Thursday, August 19, 2010

Living Cheap Is Happy

Spending is out, simplicity's in. Why the nation's thriftiest people are also the happiest.

Frugality, formerly an everyday virtue, hasn't gotten much respect in recent decades. Yet when the stock-market crash of 2008 pushed a stalled economy into the Great Recession, bam!—suddenly thrift was in vogue again. A recent Gallup Poll found that 62 percent of us would rather save money than spend it, up from 48 percent in 2001.

Being a cheapskate is my chosen profession, come by honestly from a boyhood in the farmlands of Ohio—where you learn to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without—and 24 years running nonprofit groups.

In the spring of 2008, as the Dow seesawed, I crisscrossed the country on a 30-year-old bicycle to research my second book, The Cheapskate Next Door. I had surveyed more than 300 of my "Miser Advisers" - a network of superthrifty folks I've developed—about their financial habits, and I wanted to take a closer look at them. I met near-millionaires and people who earned so little they could qualify for public assistance but chose not to - they had more than enough to live as they wished. What they all had in common: they've found ways to be wealthy that don't depend on earning more cash or buying more things.

That's right—the reality of the frugal life upends stereotypes. These aren't latter-day Scrooges, though I've yet to meet one who doesn't sport apparel dating to the Carter administration, or earlier. For its adherents, thrift is more about knowing what you cherish, then skipping the rest. Read more stories from the richest thrifty people.

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