Book proves that being cheap can reap more than monetary rewards

In “The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means,” Jeff Yeager crisscrosses the country in search of the ultimate cheapskates to survey them for their secrets to living the good life on less.

With this book, Yeager reveals the 16 key attitudes about money that allow his fellow cheapskates to live comfortable, debt-free lives. While some of the strategies were new, it was apparent this book was several years old, because this wasn’t the first time I had heard of some of them – and some of them won’t be right for everyone.

Of interest to me were the “Cheap Shots” at the end of each chapter, quick money-saving tips from his fellow Miser Advisors. My favorite was to take a “fiscal fast” once a year, which means going a whole week without spending any money. No driving, no shopping, not eating out. The goal is to use what resources we already possess – including your bicycle or your tennis shoes to get around – and save money in the process. I’m thinking about trying a fiscal fast this summer.

Then, there are the tales of the extremists – the Freegans – who encourage dumpster-diving for food and trying to live as much off the grid as possible. Yeah, that’s not for me and my family.

While there are tips on how to cut your food bill in half and eat healthier, how your children can get a free college education, buying used, negotiating and bartering, the book did not give me any of the “life-changing financial strategies” it promised. But it still was a good book for those just starting their thrifty ways and looking to save some money. I’m a self-proclaimed cheapskate who doesn’t go to the extremes Yeager recommends, but my family still lives comfortably within our means.

Yeager and his wise Miser Advisors stress living on less – whatever “less” may be for you – and how maintaining that lifestyle can insulate you from the economic instability of the past decade.

Mostly, this is a common-sense book that advocates taking a sensible approach to grocery shopping, entertainment and parenting. But these are not tips everyone will want to embrace. Buying used children’s clothing, fewer toys, used vehicles – keeping up with the Joneses is not a part of the cheapskate lifestyle. Yeager and his pals encourage the ever-difficult struggle with “stuff” and why having less of it is better for us, our wallets and ultimately the environment.

The ultimate takeaway from our cheapskates next door is to change the way we think about want vs. need, and learn to consume sparingly and thoughtfully so that our “things” do not consume us. For ultimate cheapskates, this is not a lifestyle about sacrifice, it’s about making conscious choices every day to live a better, happier, more thoughtful life with less. And that might not work for everyone.

I’m glad I borrowed this book from the library – something Yeager and his cheapskate pals recommend – because there weren’t enough tips to make the book extremely useful for me. But, I do plan on following Yeager’s blog, The Green Cheapskate at www.TheDaily on Facebook. I might even sign up for the e-newsletter.