"The easiest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your wallet."
That's the advice my grandfather gave me more than 40 years ago. If Gramps were still alive today, he'd definitely say the same thing, and boy would he be right!
If ever there was a time to find financial peace of mind by learning how to stretch your dollars, by finding creative ways to enjoy life more by spending less, we're living in it. After all, few people control their incomes (particularly in this economy), but everyone has at least some control over spending.
I come from a long line of proud, self-proclaimed cheapskates. In fact, the Yeager family crest bears the inscription, "Spartica Homo Erectus," which is Latin for "Cheapskate Who Stands on Two Feet." Yeagers through the ages have been afflicted (or maybe blessed?) with a condition I call "WAD," or "Wallet Anxiety Disorder."
My case of WAD is so acute that it earned me the title, "The Ultimate Cheapskate" (aka "The Guru of Greenbacks," "The Maestro of Misers," "The Titan of Tightwads," "The Commander in Cheap"). After 25 years in Washington, D.C., managing national nonprofit organizations—which are notoriously low on money—I now make my living writing about smart spending and preaching the gospel-of-cheap on radio and TV, including occasional guest reports on the NBC "Today" show.
You can imagine my inner miser's excitement when I was asked to host AARP's Savings Challenge and write a series of articles about the benefits of spending less.
I want you to know that when I talk about being a "cheapskate," I'm not talking about being greedy, or dishonest, or stingy. I'm talking about choosing to control your own financial destiny by being a smart consumer.
For me, a cheapskate is the polar opposite of a conspicuous consumer, who spends and consumes at warp speed, primarily to impress others. Cheapskates are too self-confident—and frankly, too smart—to spend money foolishly, particularly on things they don't need and probably don't want, simply to keep up appearances. Life is too short for such silliness.
For cheapskates like me, choosing to spend wisely isn't about sacrifice or leading a life of deprivation. Instead, it's about the choices we make every day when we open our wallets and decide what we spend and what we consume.
Being a cheapskate isn't just about finding the best values on things, even though smart spending is part of it. It's also about learning to value the best things in life, those that often come without price tags. And it's certainly not about being greedy or seeing who can amass the biggest bank account. For many of us, being cheapskates is about spending and consuming less so that we have more time and treasure to share with those who are truly in need.
Cheapskates also believe that spending smart and consuming wisely can be fun. I promise that we're going to have some laughs, which we can all use these days, along the way. After all, not only is laughter the best medicine, but it's also the only one the drug companies can't sell at rip-off prices.
Jeff Yeager is the author of the book, The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches. His Web site is www.UltimateCheapskate.com.
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