Top Ten Reasons I Might Be One of the Cheapest People You Know

Tell me you wouldn't like to have a little more money. Go ahead. Lie to me. When you're finished with that, I think you'll admit that stretching your hard-earned dollars a little further would be nice. 

Before we go down this road though, know that I am NOT stating that you should or should not do the things listed here. We all have different priorities and lifestyles, so some of these things are not practical for you. The goal of this post is to spark your imagination and get you thinking about what you're paying for right now that you don't need to pay for. Where are the leaks in your cash pool? Perhaps you could reassess how "necessary" some of your expenses are and channel that cash into something you would enjoy more. It's all about the cost-benefit ratio my friends.  

1. I did* not own a smart phone.

Gasp! Some of you will probably stop reading right here. If so, it was nice having you. For the rest of you, consider your lifestyle. How often are you browsing the web on your smart phone in a place that already provides wireless internet access FOR FREE? I will probably get a smart phone some day when it becomes useful to me, but for now, here is why I can save my money. 

My workplace provides me with high speed access to the internet on my work computer, as well as giving me wireless access via my iPad/Kindle. That means the majority of my weekdays are covered--free. The drive to and from work I am without internet access. I cannot check Facebook or Twitter, and no one can bother me with emails. It's a nice time to relax, think, and sing along to the music. You do not need the internet 24 hours a day--trust me. However, I do have a cell phone to do the most important thing a phone can do--make phone calls. Recently I forked out for texting service because my friends nearly threatened to stop hanging out with me if I didn't. I caved.

When I arrive home, where I spend most of my time when I'm not working, I have high speed internet access on a wireless network so I can have all my fun--not for free. But this expense is well worth it for reasons discussed in #s 2 and 3. 

As a helpful tip, if you have broadband cable internet like we do, fork out the money for your own cable modem ($50-100) so you don't have to pay your provider $7+/month to rent their old garbage modems. I have a Motorola SB6121 SURFboard. Be sure to contact your provider BEFORE you buy a modem to make sure it's compatible with their system. Your modem will pay for itself in about a year and then you'll be saving money.

*Addendum: On February 12th, 2014 I caved in. My wife and I both got iPhones from Verizon for $0.99/each. We were already paying for Unlimited Talk & Text with 1 GB of data, so adding the smart phones means $20/month more than our current plan.

2. I do not have cable TV.

We tried the Comcast Triple Play for awhile. Then my wife and I noticed the majority of the shows we watched were on network television or were available via Amazon Prime ($79/year). The Prime Instant Video library gives us access to a wide variety of children's programming for my now two-year old son, as well as to shows we enjoyed, like American Pickers, Flashpoint, and Storage Wars, to name just a few. So we were paying for cable TV so we could watch shows that were available to us for no additional charge. This is where it's important to have high speed internet access. Watching streaming video on the internet is a giant headache if you have a slow or undependable connection. The other reason we cancelled was the cable service was NOT HD quality! I cannot watch non-HD anymore. It makes me nauseous. Again, they want me to pay for something that should be included. No.

So we watch TV via the internet--great. What about network TV? You  might have to think back to the dark ages for this one. Did you know that TVs can get a signal from something called an antenna? Sarcasm intended. I purchased two antennae from Amazon (HomeWorx HDTV Digital Flat Antenna, HW110AN) and hooked them up. We get about 15-20 channels IN HD QUALITY for the best price ever--free. All our favorite shows on CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, PBS, and ION-TV were now free.

Fine, free TV. But what about my DVR? Only cable can give you a DVR, right? Ha. You're stupid Dan! I might write a separate post about this someday, but for now I'll give you the quick version of how I built my own DVR. This is why I bought two antennae instead of one. One goes to the TV, and one goes to my computer. My computer runs Windows 7 which comes with Windows Media Center--a software package designed to record and watch television. Once setup, WMC searches your local listings and gives you a TV guide on screen. You can search the shows and setup recordings. The major drawback is you can only record one show at a time, so if you're a TV guru and you jam pack your DVR every four days, then this is not for you. We record about 4-5 shows per week, each about 1 hour.

