He rolls up outside my house in Tremont riding a 1970s-style scuffed-up bicycle. He’s a tad winded. The 50-year-old guy just pedaled here from Toledo.
He calls himself America’s Cheapest Man. He passed on a rental car or a bus, as well as a hotel room. He asked to stay on my couch for a couple days, finding me on a couch-surfing Web site for travelers who prefer to stay with locals.
He wrote The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches, published by Random House, and he’s out promoting it. He’s calling it his “Local Cheapskate Makes Good Tour,” as he grew up in Northwest Ohio and his wife was born in Lakewood.
Despite what you might expect, the book is not about how to save pennies that add up to dollars that add up to an early retirement. He’s not peddling a get-rich-quick scheme. The “Riches” in his title doesn’t really refer to money: “Maybe you don’t need to be rich to be happy. Maybe you’ll be happier if you’re not rich.”
Yeager contends most people would be happier if they had less, not more, money. If you’re constantly striving for more money, you’ll never be satisfied, he says. Instead, figure out how much you need to be happy. Put away any money you earn beyond that, and that cash can eventually let you work less and enjoy your time instead.
That’s not to say Yeager isn’t actually a cheapskate.
His wine rack, for instance, is rectangular, not square.
“I have a couple of premium-label wine labels that I’ve saved over the years,” he says. “I fill those with box wine and serve it to my guests. They never know the difference.”
Yeager loves Cleveland. He calls it “the Tigris and Euphrates of cheapskates.” Maybe that’s because he didn’t need to spend a penny during his visit. I cooked dinner. We saw a free concert at the Rock Hall. We visited the Free Stamp. We then took a trip to the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank, which was, of course, free.
“The Money Museum,” he says, his mouth hanging open just a little. “This is sort of a high point for me. I’m telling you. There’s a little flutter in my heart. I hope you have a defibrillator for me.”
1. Determine what success will be. Pick a number, and never let your budget grow beyond that when you get a raise.
2. Fix things yourself. Why pay someone when you can learn how to do it yourself, save money, gain knowledge and get exercise?
3. Go on a fiscal fast. Don’t spend any money for a week. You will learn where you currently waste cash and rediscover hobbies in lieu of costly entertainment.
4. Finish in your starter home. Instead of upgrading houses, pay off what you have, grow roots in your neighborhood and enjoy living there.
Jeff Yeager’s The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches is available in most stores. ultimatecheapskate.comIn the spirit of saving money, our photo intern took this picture of Jeff Yeager.