8 Tips for (Really) Frugal Living
Jeff Yeager doesn't clip coupons -- surprising for a frugal living expert whose books on the subject have landed him on The Today Show.
Using coupons leads to unnecessary spending, and Yeager, author of The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches and The Cheapskate Next Door, preaches spending a little and reusing a lot. Give him an orange rind and he'll use it to shine copper pots. Show him an empty toilet paper roll and some dryer lint, and he'll stuff one with the other for a homemade fire starter.
A pared-down lifestyle isn't solely about saving money. It's also about getting happy, he says. "It's about choices. Every time you get your wallet out and decide what you're going to spend on, you're making a choice."
To get into the frugal habit, Yeager suggests going a week without buying anything, what he calls a "fiscal fast." Pay bills that are due and buy prescription medication ahead of time. Otherwise, don't stockpile food or anything else. Fix meals from what's on hand. Stretch the gas in your tank by telecommuting, carpooling, biking, walking or taking public transportation. For fun, play board games or read a book. When the week's over, use any money you saved to pay down debts, or put it in savings, Yeager says.
Here are some other not-your-run-of-the-mill frugal living tips that Yeager shared at the recent AARP Life@50+ convention in Los Angeles:
1. Do a 'What was I thinking?' audit. Once or twice a year, look through your checking account or major receipts to see what you're spending on. If you're buying things you don't really need, use the information to stop yourself from making similar purchases in the future. "Americans regret 80 percent of their discretionary purchases within a year of making the purchase," he says.
2. Make it hard to buy things. Force yourself to wait at least overnight before buying something, and pay in cash rather than on credit. "Research has shown that it's easier to put something on a credit card," he says.
3. Eat lower down the food chain. Consume more beans and legumes, which cost less than meat and are healthier for you.
4. Go paperless. Read magazines and newspapers online or at the library. Sign up with 41pounds.org to take yourself off of catalog and junk mail lists that may lead to unnecessary purchases.
5. Plant trees around your house. The additional shade "will decrease your energy use, and trees increase the value of your house," he says.
6. Finish in your starter home. Instead of graduating to a bigger, more expensive home or retirement home, stay put, and pay off your mortgage as quickly as you can.
7. When it comes to gifts, think "free." Instead of buying your kids or grandkids more stuff, give them a day at a park or the beach. "Possessions decrease in value, and experiences tend to appreciate," Yeager says. For more on this philosophy, he recommends reading Daniel Gilbert's book, Stumbling Onto Happiness.
8. Get creative. When it comes to reusing things, think outside the box. Yeager takes that advice quite literally, drinking boxed wine and blowing up the empty plastic liners to use as neck pillows on airplane flights or poking holes in them to create a slow-drip irrigation system for plants.
Read more: 10 Cool Sites For Frugalistas.
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