Self-proclaimed cheapskate says key to happiness is fewer things

Jeff Yeager will share more tips Thursday night at the Calvert Library in Prince Frederick, Md., where he\'ll speak at 7 p.m. (Courtesy of Jeff Yeager)

WASHINGTON – To live a happier life, buy fewer things.

That’s the message from a guy who wears the word “cheap” like a badge of honor.

“I believe that for most Americans, not all Americans, but for most Americans, if you would only spend and consume less, you would be happier, and the quality of your life would increase. That’s been my message since frankly long before the great recession. So it’s all about the quality of life, not a quantity of stuff,” author Jeff Yeager told WTOP.

Yeager, who’s been dubbed “America’s Ultimate Cheapskate,” has learned to live on less, which means he spends less time making money and more time enjoying life.

“You follow the trends with regard to the incredible amount of personal debt we’re all taking on each and every day, and I believe that’s unnecessary,” said Yeager.

“I don’t understand how having all of that debt looming over you makes you happier. Do you know now that the majority of Americans will unfortunately go to their graves owing other people money?” he added.

Yeager says consumers will learn a lot by going one week without buying a thing. He calls it a “fiscal fast.”

“You may not realize how much money you spend during a current week. It’s a great week to understand how much you’re spending in a typical week and maybe pencil out that budget if you haven’t done it before.”

He says it’s also a great way to finally appreciate how much wonderful free stuff there is in life. For instance, try playing board games at home with family for nothing instead of paying to go out to the movies.

Another thing he suggests people try is a “trash can autopsy;” an examination of the stuff typically tossed in the trash and recycling bin.

“If you’re throwing away too much dryer lint, it’s probably a sign that you’re washing and drying too often which can actually wear out your clothes twice as fast,” said Yeager.

When it comes to going to college, he urges students not to take on loans, but rather live with their parents and work their way through school instead.

“The notion of living at home with your parents is so demoralizing when you’re going to school, but the irony of it is, that now, unlike back in my day, people borrow that money so that when they eventually graduate they move back home with mom and dad at that point. Back in my day, that was what was demoralizing, was having to live with your parents after you’ve graduated. So it’s a simple case of skipping the money step.”

He says students should consider going to a community college for the first two years, then transferring elsewhere to complete their four-year degree.

“I spent a lot of years, 25 in fact, as an employer in the non-profit sector hiring people. I can tell you that I never ever, ever looked at the school they graduated from, but I looked very carefully at how well they did — the students — in those schools.”

Yeager will share more tips Thursday night at the Calvert Library in Prince Frederick, Md. where he’ll speak at 7 p.m.

His most recent book is called “How to Retire the Cheapskate Way”.

For more information, check out Yeager’s website, The Ultimate Cheapskate.

Follow @WTOP on Twitter.

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