Ultimate Cheapskate gives advice for 2012

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 7, 2012

By Katie Scarvey
As I was collecting advice for how to make 2012 a better year, I thought of Jeff Yeager, sometimes known as the Ultimate Cheapskate. I like to think of him as the guru of frugality. The “frugu,” if you will.
Yeager has written “The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches” and “The Cheapskate Next Door.” He writes often for the AARP website and has appeared numerous times on the Today Show.
I’ve presented Yeager’s practical advice in stories before, and he’s always happy to talk about personal finance. He talked to me this week via phone from his Maryland home.
With the economy in the state it’s in, and trust in financial institutions at perhaps an all-time low, Yeager’s consistent emphasis on what people can do personally to insure their own financial freedom takes on a new resonance.
Yeager would like to see the conversation about money in this country become broader and focus on consumerism itself.
While couponing advice is fine, he says, he believes as a culture we’re missing the “golden takeaway” to this recession, which is “not a lesson in how to save 20 percent to get the same old pile of crap but the chance to ask ourselves if we need that pile of crap.”
Yeager feels we need to be asking whether more is always better.
“That’s the conversation I don’t hear us having.”
We need to consider whether we really need something, Yeager says, instead of spending time figuring out how to get it for less.
He’d love to see us as a society “a little less driven by blind consumerism.”
Per capita consumption in America, he says, has increased one percent per year for the last 50 years.
Although he typically doesn’t give investment advice, he believes that the best investments are things that can save you money.
“The biggest asset you can have in the new economy is something you don’t have, namely personal debt,” he says. Therefore, he places the highest premium on paying that off.
With things as uncertain as they are, he says, it’s better to invest your money in yourself. That might mean investing in education, preferably via community colleges.
It might also be a good time to start a business of your own, even turning a hobby into a cottage industry. The point is to take control yourself, he says.
He also believes in investing in energy efficiency, whether it’s in our residences or our cars.
While a few years ago putting money in things like solar panels seemed ludicrous, it’s a more attractive option now, he says, especially with the cost of non-renewable energy likely to continue rising.
Yeager also feels that now is probably good time to put investment money into rental property.
He also believes it’s wise for people to develop your own do-it-yourself skills to make home improvements. Since the construction trade is down, he says, materials and tools are less expensive.
Even if you don’t want to do it yourself, he says, it’s a good time to hire things done, since there are a lot of people looking for work.
Ultimately, Yeager wants people to understand that they have more control over their own financial destinies — through the spending part of the equation — than they realize.
For more, go to www.ultimatecheapskate.com.