The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Guide to True Riches

Jeff Yeager calls himself the Ultimate Cheapskate. He's serious about saving money. He's the sort of guy who soft-boils his morning eggs by putting them in the dishwasher while it runs. In a package he sent me recently, he included his business card, which is simply a rubber stamp printed on a piece of a brown paper bag. His wife calls him the cheapest man in America, and he's proud of it.

The road map to true riches
Yeager has a new book called The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches, in which he preaches the virtues of frugality and the dangers of mass consumption. Before the first chapter, he offers a statement of purpose:

Living on less is a good thing to do. It's the only financial advice that will work for almost everyone. It's about a quality of life that you cannot buy, a sense of satisfaction you cannot fake, and an appreciation for others that gives life value. It's also about helping save the planet and sharing with those in need. Living on less can be funny, but it's no joke.

That short paragraph summarizes Yeager's approach to personal finance. He may be cheap, but he has fun with it. In fact, this is the first personal finance book I've read that is truly funny. Andrew Tobias has moments of humor, but this book is funny throughout. (Some of Yeager's humor is rated PG-13, though. If mild swearing and occasional orgasm references bother you, be warned.)

Six golden rules to ruling your gold
Yeager believes that most Americans are caught in a vicious cycle: They earn money to spend money to buy what they want. They never have enough. The key, he says, is to “slay your enoughasauraus“, that nasty monster inside each of us that makes us want just a little more.

His first step is to practice a “fiscal fast”. Live for a week without spending money. Take notes on what it's like to go seven days without spending: what were you tempted to buy and how did it make you feel? From there, you can move on to his “six golden rules for ruling your gold”:

  1. Live within your means at thirty, and stay there. I've often wished that I had maintained the standard of living I had at 25. Instead, I got caught up in lifestyle inflation. If I'd had the willpower early, I could have a lot saved by now!
  2. Never underestimate the power of not spending. In The Wealthy Barber, David Chilton notes that a penny saved is worth more than a penny earned. An after-tax penny is actually worth about a penny-and-a-half of income. It's worth even more when you consider the returns you miss by not investing it.
  3. Discretion is the better part of shopping. You know all those money hacks I share to trick yourself while shopping? Here's where they come into play. Establish a 30-day waiting period before making big purchases. Always ask, “Is this a want or a need?” I like one of Yeager's suggestions: Carry a “what the hell was I thinking?” list in your wallet or purse on which you've written all the stupid things you've purchased over the years. (Mine would be too big for my wallet!)
  4. Do for yourself what you could have others do for you. Grow your own food. Change your own oil. Do your own home maintenance. By taking on a few chores you usually pay others to do, you can save money.
  5. Anyone can negotiate anything. Daiko recently wrote that we should ask for a better financial future, requesting better deals when we deal with big companies. Bartering can save you money, too.
  6. Pinch the dollars, and the pennies will pinch themselves. This is the message that Elizabeth Warren preaches: limit your spending on the big things (like your mortgage), and you won't have to worry so much about saving money on groceries. It's best to be frugal in all aspects of your life, but pay particular attention to the big stuff.

There's a lot more to The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches. Yeager covers topics like:

  • Eating well for cheap. (Yeager tries to buy food that costs less than a dollar per pound.)
  • Buying a sensible home and then repaying the mortgage as soon as possible.
  • Commuting without a car.
  • Cheap entertainment. Yeager encourages readers to make the most of their hobbies.

Ultimately, the message of this book is that stuff will not make you happy. Happiness comes from knowing when you have enough. In his final chapter, Yeager stresses the importance of amassing a quality of life over a quantity of stuff. “Many choices you must make [involve] the trade-off between money and time,” he writes. “By being cheap…you're valuing time and the things you can do with it more than money and the things you can buy with it.”

