Committing to live the frugal lifestyle | Advice

I’ll admit I used to think frugality was a distasteful lifestyle forced upon the poor. I believed it was synonymous with never buying new clothes and dumpster diving under the cover of night.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn. And learn I did — and I continue to learn — that it is the path to building wealth with any income.

I’d say the most fun I’ve had learning the fine art of frugality has been in reading “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.

Webster’s dictionary defines “frugal” as behavior characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources. The opposite is “wasteful,” a lifestyle marked by lavish spending and hyperconsumption. Wealth has nothing to do with how much you earn. It’s about what you do with it and how much you keep.

Ask most people to name a financially savvy American and a regular guy like 41-year-old Paul Kieffer, profiled several years ago in Money Magazine, wouldn’t even be in the running. At that time, Kieffer lived in St. Charles, Minnesota (population 3,735), spent about $38,000 a year to support his wife and two kids, drove a three-year-old used car, refused to sign up for cable TV and worked six days a week at the local Red Wing shoe store. Oh, yes. Kieffer also happened to own the store, as well as five trailer parks in the St. Charles area, which gave him a net worth of $1.4 million.