Reading List: “The Cheapskate Next Door”

August 9th, 2010 by Andrea Bennett

A new book contends penny-pinchers are more responsible.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Jeff Yeager is the author of what some would call the definitive guide to saving money: “The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches: A Practical (and Fun) Guide to Enjoying Life More by Spending Less.” Dubbed the “ultimate cheapskate” by the Today show on NBC, he’s become known for his creative tips for saving a buck.

Now, in his new second book, “The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below their Means,” Yeager also asserts that people living not just within— but below— their means are more responsible. After traveling across the United States (often by bicycle) to interview people, he comes to this conclusion:

They report throwing away only about 10 percent of the amount of food most Americans toss out. They rarely replace an item unless it’s worn out and can’t be repaired, which is why most of them still proudly wear a couple of pieces of clothing that they bought during the Carter administration. They side with the underdog — literally — being nearly one hundred times more likely to own a pet they found as a stray, or adopted from an animal shelter, than they are to buy one at a pet store or from a breeder. They’re far more likely to own a Crock-Pot than a plasma screen television, to have a clothesline than an iPod, and a good many of them join hands with me in being among the few non-cave-dwelling holdouts yet to own a cell phone.

And, Yeager says, they’re also happier. Their decision to live below their means was not dictated by money, but rather by spiritual, religious, or ethical beliefs.

The book’s release comes at an interesting time. With people forced into more conscientious consumption by the recession , many of us have to think about pinching a few pennies. And though some economists say we may have pulled out of the worst part of the recession, what Yeager calls “Spending Anxiety Disorder” may be here to stay, at least for the short term.

Do you agree with Yeager that embracing more modest living makes us better people? Have you done it?