Conclusion
This book was actually less about frugality and thrift than I expected. When I started reading, I thought there would be practical tips along the lines of The Tightwad Gazette and Your Money or Your Life. Yeager does share frugal ideas in sidebars scattered throughout the book's 225 pages, but most of the information here is straight-up personal finance advice with an emphasis on pinching pennies. (That's not a bad thing — it's just not what I was expecting.)

I admire the way Yeager draws together a wide variety of sources. Too often, personal finance writers seem to live in a vacuum. You can read an entire Suze Orman book and never see a reference to work from anyone else. Yeager's not afraid to recommend other reading, including some of my favorites: Stumbling on Happiness, The Not So Big House, and Your Money or Your Life. He draws on the ideas of Warren Buffet, Dave Ramsey, and Elizabeth Warren.

This is an excellent book for anyone just beginning to wrestle with personal finance. It's especially good for those trying to escape the chains of consumerism. In a recent e-mail discussion Yeager told me, “I'm trying to reach a new audience, including folks who have never and probably will never pick up a typical PF book.” With its casual blend of humor and good advice, The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches has a solid chance to meet this goal.

Addendum: Trent at The Simple Dollar has posted his review of the book. He likes it, too!

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Plan Your Escape
Plan Your Escape
12 years ago

Thanks for the thorough review JD! I’m always on the lookout for new books to check out from the library. This one just got added to my request list.

Peter

Dave
Dave
12 years ago

I think I’ll buy this book w/ one of the many gift cards I received for Barnes and Noble. But I have to say, J.D., Ben Stein’s personal finance books are TRULY FUNNY. Have you ever read How to Ruin Your Financial Life? It won’t just make you smile; it will actually make you lol the whole way through, plus Stein is trained in fiction writing and comedy, so you’re just gonna get a level of writing quality that is almost unmatchable by any other PF writer.

Sophie
Sophie
12 years ago

Just last night I ran across this observation about Americans: “They were an interesting folk, but behind their desperate activities lay always, it seemed to me, immense and unacknowledged boredom – the deadweight of material things passionately worked up into Gods, that only bored their worshippers more and worse and longer.”

It’s from Rudyard Kipling’s autobiography (published in 1935). Kipling lived for four years (1892-1896) in his wife’s hometown of Brattleboro, VT, where he wrote “The Jungle Books” among other works.

So the “enoughasauraus” seems to be not a very recent phenomenon, for us Americans at least.

Tim Danner
Tim Danner
12 years ago

“Many choices you must make [involve] the trade-off between money and time,” he writes. “By being cheap…you’re valuing time and the things you can do with it more than money and the things you can buy with it.” His reading of the time/money tradeoff seems odd to me. By being cheap, you are valuing your savings (very important, to be sure) over your leisure time. The quote here makes it sound like cheapness increases your leisure time, but it sounds like his book (which I haven’t read, though it sounds enlightening and amusing) spends large passages on the ways in… Read more »

Minimum Wage
Minimum Wage
12 years ago

Live within your means at thirty, and stay there.

I wish I could! Today I earn less adjusted for inflation than I did at thirty. What would Yeager say?

icup
icup
12 years ago

“Happiness comes from knowing when you have enough.” Wow. That is an excellent one-liner. Short, sweet, and to the point. This rings true with me in so many ways. “Do for yourself what you could have others do for you. Grow your own food. Change your own oil. Do your own home maintenance. By taking on a few chores you usually pay others to do, you can save money.” This is one that really amazes me. Growing up, we went hunting and fishing every year (and ate what we caught), always had a garden, always changed our own oil, and… Read more »

Elle Rayne
Elle Rayne
12 years ago

Thanks for the helpful review! This might be a book I pick up someday, since I agree with Yeager’s philosophy (not that I stick to it at all times…) and appreciate a sense of humor. 🙂

Todd
Todd
12 years ago

Excellent review. This book looks like it would be a good read. Thanks for reviewing it.