What you need:
A. Computer with Windows Media Center installed
B. TV tuner card (HD quality) - $50-150
C. Video card with HDMI-out to connect your computer to your HDTV - $50+
D. Hard drive large enough to store your recordings (1 hour = 4-5 GB)

To wrap this up, I want to say TV is not a priority to me. I like some shows and I like sports, but I am not willing to spend upwards of $100/month so I can waste more of my time. I like streaming video and DVR capabilities because it provides flexibility and I don't have to watch commercials. If I can't get a show on network TV or streaming on the internet, I don't need to watch it.

3. I pay $5/month of home phone service.

High speed internet helps again. Part of our Comcast Triple Play was phone service, which cost about $30/month. We found out about Ooma (, an internet-based phone service that is fully featured with caller ID, voicemail, etc. Other services are out there, such as MagicJack. I like Ooma because of the equipment, which is very attractive and provides one-touch access to voicemail without having to pick up the phone. Voicemail can also be accessed online via the Ooma website. Our computer does not need to be on for the service to work, but the cable modem and router must be on. Seriously, it's $5/month for a land line. 

The biggest negative about internet-based phone services is it depends on power and internet availability. If your internet connection is spotty, your phone service will be too. However, this was typically the case with Comcast anyways, so no loss. If you lose power, you need to have your cell phones charged and ready.

4. I cut my own hair (and my son's).

This was a no-brainer for me. Half the time I pay someone to cut my hair they don't do it right anyways; and then I'm supposed to tip them? Ya, no. I started this in college. Spend $25-100 for the haircut kit and you're off to the races. If you mess up, you can always shave your head! No, it takes some dexterity. It saves me about $15/month for me and probably $10-15/month for my son. Needless to say, the haircut kit pays for itself quickly. 

Do I cut my wife's hair? That's funny. No. Salon.

5. I never, ever pay interest on my credit cards.

Rule of thumb: if you do not currently, right now, at this moment have the money to pay for an item in your bank account waiting, do not buy it with a credit card. No matter how badly you want it, it can wait. Exceptions include emergencies, but those are so rare it's almost not worth mentioning. I use my credit card like a debit card. Don't swipe it unless you're ready to pay NOW!

You need to get angry about how much of your money is taken away from you! I won't go into politics; but let's talk banks. If you have a mortgage, you are already giving these people gold-plated desks and mid-morning massages. Shouldn't you get some of that? If you feel the need to donate charitably to bankers, feel free; but I suggest otherwise.

6. My main credit card pays me $400/year.

Quit the contrary, my Visa credit card (BBVA Compass) gives me 5% cash back on all trips to Wal-Mart, Target, any gas station, and any drug store. Period. No limits, no exceptions, no time periods. I get 1% cash back on every other purchase. The only limit is an annual limit of $400. So by channeling money through my Visa and being strict about #5, I get $400/year--free.

For you Dave Ramsey people out there (like my wife), please understand that I am not going into debt. I am taking advantage of free money that is available to me, tax-free, no questions asked.

Warning: Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America are disgusting banks. Their cards are designed to confuse you and give you very little cash back. Get a bank that deserves your business.

7. I drive inexpensive, paid-for vehicles with good gas mileage.

Our first car is a 1997 Toyota Camry ($3900 cash)--workhouse of middle class America. It's the best selling car ever for a reason. I change the oil and put in gas and it goes...and goes and goes. We have never made a car payment. I'm not against them, and I don't think you're bad if you have one. Our second car is a 2002 Honda Civic ($3000 cash). I love these cars because nobody wants to steal them. No, just kidding. Well, maybe. Cars are expensive enough, you don't need to pay interest on them.

