Embracing Your Inner Cheapskate

"The more things you can make yourself, the more money you can save," she said, whether it's anything from bread to clothes to birthday cards."

She's also mastered the art of making something out of nothing. Her apartment is furnished with other people's trash -- discarded furniture she's found on the street.

"This is one of my favorite pieces in the apartment," Weber said, pointing to a '70s-style case. "I don't know what its original use was, but I found it in the trash outside my building. It's actually the perfect size for all my records and magazines."

"We're just very prone to toss things out without thinking too much about the long term consequences," Weber said. "I think the figure is something like 500 billion pounds of trash gets thrown out by Americans every year."

Frugal No Matter Your Income

Weber says cheap is chic again, at least for now.

"People are rediscovering some frugal skills," she said. "And asking whether or not it's good to be living in debt. Whether this lasts, I think, is another question. History is full of periods when we've triumphed or championed frugality as a virtue. And then as soon as soon as the crisis passes -- their appetites go up a notch or two higher than before."

But billionaires like investor Warren Buffet have remained frugal through cycle after cycle. Buffet has lived in the same Nebraska home he bought in 1958 for $31,000. IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad drives a 15-year-old Volvo and flies coach. And according to Forbes, David Cheriton of Google reuses tea bags and cuts his own hair.

Amenities that many consider "standard" don't even cross Weber's mind, like cable TV -- something she says she's never had and never will. As for luxury beauty treatments like Botox, Weber says others should "embrace aging gracefully, it's a lot cheaper."

So opposed to waste, she's adopted some elements of the "Freegan" lifestyle -- those who Dumpster dive for food. Our mission was to find end-of-day bagels just put out with the trash.

"There's actually a technique to this. You don't want to just stick your hands into any bag. You kind of feel around ... for the feel of a bagel," Weber said.

Weber's bagel habit amounts to a breakfast savings of $360 a year. But she admits she has gone too far in her search for savings, at one point eating the contents of a 7-year-old can of baby clams.

"I thought to myself, well, now or never," she said. "I opened the clams and they looked sort of greenish blue and they smelled sort of coppery. While I'm eating it, I've got my laptop open and I'm looking up the symptoms of botulism."

Weber lived to tell the tale and write her book, claiming that her yearly savings amount to $24,000.

"I have a lot of fun. I don't feel deprived at all," Weber said. "Even I have my kryptonite -- it's shoes, in fact it's often shoes -- saving money to me is not an end in itself. The purpose of it is to do things I care about. I've been all over the world ... To me, being frugal is about buying my freedom."

As for the "cheapskate" label?

"I embrace that term," she said, "I think more people should embrace their inner cheapskate."

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