Jeff Yeager
Jeff Yeager
12 years ago

Hi JD & Everyone — Thanks so much for reviewing my book. It’s my first book, and I’m mighty proud of it. I’m glad you liked it JD. I knew the basic message would resonate with you (“If you spend less money you’ll enjoy life more!”), and I was hoping that you’d appreciate the sense of humor and entertainment value of the book as well. In short, the book is about how to amass a quality of life, not just a quantity of stuff –and so I try to redefine, in a positive way, the traditional definition of “cheapskate” along… Read more »

moneygardener
moneygardener
12 years ago

Great review! I am pretty frugal, but not that frugal. I do believe living below your means is one of the keys to financial success.

It is actually David Chilton, (with a ‘t’).

..MG

Ms. Clear
Ms. Clear
12 years ago

My public library has a copy on order. Think I’ll make a point of calling up tomorrow and getting on the reserve list.

Looks like a genuinely helpful read. My hubby and I don’t have the sorts of jobs that make you rich, but we are very frugal.

Dividends4Life
Dividends4Life
12 years ago

JD: It sounds like another good read. Thanks for the review.

Best Wishes,
D4L

The Shopping Sherpa
The Shopping Sherpa
12 years ago

Just a week of Fiscal Fasting?!

I did a whole month back in June (http://theshoppingsherpa.blogspot.com/search/label/Fiscal%20Fast) and it was heaps easier than I’d thought. In fact I’d be doing another one next month except I know I’ve got two trips away so would fail before I start… 🙂

Frugal Bachelor
Frugal Bachelor
12 years ago

“He’s the sort of guy who soft-boils his morning eggs by putting them in the dishwasher while it runs.”

What kind of cheapskate uses a dishwasher? 🙂

Julia
Julia
12 years ago

Wow Jeff, what a response! One of my goals is to start using my bike for commuting more than my car. I’ve commuted to the post office and to swim classes, but I want to regularly use it for going shopping and making a meal out at a restaurant even more special. I wouldn’t have realized that you apparently bike a lot if you hadn’t replied. Also noting the social responsibility factor of your book makes me even more interested in it. I think paying less for goods and services can be detrimental to the community if you don’t pay… Read more »

Iol
Iol
12 years ago

Hi! Thanks for the great review. I thought I’d stop by today, Dec 31st, after reading in silence for a few months, to share a simple fact that has amazed me. I began following this site’s tips around October: I am 30 and have just started to take full control of my money and time..I can say, thank God, that I’ve never been in debt and don’t have a mortgage to pay off. But I recently decided that simply not being in debt wasn’t enough and I should be saving more. Today I looked at my excel spreadhseet and online… Read more »

drhands
drhands
12 years ago

@ Iol Wow. Your story is almost exactly the same as mine. I’m 29, a renter who is 100% debt-free and, thank God, always has been. But until this year, I had simply been living within my means, with no real interest in PF or much thought about the value of my time/money. This year, after stumbling on GRS, I now have a maxed-out 401k, a healthy emergency fund, and an online savings account to which I make regular contributions. Soon I will be marrying my fiancee, who is also debt-free. And we are planning to save, save, save. Thanks… Read more »

Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson
12 years ago

A plaque we have near our front door reads:

“Happiness is wanting what you have”

Now the hard part at times is believing and applying that…

Minimum Wage
Minimum Wage
12 years ago

I’ve often wished that I had maintained the standard of living I had at 25.

So do I, how do I recover it?

Iol
Iol
12 years ago

that’s great drhands!! congratulations!!

UrbanFrugal
UrbanFrugal
12 years ago

I agree wholeheartedly with the list. Today I went clothes shopping with my mother. Mostly we did a lot of looking. There were items on sale but none of the “fashionable” clothes would be in style by the next season so we ending up buying nothing. I do buy clothes but I would rather spend money on good clothes that last long and that have a classic fashionable look not a fad look. I have practiced a “fiscal fast” unwittingly and unconsciously and when I do have to spend money I am much more conscious of what I spend my… Read more »

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