For cheapskates, saving's a lifestyle; Try these frugal secrets

What if you could travel the country and pick the brains of cheapskates far and wide?

That's what Jeff Yeager did — on a bicycle, no less. He not only went searching for tips on frugality but also set out to discover what cheapskates had in common. He details the findings in his new book, "The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below their Means."

Yeager, 52, is hard to impress. In his first book, he calls himself the "Ultimate Cheapskate." He has soft-boiled eggs alongside the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and has "re-canted" box wine into bottles with premium labels.

In his journeys, he was most struck by the wide variety of people and lifestyles among those who consider themselves cheap. He also noticed that most cheapskates, because they limit spending, are weathering the economic recession fairly well.

"They're not unconcerned about it," he said. "They might have had a spouse who lost a job. That's not good news, but, unlike their neighbors, it's more of an inconvenience than a catastrophe."

Yeager highlights some general philosophies of the American cheapskate, but the biggest part of being frugal is attitude, he said.

Cheapskates don't care about keeping up with the Joneses. In fact, Yeager describes their attitude as, "The Joneses can kiss our assets."

Below, Yeager shares specific and unusual cheapskate advice:

— Weekly brown-bag lunch. Taking lunch to work daily instead of buying it is typical advice for spending less. But it takes effort to pack a lunch each day. Yeager coped with his own lunch-packing laziness by taking a sack of groceries into the office once a week and making his lunches there. He stored a loaf of pumpernickel in the file cabinet. Cold cuts, fruits and vegetables went in the office fridge. The method even saves a few bucks on brown paper bags and plastic sandwich bags.

— Stick-shift savings. Buy vehicles with manual transmissions. They cost less, use less gasoline and are less expensive to repair and replace. And because you can shift gears to slow the vehicle, your brakes will last longer. (And many people consider driving a stick more fun.) Yeager figures you could save $30,000 over a lifetime by driving a stick shift. Of course, with the ubiquity of automatics these days, you might have trouble finding a manual-transmission car or someone to teach you how to drive one.

— Free-stuff Web sites. You might know about the free software suite similar to Microsoft Office at Or you might use free calling with Skype. But there also are free audio books at, free language lessons at and even free booze in New York and Chicago at Also, try for deep discounts due to marred labels or other problems that don't affect the wine itself.

— Dehydrate for dollars. Grocery stockpilers often are confounded by great deals on fresh produce. They can't stockpile because the food will go bad: That is, unless they dehydrate it. You can dehydrate fruits, vegetables and meats for use up to two years out or more with airtight storage. A good dehydrator will cost $100 or more, though.

— Frugal cleaners. Skip pricey household cleaning products and instead polish furniture with a cloth dipped in black tea, clean wood floors with a solution of one part lemon juice and two parts vegetable oil, and shine your silver with toothpaste and your copper with ketchup.

Gregory Karp is a personal finance writer for The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pa.

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