I’m a cheapskate, out and proud!

Marketplace Staff Jul 9, 2010

I’m a cheapskate, out and proud!

Marketplace Staff Jul 9, 2010


Tess Vigeland: Raise your hand, please, if you are a cheapskate. Don’t want to admit it publicly? Why not? Because people might think you’re a cheapskate? Well, welcome to the year 2010 where being a cheapskate wins you all kind of plaudits. And a book deal.

With us to talk about his new book “The Cheapskate Next Door” is Jeff Yeager. Welcome to the program.

Jeff Yeager: Hey, thanks for having me Tess.

Vigeland: Now, I have to tell you, I would never be accused of being a cheapskate, but I’m not sure I would want someone to call me one even if I were.

Yeager: We could get you some help, Tess. The first step is to admit that you have a spending problem. Don’t take it at face value. I consider being a cheapskate to be a virtue. In fact, among other surprise findings of the people I surveyed, they tend to be twice as generous in their charitable giving as the average American.

Vigeland: Wow, what does that tell you?

Yeager: Well, it tells you a lot. These are people who do something very un-American. They live happily below their means. So they’re not just spending less than they make — which of course is not the American norm, sadly, these days — but in fact, they’re happier because of it.

Vigeland: Well, let’s talk about some tricks of living cheaply and/or frugally. Let’s start with you. I’d like to hear some of your favorite tricks for saving more than you spend.

Yeager: For instance, MyKidsEatFree.com is a great website of thousands of restaurants around the country where if you’re a parent and you buy a meal, your kids will eat for free. Freecycle.org is a tremendous non-profit worldwide network where people give away free stuff they no longer want in order to keep it out of the landfill.

I surveyed and interviewed over 300 cheapskates and what I found was some really surprising stuff about their attitude toward money and life. One of the things being that they have a high degree of self-confidence. As I say, in their words, “the Joneses can kiss our assets. We don’t care what the Joneses think of us. We’re largely brand blind and advertising averse. We’re not compelled to go out and buy the latest gadget just because of a fancy brand name.” Interestingly, the cheapskates value quality and durability even more than price, but they kind of do a matrix in their head of how those things factor in together. Here is a very telling thing. The average American regrets about 80 percent of the discretionary purchases they make every year.

Vigeland: Eighty percent?

Yeager: They at least have some regrets about those discretionary purchases. They might go out and do it again, but you know, buyer’s remorse is an epidemic in our society. Of the cheapskates polled, only about 10 percent of their purchases were something that they eventually regret.

Vigeland: Boy, that’s going to prompt me to go out and as I buy things, I’m going to try to track how much regret I have after I come home.

Yeager: And I always write about a lot of practical tips in that regard. Tess, you have a problem so let me help you here Tess. You should start a mandatory…

Vigeland: I’m not going to tell you that I waited in line for the new iPhone.

Yeager: Please don’t. You may be passed the point of return. Have your own mandatory waiting period of say, a week, between the time you see a discretionary item in the store and when you go back to buy it. It’s particularly of new technology, because as we know, technology tends to drop in price and increase in quality, the longer it’s been out. To quote Elvis, “Only fools rush in” when it comes to rushing out to buy that latest tech gadget.

Vigeland: Did you hear any stories of cheapness that you went, “You know what, even I would not go that far?”

Yeager: Well, I have a neighbor that was aghast that I every couple of years pay someone a couple hundred bucks to clean out my septic tank. He cleans his out himself — all 520 buckets worth. And Tess, he wonders why we never invite him over for dinner. Oh the poor thing. You know, there are stories of the bizarre cheapskate behavior here and there. One nice older lady who told me that she saves her used Q-Tips to detail the inside of her car with.

Vigeland: Oh no! No, she does not!

Yeager: Tess, unfortunately she told me that as she was driving me around. But that’s all charming, quirky stuff. I don’t want to give the wrong impression of the book. The backbone of the book, “The Cheapskate Next Door” is that there is somebody out there with a family situation just like yours, and they’re able to do it by spending less than they make.

Vigeland: Jeff Yeager is the author of “The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets Of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means.” Thanks so much it’s been fun chatting with you.

Yeager: Thanks Tess. Stay cheap!

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