND:
Right? So, given that you don’t use credit cards, what kind of credit score do you have?

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
We actually have a very high credit score because we have paid off that, the first house and we’re almost on the brink of paying off the second one.

STEVE ECONOMIDES:
A lot of people don’t realize that credit scores are not just based on how much you use your credit card, but it’s length of time of payments, not having a bad mark on there. We did get turned down once when we wanted to refinance our house because of lack of, what did they say?

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
Of history.

STEVE ECONOMIDES:
Lack of history.

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
Credit history.

STEVE ECONOMIDES:
But, but it was no problem because we ended up finding another way to do it. When we refinanced, we got a rate lower, and we just started accelerating our payments even more.

VIGELAND:
Throughout the book, you cite so many people who have come to you and said, I can’t find an extra dime. What’s your initial message to someone who says, I don’t have any extra money. I am living paycheck to paycheck?

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
Usually, what we start to tell people is, you, you need to write down everything you’re spending everyday because there’s always places to find money. Whether it’s recreation expenses, clothing expenses, food, you could save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year on your food budget, you know, if you know how to buy your grocery smart.

STEVE ECONOMIDES:
America is one of the greatest places to live because there’re so many options here. If you have a need, write it down, put it on a list and let it sit there for a week instead of running out to buy it. And then go look on Craigslist. Go look on Freecycle. Look in the classified ads. You are bound to find something. And, and just adapt this mantra, never pay retail.

VIGELAND:
All right. Steve and Annette Economides, thanks so much for all the great advice.

ANNETTE ECONOMIDES:
Thanks for having us, Tess.

STEVE ECONOMIDES:
Thanks.

VIGELAND:
This is Marketplace Money from American Public Media.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.