Professional cheapskate to offer unemployed advice

by Britt Aamodt
Special to the Star News
John Ewoldt has always been a cheapskate. He doesn’t broadcast his affiliation in the brotherhood of penny pinchers on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange; he simply writes about it every Thursday in the StarTribune.

For 13 years, Ewoldt has directed his Dollars & Sense column to the already-converted—the Frugal Frans and Budget-minded Bernies of Minnesota. But increasingly, he has found a ready and growing audience in the ranks of the downsized, the perennially part-time and the long-term unemployed.

Tuesday, Feb. 1, Ewoldt brings his common-cents advice to Rockwoods Grill & Bar in Otsego. His talk, “Living on Less: Twenty Ways to Save More and Spend Less,” covers financial territory shared by 6.6 percent of Minnesota’s approximately 5,350,000 residents: how to get by without a steady paycheck.

The 6.6 reflects Minnesota’s unemployment rate as of November 2010, a decline from a high of 8.9 percent in March 2009. Though fewer are unemployed now compared to a year ago, more and more Minnesotans are finding themselves living on less and wondering how to manage the shortfall at the end of the month.

Whether you rank yourself among the unemployed, the underpaid or the resolute economizer, Ewoldt’s your man. It takes a lifelong cheapskate to sleuth out the hot bargains and lucky breaks in an economy, which often seems short on both.

“People tend to focus on the little ways you can save money,” says Ewoldt.

Those small measures might include cutting coupons or denying yourself the Starbucks latte. “As an example of something bigger, last year I bought a house. I looked for homes that had been on the market for over a year because I knew I’d be able to low-ball an offer.” He saved $50,000.

Big-ticket expenses. Smart choices. These are topics Ewoldt plans to cover in his free seminar, the second in the five-part Out Of Work series sponsored by ISD 728 Community Education.

Included in his talk will be some of hot-button financial issues for families and individuals facing down months of unemployment: finding affordable health care, prescription drugs, auto insurance and housing; and locating resources that can help alleviate some of the financial belt-tightening.

But Ewoldt isn’t above discussing your Starbucks latte or Big Mac, either.

In fact, he says, “I’m not going to tell people they can’t ever eat out. Some restaurants have great deals. And if you know the right ones it’s cheaper to eat out than to cook at home.” Trust him.

He knows.

•See next week’s Star News for a report on the Jan. 18 ‘Out of Work’ presentation by Alan Hill

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