1997 Camry - 23 MPG city / 31 MPG highway = average 25 (mostly city)
2002 Civic - 31 MPG city / 38 MPG highway = average 36 (mostly highway)

I would advise if you plan to own older vehicles, have a AAA membership. For about $100/year you can get your car towed up to 300 miles for no additional charge! I had to use it when the starter went out on my Civic this year. Very nice to have. They will charge your battery roadside and give you gas if you run out of gas too--no additional charge.

As a side note, making payments on a car requires full insurance coverage be kept on the car. We carry only liability insurance, but this will come up again in #10.

8. I shop FIRST at discount stores, Craigslist, and yard sales.

I also have a part time job on street corners holding cardboard signs and looking sad. Some of you were thinking it. I like nice stuff, okay. I wear brand name clothes that are comfortable and look sharp. But what if I could get the same thing for less than half the price? Another no-brainer. You have to be stealthy though, because Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other discount stores are FULL OF JUNK. Keep an eye out though, and you'll score. My wife and I go every now and then, and most times we leave empty-handed. Other times we stock up on staples for cheap. If you're too cool to walk into these places without disguising yourself, you should probably take a few reality pills and realize you're just not that big of a deal.

Craiglist and yard sales are the source of nearly every piece of furniture in our house. The major exception being my son's bedroom furniture that was kindly provided by his wonderful grandparents. I hope they're reading this. My wife has CARTONS of clothes for my son that she stocks up on--mostly from yard sales. She buys several sizes larger than his current size so she's always ready for the next growth spurt. I love my wife by the way. She's pretty much an unstoppable money-saving force.

9. I bring a lunch to work 95% of the time.

Eating out is nice. I like it; but get a calculator out and think about all the cool things you could do with that money. If you need to eat out every day for lunch, fine. I'll keep my money for Caribbean cruises and the next time my alternator goes out.

10. I try to self-insure my belongings.

We keep money in the bank called an emergency fund. You Dave Ramsey people need no introduction. This money provides a buffer between us and catastrophe. If my car explodes in the parking garage, I have money to replace it--with cash. Having a cheap car is nice for this reason. It also means I can drop comprehensive and collision coverage on my auto insurance and pocket the money. I am transferring the risk from them to me, but in the mean time, I get richer (less poor?). And it's not just for cars. Anything that you worry about insuring can be self-insured by having enough money in the bank to replace it immediately.

How do you get that much money in the bank? See #s 1-9.


  1. Those are ten EVIDENCES that you are cheap. The REASONS are probably that it's inherent in your personality and your bloodline, but most of all, you learned it from the master. :-) (It would probably make his day if you sent him a home-made fathers' day card, next year!)

  2. P.S. He, too, can be very generous. If you have learned half as much from your dad as his example has taught to me, you are truly blessed!

  3. You know my Dad? And I do send him cards every year for Father's Day, some of which were home made (my wife makes cards sometimes). If not home made, I buy them at Dollar Tree for $0.50. I know he appreciates my cheapness :)

  4. Yes, your dad's friendship of the past ten years has been one of the greatest blessings of my life! His example of faith and faithfulness... his biblical wisdom... his commitment to intercessory prayer! I've never known anyone that even comes close to him. And I learn it all by simply listening to him talk about his week! I often marveled at the things he taught his Sunday School boys! And his answers to prayer! (From the truck he recently sold for more than he paid for it, years ago, to the new mower, and so much more!) The Lord has mightily used your father to change me from a victim to a victor, from one who reacts in fear to one who lives by faith! I once became angry toward him, over some imagined slight. Then the Lord brought to my mind how his consistent example and gentle exhortation had spared me many grievous errors. I began to write down the many times the Lord had spoken to me through him, and I was astounded! No wonder Satan wanted to end our friendship! I don't know much about you, but I would bet, if you spent some time analyzing your life, you would find the same is true of you. You have been given an amazing gift, to have such a rare man as your very own father!

    1. I am very happy to hear all of that. I would not be where I am today without my Dad--I can say that certainly. We have our disagreements, but most father-son relationships are that way.

  5. I'm showing this to Jim so we can eliminate some of our expenses! Thank you!