Author Jeff Yeager met with hundreds of self-described skinflints for his bestselling book “The Cheapskate Next Door: Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means.”
He recently shared with Kiplinger editors the tips and incentives that motivate serious money savers:
They are not misers. While they are careful about how they spend money, they do not spend their waking hours thinking up ways to save a nickel. Some are motivated by religious or environmental concerns and others simply see no reason to live any other way but frugally.
They run the gamut of lifestyles. Some are millionaires and some have such limited income that they could qualify for public assistance if they chose to. The commonality is that they spend less than they make and they determine to live debt-free. Only 5 percent of those surveyed had any consumer debt other than a mortgage, and among those who had a mortgage, 85 percent said they were working to pay it off early.
They splurge selectively. They make certain they really want something before they buy it. When they do splurge, it is more likely to be on an activity rather than on a possession—not surprising, since social science points out that possessions often disappoint over time, while experiences, such as sports or vacations, appreciate in value in our memories.
They offer some practical advice. They typically stay away from yard sales because you tend to buy stuff you didn’t set out to buy. They like thrift stores, which they see as department stores full of perfectly good used merchandise. They barter or negotiate to save on goods and services—and they’re generally tuned in to worthwhile cyber tips for saving money, checking websites like freecycle.org for freebie giveaways and accidentalwine.com for good wines discounted simply because the label is damaged.
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