Spending less to enjoy more
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Fern Gavelek
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 I like to consider myself thrifty, although my hubby says I “pinch pennies to throw away dollars.” Sure, I graze the Macy’s ads. I download coupons from Borders. I buy “on sale” canned goods I don’t need now, but I know I’ll need later. My pantry is full of Costco’s bulky bounty.
   I relish when the cashier hands me my grocery receipt and loudly announces I’ve saved boo-koo bucks and everybody within earshot shoots me an approving glance. I consider myself a smart shopper.
   However, I don’t scrimp on necessities. I like to go out to eat and I delight in buying and receiving new clothes. I can’t pass up a blooming orchid. I admit—I like “stuff.” I have a hard time subscribing to “less is more.” I often stash away a few bucks so I can have it later to splurge. Stingy is not in my vocabulary; spreading the joy around has always been more fun. 
   That was until I heard about Jeff Yeager, the self-proclaimed “Titan of Tightwads.” He recently appeared on my favorite morning TV news hour, “The Today Show.” A former CEO and senior exec with national nonprofits, Yeager is a writer and speaker professing practical advice for living a better life with less. He has authored a book, “The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches.” 
   While interviewed by Today’s Matt Lauer, Yeager proved he was not a stingy Scrooge. He seemed friendly and upbeat, cracking jokes about all the loose change he found in the show’s greenroom couch. “It’s like an upholstered ATM machine,” he snickered.
    The dollar-stretching guru was on the tube to share “Five simple steps to potentially save $20,000 a year.” Now that’s a chunk of change and it piqued my curiosity. 
   The first step was to “give up the cellulite life” or cancel the cell phone. While Lauer argued that most people use cell phones to connect with kids and do business, Yeager countered that 15 years ago no one had a cell phone and “the world got along just fine.” Savings for going without a cell phone averages $1,080 a year, he calculated. 
   Step number two offered the lion’s share of savings: getting rid of a typical family’s second car. According to Yeager, the American Automobile Association (AAA) says the actual cost to drive a car down the road comes to about a $1 a mile. Add up your annual mileage and that can translate to big bucks. Yeager says to chuck the second car and take public transportation or double up on use of the first car. 
   Preparing all meals at home can reap an additional $2,000 in savings as 42 percent of meals are enjoyed out of the home. Step number three requires menu planning and calculated grocery shopping.
   The fourth step involves “wearing out your clothes.” According to Yeager, the average family spends $1,800 a year on new clothing. He said people should go longer without shopping for apparel and factors price and durability when making a purchase.
   The fifth step doesn’t apply to everybody—you need a dependent college student. If you’ve got a young scholar, Yeager says you can save an average $9,000 a year on room and board if your college-attending child lives at home.
   While some of these steps are more do-able than others, the challenge of making them work is interesting. It you visit www.ultimatecheapskate.com, Yeager shares his perspective on spending less to enjoy life more with a great sense of humor.
   His “$8 Economic Stimulus Package—Compliments of the Dollar Store” is an example of how to spend a few bucks during a thrifty, environmentally conscious shopping spree. He purchased baking soda and plain white vinegar to concoct a “green Cheapskate” cleaning formula; a refillable water bottle; a reusable grocery bag to deduct money off every grocery bill; vegetable seeds for an “economical bounty all summer long;” lentils to eat; window insulating strips to eliminate pesky drafts and the “Best of the Three Stooges” DVD for in-home, movie entertainment. 
   The purchases sound good to me—except I need to know how to dress up those lentils.
    Yeager’s idea of being happy with less may become a bona fide lifestyle change for many. Time magazine’s recent cover story on “The End of Excess” certainly agrees with that. Do we really need that third car, or fifth TV or the imperial master bedroom suite? 
   And where would you put them? My house is pretty much filled to the brim with “stuff.” Of course, I could always purge, donate to charity and make room for more. That’s what rummage sales are all about, aren’t they? Isn’t one man’s trash….another man’s treasure? Just last week we made $1100 cold cash selling “recycled” goods to benefit Kona’s Hulihee Palace. There were plenty of takers—and all for a good cause.
   I have to admit, I probably will never give up my penchant for having something new, fresh and smudge-free—at least once in awhile. And, I’m going to continue to have fun finding ways to be frugal. However, I’m also going to think about being happy with less and simplifying life. 
    Instead of purchasing the latest, steam-cycle clothes dryer, I can always hang clothes outside on the line—now known as a solar dryer— while being serenaded by birdsong. 
   By eating in on Saturday night, we can gather around the kitchen, cooking together and hashing the week’s happenings, while making enough food to enjoy for leftovers. 
   Rather than replacing my broken garage door opener, I can go manual, pull the handle and tone my flabby arms—that electric opener never worked right anyway. Now there’s a simple solution that doesn’t cost me a dime.
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